Into the spotlightAfie Jurvanen is just 29 years old, but he’s already seen the world, and from a very privileged vantage point: as part of pop chanteuse Feist’s backing band. A key part of Toronto’s close-knit music scene, Jurvanen also spent years playing with Jason Collett, Howie Beck, and Amy Millan. But a few years ago, he adopted the moniker Bahamas and released 2009’s Pink Strat, a startlingly thoughtful folk-rock album that’s propelled him from opening act to first-time headliner. WE caught up with Jurvanen over the phone during a rare day off at home in Toronto.
You’ve been a supporting player for a long time. Does this feel like the culmination of one part of your life and the beginning of the next?
Jurvanen: Yeah, sure, in certain ways. Like, up until this point [Bahamas has] been opening for other bands, and it’s such a different experience when you’re in that position. Really, there’s no pressure, generally, because nobody knows who you are. It’s a comfortable position... You can play a half-hour set, just play the best you can, and it’s comfortable being the underdog. But I also really welcome this new thing. I was kind of nervous before I started [headlining shows], but it’s such a nice thing to have people know the lyrics and know the songs and really participate in the show in a really different way. When you’re the headlining act, people are there to see you and they’re willing to engage in the show with you in a different way.
Is there an element of rejuvenation?
For sure. Some of the songs we’re singing, for me, they’ve been around for many years. So, to see them take on a life through other people — I mean, the space I was in when I created them is so much more different than what I’m in now, and the listener adds their own ideas, their own imagery, about what the song’s about. They have their own emotion attached to it, and it’s rejuvenating in that sense. I can see a song like “Hockey Teeth” take on new life just by people discovering it for the first time.
What’s the first thing you ever played when you were teaching yourself music?
From very early on, I gravitated towards the drums. There’s an immediacy: You hit something and a sound comes out... And when my friends started to get guitars and stuff, my mother couldn’t really afford to buy me a guitar at the time, so I had drumsticks, and I would just show up to my friends’ houses and be like, ‘Okay, guys, let’s jam.’ No one seemed to question the fact that I didn’t have a drum kit. Just, like, ‘I’m the drummer; I have drumsticks. Follow me.’
What are your plans for the next record?
I would love to put out a record in the early part of next year. It’s so hard to predict how that will all play out. There definitely will be another one. We’ve been recording on and off on little breaks, and I’m really happy with how it’s coming together. It’s a little more thought out than the last one. [Pink Strat’s] very much a document of us sitting down and playing together in a room, and this one started that way, but it’s taking on more elements, more singing and more electric guitar.
Will we get a sneak peek at the show?
Yeah, for sure. Just the fact that we have to play a headlining set. (Laughs) We only have one record, you know. We could either do all Alan Jackson covers, Vince Gill tunes, or play some of our new stuff, which is probably more likely. I have a bit of a guilty pleasure. Actually, it’s not a guilty pleasure — I’m fuckin’ damn proud of it. I like country music a lot, and these days I’m listening to Vince Gill and Alan Jackson, and I can’t get enough of it.
Bahamas play Thursday, Dec. 9, at St. James Hall (3214 W. 10th), 7pm. Tickets $18.50 from Ticketmaster, Zulu, Red Cat, and Highlife.