Musician Eden Oliver says her northern B.C. roots are showing, even as she and her indie-folk band West My Friend find their place in Victoria.
Growing up in Terrace, Oliver played some of her earliest gigs at northwest music favourites like the Smithers folk festival—an event her mother headlined years before as part of the Low-Budget Blues Band.
And drumming under the strings and harmonies that mark West My Friend’s new album “Place,” you’ll hear the work of Jake Jenne, a Smithers percussionist with more than 30 albums to his name.
But as the band wraps up its “Homesick Blues” tour—a tour that took them through Smithers, Terrace and Haida Gwaii last week—Oliver warns that the song it’s named after is no nostalgia trip.
“It was sort of response to my family constantly asking me if I was going to move back up north after I graduated,” she says, laughing.
“I was like, ‘No way! I love Victoria. It’s great here.'”
Victoria is where Oliver met bandmates Alex Rempel, Jeff Poynter and Brian Anderson—all of whom had picked up two, three or more instruments at the University of Victoria’s School of Music.
“When we first started, we switched instruments every song—we’d bring like 10 instruments each,” Oliver said.
“But now we don’t do that because it’s too hard to get to gigs.”
Three years in, West My Friend stands out for the sound of complex, counterpointing strings (guitar, mandolin and double bass) married to waves of accordion and four-part harmonies.
Oliver says they’re often described as something like Portland’s The Decembrists, but with a female singer and an accordion.
Before they set out in a car stocked with other west-coast bands like Beirut and the Beach Boys, Oliver said she made each of her bandmates a tour T-shirt.
Mandolin player Alex Rempel got one that reads “ethnobotanist”—a reference to his lyric that goes, “If I were an ethnobotanist, I’d classify your race by your starting place, just to show you how it feels.”
On the long drives between B.C. gigs, Oliver said Rempel’s ethnobiological interest has spread to the whole band.
“We play invasive-species road games,” she says, explaining that they all yell “Scotch broom!” or some other plant name when they drive past a clump of invaders.
To hear more of West My Friend’s roots, invasive, musical and otherwise, check out www.westmyfriend.com.