Stone Iris includes Red Deer on western Canadian tour

Band showcasing tunes from latest project Illuminations

There’s nothing like a band that knows a little something about injecting an array of sounds, styles and textures into their musical expression.

And there’s just no replacing that feeling of camaraderie that springs from a group of friends gathered around at a stage, soaking up the night and raising a glass to good times. Edmonton-based band Stone Iris knows something about that kind of alluring scene, and attempt to inject their shows with those very kinds of sensibilities.

The guys play Cheers North on May 24.

It’s also that kind of energetic feeling that Stone Iris taps into on their newly recorded EP Illuminations. The first single Hide and Seek dives right into a distinctively reggae kind of feel, and overall, songs throughout the disc feel easy to slip into and even easier to get lost in, using laid-back but propulsive grooves to create a mood that feels at once nostalgic and promising, familiar enough to get your guard down but restless enough to let you know that the best times are on their way.

The momentum builds off their previous releases, 2011 twin-EPs The Boo Box and Serene Machine, the 2010 Silhouettes EP and 2008 debut Ezperanza, by revealing a band that is at once more assured and more expansive than it’s ever been.

Recorded with Stew Kirkwood at Sound Extractor Studio, Illuminations captures Stone Iris as they’re starting to truly come into their own.

It all began as Monzmeg, a basement project in the Calgary home of brothers, songwriters and guitarists Garret and El Niven. But Stone Iris didn’t fully begin to take shape until they recruited drummer Jeff Burwash, who had been banging the skins with blues outfit Straight Jacket before he was even legally allowed in bars.

Ultimately, it was the move to Edmonton to attend Grant MacEwan’s music program that solidified the group, first with the addition of Regina-born and Grant MacEwan-trained bassist Ryan Ast (ex-Without an End) and then adding Trail, B.C.-bred percussionist Juice Jensen in early 2010.

In 2011, keyboard player Stephen Robinson and vocalist Kari James joined the ranks, completing what is the current roster of Stone Iris.

Blending their disparate musical backgrounds–everything from hooky pop music to sunbleached reggae to hip-hop and rap–the influence of seven minds has created a mature sound that isn’t easy to pin down.

“Everyone wants some kind of tag line, but I don’t think we’ve found an easy answer for that,” explains Juice. “We’re blues-rock, reggae — there are a lot of things in it, if you want to throw a lot of hyphens into it, but that’s what we are.”

What ties them all together, though, is that unerring mood, the unmistakable, easy atmosphere that seems to emanate from this talented band whether they’re at the jam space, in the studio or playing one of the shows that have taken them from their home base of Edmonton and Calgary to Vancouver and Toronto.

This summer will see Stone Iris setting out on their first U.S. tour. This tour expands on their 2011 Canadian tour and will showcase the strength of the Stone Iris live show. “When we play, people are watching and soaking it in without thinking they’ve got to be jumping up and down,” says Elliot. “We’ve got a few tunes that could be played at a party, but I think for us it’s more about people really sitting back and grooving, really getting into it.”