They might hail from Lindsay, Ontario, but Canadian six-piece the Strumbellas find their musical inspiration in the south of the United States, where country, folk, and rock and roll marry into a polygamous triad of dance, rhythm, and lyricism. After the release of their Juno-winning record We Still Move on Dancefloors, the band is nearing the end of a long tour that has taken them across Canada and into the U.S for the first time ever, putting them on the next leg of their long musical journey.
We gave lead singer and songwriter Simon Ward a call on Thanksgiving Day, right after the Strumbellas appeared on “Gisele’s Big Backyard”– because even kids love good country music. Amidst talk of turkey neck and Ward’s unfortunate attempt at a hip-hop group, we discuss the merits of Weezer, the complications of the songwriting process, Ward’s taste in movies, and oh, so much more.
Hey Simon, what’s going on with the Strumbellas right now?
Currently as in at this very moment?
I am currently on my wife’s family’s farm celebrating Thanksgiving, and I just tried turkey neck for the first time.
How was it?
It was like, better than the turkey! It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. Turkey neck, who would’ve thought? I’m celebrating Thanksgiving today with my wife’s family. As for the rest of the Strumbellas, I have no idea– we’ve been sitting in a van together lately so much that once we separate, I have no idea where they are.
You guys have been touring the States– how’s that been going?
It’s been great man! We’ve just started touring here, so the audiences are a little smaller, but the experience itself has been really good. I especially like it a little farther down south– the people are so cool and nice, and oh man the food– we ate fried chicken everyday for like a week. I like the States alot– it’s a great country.
You guys just performed on “Gisele’s Big Backyard” on TVO. How’d that happen?
I don’t know, but did you notice my acting? Top drawer, am I right?
I know you just won a Juno, but I’ve got you down for an Oscar, my friend.
[laughter] It was cool, man, all positive stuff. We got there and kinda didn’t know what we were doing– I mean, we did. I had written that kids song and pitched it to them. But I didn’t know there was gonna be a live kid audience, and it was 8 in the morning and I’m usually not even up until 10. We went up, played “Shark”, and it was just really fun!
“We Still Move on Dancefloors” came out
I think it’s been good! We’ve been getting some love on the radio down south, and the people down south have been responding to it really well. But the album just released down there, so it’s a bit too young to judge. But to be honest, I’m not too worried about it! I’m a bit of a fate guy, so I try not to pay too much attention to that kind of thing. I think if people are gonna like it, that’s gonna come naturally and if not, that’s okay because it gives me the chance to go make another record. It’s a win-win for me.
That’s an amazingly chill approach. That album also netted you a Juno, but I understand your speech was cut short!
It was, which was awesome, because I cried like a little baby. I don’t know why, but I just got so emotional, but then it got cut short so no one could see it– so it’s a bit of a bad/good thing because no one had to see me cry.
Shoutout to the Juno committee for that one.
It did get re-released after though, so everyone saw it in the end…
A group you’ve been compared to a lot is the Flying Burrito Brothers…
No kidding, eh? I’ve never actually listened to them. I’ve heard the name, but I’ve never heard their music before. I guess that’s my next goal!
Another band you’ve definitely been influenced by is Weezer, specifically the Blue Album.
It’s not even that Weezer is a huge influence– it’s just that I think that’s one of the closest albums to a perfect 10 in musical history. I know everyone is gonna hate me for saying that, and that my band always argues with me all the time about this, but as a complete album where each song is good, I think they came closer to anyone in making a perfect album, and I think that’s a remarkable achievement in musical history.
I want you to finish some lyrics for me now: “Lets take a ride to the easy…”
“Let’s take a ride to the easy plateau!”
Ryan Adams! I understand that song inspired you to write country music!
That’s right! I dunno, I was jogging and listening to it and was like “Wow, what is this? I had no clue you could make country like this!” It had country elements, but yet it wasn’t country. It changed me. I love that album, and I loved the lyrics.
Speaking of lyrics, I understand you don’t usually write them while you’re on tour.
Yeah, not really. I kinda just become tour braindead. I become much more efficient at home, just because I’m not so tired from touring. I don’t know what it is, but when I’m in the van all I can do is watch TV shows and movies, and nothing else.
What kinda movies?
I am a massive junkie of comedy films, especially from the 90s. Stuff like Sister Act, old John Candy. I think they’re great movies, even if they aren’t treated so critically. All those old comedy movies? I think they’re so good, and I watch them all the time.
A lot of bands go through a lot of names before they find one they like. What’s the worst name you’ve performed under before you became the Strumbellas?
I actually had a hip-hop group called the Clip Squad.
Yeah, I’ve actually never been in a band before, but I used to be in a hip-hop band. We only ever had one show, and then we got suspended right after for using bad words. We named ourselves after gun clips. I had never even seen a gun at that point in my life, but we decided to call ourselves Clip Squad.
Watch out Drake, Simon is coming.
My MC name was “Bones”. Look for me coming back. The old tapes are floating around somewhere, hopefully they never get discovered.
My last question for you is…what’s next?
We’re on the road for this month-long tour right now, but what I’m always focusing on is writing the next song– it’s sort of a base thrill for me. For the band, it’s just touring for now! The next record isn’t official, but should be happening soon. Right now, it’s just rocking in the van and singing songs for the people!