The Strumbellas will be hitting the Gary W. Harris Celebration Plaza mainstage March 1st as part of the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
The band performs at 9 p.m. following a show by fellow Canuck Scott Helman. It’s all part of the 52° North Music and Cultural Festival.
For their snappy latest single Salvation, the band looked back to ideas sparked around the time of its debut EP in 2009.
And for the group, which consists of Simon Ward, (acoustic guitarist and main songwriter), David Ritter (keys), Jeremy Drury (percussion), Isabel Ritchie (strings), Jon Hembrey (guitar) and Darryl James (bass), the infectious tune marks a stylistic shift from what has been described as their comparatively melancholy, introspective releases.
“A lot of our music is known for being dark,” explained Ritter. “I like that people can turn to our music in dark times, but we were interested in seeing whether we could make something a little more hopeful and positive.
“I think the song has a more positive feel than our previous stuff.” Indeed, Salvation marks a notable step towards pop sensibilities for The Strumbellas.
“We started out as a folky, bluegrassy band – our first gigs were at farmers’ markets at 8 a.m. on Sunday mornings. We were always a scrappy folk band,” recalled Ritter. “And then at a certain moment we just fell in love with pop music. We were playing Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus and stuff, so once that happened, while we were making our last record, we started pushing towards those sounds.
“I also think we’ve learned since then that we can never push too far in that direction because we are always going to be who we are,” he added. “Our music is always going to sound like us. But those influences do creep in because that is what we are listening to and what we are dancing around in our bedrooms by ourselves to,” he added with a laugh.
Ritter pointed out that what listeners hear with Salvation will essentially paint a picture of what the essence of their upcoming release Rattlesnake is about.
“In its way, it’s a folky album. There is still acoustic guitar and the group singing that we always do, but it sounds like Salvation sounds.
“But I don’t think we could change that dramatically if we wanted to!”
One might think that melding the singular artistic vision of six talented people on a project would be a monumental challenge, but Ritter said with Rattlesnake it was quite seamless. “We had a wonderful producer for this record, Tim Pagnotta. He understood that he needed to be an engineer and a song-crafter but he also needed to be a therapist and a personality manager,” he laughed.
“He understood, maybe more than anyone else we have ever worked with, to channel everyone’s energy in the right way so everyone came away knowing that not only was the product good but also the process was really enjoyable and satisfying, too.”
For Ritter, signing on with The Strumbellas has been a delight from the start. “I was kicked out of a band too irresponsible right before I found The Strumbellas, so that was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said with a laugh. “And the fact that it has blossomed to what it is is like this lovely surprise.”
These days, the band is still riding high on the success of its last project Hope, which was released in 2016.
Spirits, an explosive single from Hope, became a runaway hit for The Strumbellas, hitting number one on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart and cracking the international market in countries including Germany, Italy and France.
They spent the past few years on the road, performing at festivals including Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits.
In 2017, they won the iHeartRadio Music award for Best New Alternative Rock Artist of the Year and collected the Juno Award for Single of the Year ahead of Drake, The Weeknd and Shawn Mendes.
For The Strumbellas, though, what comes first is crafting stellar tunes and connecting with fans.
“If we can add a little bit of color to somebody’s day, that’s the ball game for me.”