If It Feels Good Do It

Bahamas brings new album to the Burt

Reynard Li

Toronto-based artist Bahamas, known as Afie Jurvanen off stage, is one month into a long stretch of touring. But he’s found an effective way to spend his time on the road.

“Right now I’m reading Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle,” says Jurvanen, while en route to Seattle. “It’s six volumes of him complaining about the state of his life and somehow it’s totally fascinating and consuming. I’m on book two so hopefully I’ll be able to read all of them over the course of the tour.”

Jurvanen has also taken to entertaining the tour van with his newfound love of the penny whistle, thanks to a personal highlight of the creation process for his new record, Bahamas is Afie.

“Her name’s Sahra Featherstone and she’s an incredible flute player,” Jurvanen says. “She played [the penny whistle] on several tracks and it was so fun for me. I was just in awe of it, the way she could play was so effortless it sounded like someone singing, it was just beautiful. I like to play it with the band, although the band doesn’t care about it all that much. I’m getting better but it’s a very difficult instrument to play.”

The two-time Juno-nominated indie-folk musician also notes the importance of his main instrument in the creation of Bahamas is Afie, sonically inspired by a certain acoustic guitar.

“Most of the songs I wrote on that guitar,” Jurvanen says. “I’ve been playing guitar for a long time but when I got that instrument it changed everything about the way I play. I started using a pick and playing differently so the songs evolved differently. It’s not a concept record but I do think that’s a very strong narrative running through the whole thing. The songs have to force themselves around that sound.

“I also think [this record] contains some of the most direct, to-the-point songwriting that I’ve done. But at the same time it was the sophistication of the arrangements. There was no real jamming, I just knew what I wanted to do.”

Bahamas is Afie is the first Bahamas record to be self-produced, a freedom which allowed Jurvanen both efficiency and creative control.

“The title was a fun way of acknowledging my own name and my own title,” Jurvanen admits. “For a long time I didn’t want to do that at all. It was just easier to be Bahamas but I came to realize I’m not portraying a character.”

Many Bahamas shows across Canada will be played to sold-out crowds, yet Jurvanen maintains a clear focus on his latest artistic feat.

“When you’re in the idea of making something it’s like anything else, you just do it and try not to question it too much,” Jurvanen says. “If it feels good do it and if it doesn’t piss you off then it’s probably the right thing you should be doing.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 22, 2014)

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