Wielding a breezy, accessible light touch to crafting pop tunes, Edmonton-based band Picture the Ocean performs at The Vat on Dec. 22.
Jesse Dee, Jacquie B, and Matt Blackie have essentially made the Canadian highways their home and even the subject of a few songs, but after a summer of playing with Aussie funk/soul princess Aurora Jane, both as her band and with her as their bass player, they decided to hop on a plane with Jane and keep going.
They toured the UK and Europe and India through the fall. All this before they finally returned home to Canada and embarked on a tour which takes them from Ontario back to B.C. and Alberta.
Somewhere in the midst of last summer’s wild rides back and forth touring the country with a few different musicians, Jesse Dee & Jacquie B found themselves with a new permanent member to the band – percussionist Matt Blackie. The new name reflects that change as well.
“Picture the Ocean is really just a new name for our old band,” explains Dee during a tour stop in Winnipeg. “Me and Jacquie B had been wanting to change the name for awhile.”
The new moniker is actually a line from one of their newer tunes that ended up on their last CD, and the feel of the phrase nicely encapsulates the sensibilities of the band, he said. “It really captures what we are doing now.”
These days, the group barely slowed down as they recovered from jet lag from being in transit for some 30 hours from their return trip from India. They’re happy to be on the road again on native soil, introducing their tunes to as many folks as they can before settling into a much-deserved break post-Christmas. That’s when Jesse said he will hunker down and let the inspiration of their international journey translate into a slate of new material for the next CD.
“I do get inspired by travel, but I find that I need some time to reflect on it. I’m not really a ‘road’ writer. So I’m looking forward to some time off so we can all get some writing done.”
India in particular was tremendously interesting with its vibrant culture, busy cities and rampant poverty. “Western music there has kind of been catching on over the past 10 years or so, so the scene isn’t like here where venues have come and gone and bands have come and gone. But they were really receptive to our music – I don’t think they had ever heard a band like us play there.”
Although Jesse always liked music and sang here and there growing up, he never considered it as a full-fledged possible career until after high school graduation.
That’s when his folks gave him a guitar for Christmas. But creative energies flourished once he started studying music, and he soon enrolled in jazz studies at Edmonton’s Grant MacEwan College.
As to Jessie Dee and Jaquie B’s collaborative adventures, the results are energy-fused live shows packed with passion and wit. They’ve been churning out tunes for several years, and aren’t wary of melding styles and exploring fresh sonic territory on every recording.
Meanwhile, Picture the Ocean plays enjoyable alt-pop and roots-rock; somewhere between The Band or Fleetwood Mac, and Ani DiFranco or Luke Doucet.
Their self-titled debut, recorded in Edmonton and released last June, is a collection of songs and stories which have developed in the last year of hard touring together as a trio. Careful consideration went into the vision for the project.
“We had a lot of meetings and talked about how we wanted to record it – we wanted to capture a good, ‘live’ sound.”
Replete with glistening guitar sounds, those striking, signature Jesse and Jacquie harmonies, and expert musicianship from Blackie, the record indeed draws influence from many of today’s contemporaries.
In the meantime, Jesse remains as passionate about making music as ever. It’s not all fun and glamorous, but the magic of writing songs and connecting with audiences is as alluring as it’s always been.
“There’s always so far to go – you are never done. There’s always another thing you could learn to do, or a perspective you can have. That’s what I like about art,” he said. “It’s continually a learning experience, and there are always bigger and better places to go with it.”