#tbt An Interview with Bahamas

Found in the Margins is a defunct web magazine that Chris DePaul founded in 2006. Chris and his co-writers would interview musicians, writers and activists on one question: What books inspire the work you do? The Brothers DePaul will be reposting these archived interviews every Thursday. #tbt

This week's interview: Bahamas


"One of my favorite books is Tropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller. I was obsessed with it. Maybe that’s cliche, like something you would do [be obsessed with] in third year university, but there’s something about the storytelling, the lyricism. I carried it around in my guitar case for years, for situations just like this."

Front man of the musical duo Bahamas, Afie Jurvanen, never made it to third year university, and although spending a large part of his musical career playing back up for Feist, Great Lake Swimmers, Hayden, and several other Canadian music projects, Jurvanen’s own songs possess the same lyrical aesthetic he notes as important to his appreciation of Henry Miller.

Bahamas’ new album, Pink Strat (Nevado Records), oscillates between twangy blues, pensive pleas for love, and poppy storybook romances. An acoustic guitar, backed only with a drum set, makes for a confessional sound familiar to the singer/songwriter genre. But with Jurvanen, it’s as if he is letting us look into his diary. Instead of outlining a direct connection between the highly personal styles of Afie Jurvanen and Henry Miller where such a connection is impossible to make, let it suffice to say that, as Henry Miller shocks us with his "crass, vulgar and beautiful" honesty, Afie Jurvanen has the talent of making confessional song-writing sincere, and that is an amazing thing.

Jurvanen is currently reading Erin Turcke’s "Sourdough: A Recipe For Life."

"It’s about life through the process of making bread [which involves] timing, ingredients, slowing down--all those good things I believe in," he says of the book.

Jurvanen brought the book to the interview, commenting on its non-assuming aesthetic (it is plain, blue and silver) and how nice it felt to hold. The book is published by Pantry Press, a Canadian micro publishing company frequently devoted to creating cards, invitations and personal stationary.

Another favorite of Jurvanen’s is the auto-biography of Stompin’ Tom Connors.

"He is a fascinating character," Jurvanen says of Connors, "He approached his career outside how most musicians do. His work ethic is what I found fascinating. He was a ruthless business man, but also creative. That combination makes for an interesting story."

Jurvanen acknowledges Stompin’ Tom Connors as a role model of sorts.

"He wasn’t so concerned with being distant from the people consuming his art. He was down to earth. Sure, I can identify and relate to him in varying degrees."

When asked why he reads, Jurvanen replies immediately, "I have a subscription to the New Yorker, and it’s relentless. If you fall behind, it’s impossible to keep up. There is some fantastic writing in there [The New Yorker]."

Juraven also insists on a more serious answer to the question, saying, "There’s something tangible about reading. You interact with a book in a physical way. You interact with the words. It’s much like music. Your reaction to it [the music] is what’s important."

Stating that reading a book is similar to listening to music is different, however, than one activity directly influencing another, thinks Juraven. While there is a relationship between reading and music, Juraven believes "reading is a lot like everything else--interactions with people, watching movies, experiences throughout the day--everything influences you. So, the books are in the songs somewhere."

Afie Juraven rates reading as an 8 or 9 on his list of favorite activities, lamenting nonetheless that he doesn’t get too much time.

"It’s hard to commit to a novel, but I wish it wasn’t."

Keep an eye out for Bahamas as a rising band on the Canadian indie rock scene. Based in Toronto, their new album, Pink Strat, was nominated for a 2010 Juno Award--Roots & Traditional Album of the Year-Solo.

Written by Shannon Tien