Last year around this time, Vancity folk troubadours The Long War were crowned victors of the CBC Searchlight competition. Since going far with their track “Breath In Breath Out,” which they won the contest and made CBC Music’s Top 100 songs of 2017, the band has taken things to a new level. Not only did they write their debut full-length, Landscapes, but they’re also embarking on twenty Canadian tour dates and bringing their songs to audiences across the country.
Their album Landscapes is true modern Canadiana, containing songs that pay tribute to the land and provide a soundtrack to the painted memories of Canadian scenery in our minds. Songwriter and lead vocalist Jarrett Lee draws upon his own experiences with the landscapes and environments that influenced him throughout his life and channel those into his music. The band transforms Lee’s powerful lyrical imagery into beautiful harmonies and a lively experience for listeners, giving us a canvas on which to paint our own memories of Canada.
Lee and his bandmate Chad Gilmour are happy to be back in the capital with a few shows, as they cut their teeth here in Ottawa’s music scene. Be sure to catch The Long War at Pressed tonight, April 25th, with Mountain Eyes and Rory Taillon, as well as The Blacksheep Inn on Saturday, April 28 with Old Man Grant and Rory Taillon.
Last time we spoke, you were fresh off winning the 2017 CBC Searchlight competition and about to play the NAC. How was that experience?
JL: I still can’t believe we played the NAC, it’s such a reputable venue so many talented artists have performed on that stage. It was a special night and really summarized the whole Searchlight experience. We were joined by the other finalists The Wolfe, Jaryd Stanley and Will. Royal Wood hosted the night and played a song with us. The place was full of family, friends and fans. Chad and I spent a lot of time in Ottawa so returning to a city which was home for so long in that context, you really can’t ask for more.
Did you get to spend some extra time in Ottawa and reconnect with any of your old favourite places in town?
JL: Yes, I went to some local pubs checked out some live music in the Market said hi to some musician pals. Went a to a brewery, had a burger at Chez Lucien, went back to Fresco on Elgin where I used to host an open mic. Chad used to work the bar at Café Nostalgica I think he popped his head in there. Ottawa has changed quite a bit, at least it seems that way after being away for so long. I feel at home there and always enjoy coming back.
What have you been up to since the summer of 2017?
JL: We’ve been putting all our focus on our debut album Landscapes which was officially released on April 20th. Obviously we booked a pretty large cross Canada tour, we’re heading all the way to PEI playing over twenty shows, we’re back in Vancouver at The Biltmore May 31st. We have a music video coming out for the song Landscapes so keep a look out for that. It’s been pretty full on since last summer to be honest.
How was working with Kevin Dietz at the infamous Metalworks Studio to record your debut album Landscapes?
JL: Kevin is a brilliant, talented Producer and has a way of bringing out the best in people with his positivity and creative energy. You’re in the studio for hours upon hours daily and you hope that the person at the helm is at the very least a good hang. He made the album soar and I think the end result speaks to his talent and overall sonic vision combined with our desire to push ourselves and keep the music authentic and unique to our sound. He did a fantastic job and we can’t wait to work with him again in the future.
Many people know the single “Breathe In Breathe Out,” but what can fans expect for the rest of the album?
JL: The album has a bit of everything, from soaring folk rock ballads like our title track ‘Landscapes’ to acoustic vocal driven sing along songs that pull at the heart strings like ‘Downtime’. The album closes with a rock tune called ‘Lake Louise’ that has a strong Canadian music vibe but ends in a hooky pop chant. The album is very eclectic but the songs certainly live together.
What motivated you release Landscapes independently?
JL: We would love the opportunity to work with Management and when that day comes we’ll absolutely take that opportunity. We released ‘Landscapes’ independently because we didn’t really have an option. It’s a bit of a perception dilemma, while we did win Searchlight and that certainly gave us a lot of coverage very early in the bands existence, we however look at it as an opportunity. It’s up to us to make the best of this and while we’ve gained a lot traction and gotten The Long War name out there, we need to continue pushing on. Searchlight awarded us for example two days in Metal Works to record, we put the extra money and effort in parlaying that two days into eight and what would have been a song or two EP into a full length album. We take pride in how hard we work and that work ethic is synonymous in how we define The Long War.
Your currently on a 10 stop cross Canada tour that if I understand correctly you are booking yourself. How did the process of handling all your own booking go?
JL: We’re actually on a 20 stop cross Canada self booked tour. I handled most of the bookings myself with some help here and there from bandmates. We found it was best to keep each band member on top of one job while the other handles another and keep things streamlined to avoid any confusion with promoters. Booking the tour included scheduling, routing, money, support acts so it’s certainly a handful and a huge responsibility. But I learned a lot doing it, moving forward we’d love to look at working with a booking agency. But we booked some really great venues like The Blacksheep Inn, The Empire Theatre, The Carleton. We’re really excited about it.
Can you tell me a little bit about the two shows you are playing in the area, one at Pressed and one at the Blacksheep?
JL: We’re playing Pressed April 25th. It’s a newer venue at least since Chad and I lived in Ottawa but I’ve heard nothing but good things. Mountain Eyes and Rory Taillon are joining the bill for that one and I expect an intimate setting which is always nice. The Blacksheep is a legendary venue, I remember seeing Joel Plaskett play there and it was so engaging, the crowd was mesmerized. Again we’re being joined by Rory Taillon and Old Man Grant is on the bill. It’s a Saturday and we have a lot of friends and family taking part in that show, April 28th come say hi!
And for tradition sake, last time we asked you about the when the Vancouver Canucks will win the cup, this time I ask what would you call a tribute song written about the Sedin twins who recently announced their retirement?
JL: The Swedish Sunset.