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> Monday, February 6th, 2012 > Lifestyles > Bobbyisms: Moving toward Mercy
Bobbyisms: Moving toward Mercy
Click here to read more Interrobang articles written by Bobby Foley
Published: Monday, February 6th, 2012
I write about random things a lot. I write a lot about random things. Did you know that from 2000 to 2009, the highest grossing touring act was Dave Matthews Band? A lot of people might've guessed U2 or similar acts with expansive sets and dazzling imagery, but the fact is Matthews and his band tour hundreds of soldout shows every year without rest.
That sort of hard work and commitment is second nature to The Schomberg Fair, a Toronto rock band that heavily blurs the lines between punk, gospel and country. The band – Matt Bahen on guitar and banjo, Nathan Sidon on bass and Pete Garthside on drums and percussion – released their debut album Gospel in 2009 and have been converting audiences and critics alike with their blistering live performances and humble, meaningful songs.
Since The Schomberg Fair last spoke with Interrobang, they've played a series of high-profile gigs at festivals, including the Schomberg Fair – the annual summer community fair in the heart of their hometown north of Toronto, from which they take their name – and released their EP Mercy last year.
Though the record is only five songs long, there is a lot of substance packed within; if when listening to Mercy you get the feeling that it's building toward something, you're closer to the mark than you realize.
"We did a full-length record that we were going to release at the same time," Bahen said, indicating that Mercy was originally intended to be longer. "We've got another five or six in the can that are ready to go, but then our schedule got too tight to support it and the tour we were going to go on fell through."
"We'd been toying with the idea of releasing an EP for a while," he continued. "So we said we'd put out an EP and get back to the drawing board, drop the record later. There definitely is a sense of urgency to the EP, and other songs we've written or are writing have that same sort of tension to them."
Bahen's use of the banjo in the band has more recently drawn them comparisons to acts like Mumford & Sons, but the similarities don't extend far beyond the shared instrument and the power they put into the music they make, both literally and figuratively.
"Well, the banjo is a drum," Bahen described when asked about his powerful playing style. "I'm just trying to play the melody, just figuring out finger patterns and the like. There's a famous saying with it: if you can hear it in your mind, you should be able to play it on the banjo."
While Bahen might be humble about his own contributions to the group, he speaks very fondly of his bandmates Sidon and Garthside and their talents, like Sidon's remarkably low vocal range.
"I don't know anyone else that can do it," Bahen said, "But at the same time I think we sound very well together, our voices complement each other quite nicely – it's like going from guitar to banjo, you should have a diversity of tones when you're playing to keep the listener's ear interested."
And while Bahen is still writing from a personal place, there is a more universal theme to the music on Mercy and being explored by the band. He still draws from his experiences as an outreach worker and personal perspectives, but Mercy is a decided step toward timelessness and maturity in songwriting.
"I would say the first record was more about stories of hardship, and Mercy is about owning that hardship," he explained. "Life is just a period of loss, and it's something you can't really get over, you have to carry it and own it. That's what Mercy is about, and what 'I'd Raise My Hand' is about – you grab it and you throw it on your back and carry on."
"I'd Raise My Hand" is available for request on campus radio stations – check with your local station to see if they've got the song. The Schomberg Fair performs at Call The Office here in London on February 11. The show is 19-plus and admission is $5, doors open at 9 p.m. For more on the band or their sizzling second album, visit online at theschombergfair.com or follow them on Twitter @schombergfair.
And for more of the latest music news, reviews, album streams and more, follow this column on Twitter @fsu_bobbyisms or on Tumblr at bobbyisms.com. If you love live music, this is one band you do not want to miss. I'm out of words.