- Headwater, album release party, tonight, Friday, May 4, at Vancouver's Biltmore Cabaret. Also featuring C.R. Avery & The Madison 22 Revue, and The River & The Road. Doors: 8 p.m. Tickets: $15, visit www.ticketweb.ca.
WHILE it might seem counter-intuitive to some, Headwater's Matt Bryant believes that in today's world, musicians have a better shot at making it than ever before.
"There's a whole world of communication technology and if you utilize it and you work hard at making good music, I think you've got a better chance now than you've ever had. . . . because there's no obstacles between you and your fans," he says.
Innovation is key, as is taking charge, says Bryant. "What we're basically seeing, I think, is the creation of musician as an entrepreneur, as a job now," he says. "You cannot possibly expect to rely on anyone else to help you."
Taking risks and responsibility for one's craft and career is something Bryant, Headwater's co-frontman, knows a thing or two about. Laughingly calling himself and his band mates hustlers and total goofballs, willing to do whatever it takes to grow their audience, Headwater is continuing to not only make it work, but to take steps toward making it big.
"If an independent band like us can go tour Europe for a profit three times, then I think that's a good sign," he says.
Headwater, which is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, is active on a variety of social media sites. Beyond Myspace, Facebook and Twitter, the band also has a presence on SoundCloud and Sonicbids. And, they've made approximately $83,000 over the last four years by performing on the B.C. Ferries' Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay route.
"We've cornered the marketplace," says Bryant. "We just get on board as paying customers and sit down at the front of the boat and then about half an hour into the sailing we pick up our instruments and play a gentle song and people clap, and then we're rolling," he laughs. "By the end, we've sold them all CDs."
Founded by Lynn Valley natives Bryant and Jonas Shandel, Headwater is releasing its third album, Push, tonight at Vancouver's Biltmore Cabaret. The EP is a follow to their 2006 debut, My Old Friend, and 2009's Lay You Down.
Push marks a departure for the band, seeing them move slightly away from their folk roots and initial "tractor jazz" leanings and instead adopt more of a pop vibe.
"We sort of got back to the tunes that really inspired us growing up and through our whole lives," says
Bryant, who now lives in East Vancouver. "For me that's a lot of pop-heavy stuff and a lot of '80s pop and especially a lot of Peter Gabriel," he says.
The mega recording artist has long been a major influence on Bryant "I come back to him and again and again and again when I'm trying to get something to sound good - 'How would Peter Gabriel do this? He always seems to do it,'" he says.
New artists like Katy Perry (whose tracks "Teenage Dream" and "I Kissed a Girl" are common covers in Headwater's live shows), have also made an impact.
"Katy Perry would be pretty easy to decry because she seems so bubblegum and synthetic, but as a musician when you look behind what's there, you go, 'Man, this tune is incredible.' It's like, 'Yeah it's bubblegum and yeah, it's synthetic, but who cares? It's great,'" laughs Bryant.
"'Teenage Dream' will, without fail, fill a dance floor. Period," he adds.
While Push marks a gear shift for the band regarding writing and arranging, the instrumentation remains largely the same - acoustic instruments like mandolin, banjo and guitar are still present.
"It just seemed like we were writing tunes that needed more of a pop sort of treatment to them, and that needed a big fatback beat behind it from the drums and were calling for some electric guitars," says Bryant.
Bryant credits the fact that the members of Headwater are pushing 30 (either edging towards the milestone or recently passed it) with their interest in putting their original stamp on things. Increased confidence in themselves as musicians and people also seeped into Push's lyrical content.
"The theme that kept coming through again was self-confidence and self-assurance and different plays on that idea and some of them negative and some of them positive," says Bryant, adding that the tunes were also shaped by some pretty major relationship shifts for he and Shandel.
Bryant's favourite track on the new record is "All Good Things."
"The chorus says, 'All good things come baby/All good things come round' and it's like 'Yeah, you don't need to be in a hurry or anything, things are fine. It's going to work out.' You really feel good at the end when it gets going," he says.
While Bryant and Shandel are typically the driving force behind Headwater's writing, the songs on Push came together through a more collaborative process this time around, with all four members credited on each track.
They actually recorded the songs twice on their own before officially laying them down in the studio. Bryant and Shandel served as producers, along with Bill Buckingham and Marc L'Esperance.
"Jonas and I really grew as producers on this record," says Bryant. "It was just great to actually have the language, after doing this for a while, to ask for what you're imagining."
Push is streamable online and first single "Your Love" is available for free digital download via their website, headwater.ca. A video for the song, filmed in North Vancouver, has just been released.
In addition to tonight's Biltmore show, Headwater is also scheduled to play the Jericho Folk Club Tuesday, May 8 at 7: 30 p.m., the Biltmore again on June 14 and the Vancouver International Jazz Festival June 23.