Bahamas Live In Studio

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For Canadian singer-songwriter Bahamas, simplicity is key.

As the heartfelt lyrics and the title of his most recent album Barchords suggest, musical simplicity seems to reign supreme for Ontario native Afie Jurvanen, who performs under the name Bahamas. Jurvanen and his band took a pause from their current tour in support of Barchords to stop by WERS to perform some tracks live in-studio.

Armed with his acoustic guitar, Jurvanen and his back-up vocalists began with “Til the Morning,” a soft, earnest number from his 2011 debut album, Pink Strat. Jurvanen’s crooning vocals, accompanied by his vocalists’ haunting whistles and the gentle pings of the xylophone, are reminiscent of a simpler time in music when emotions – not electric guitars or synthesizers – were forefront. As in this case and in most of the rest of Bahamas’ catalog, Jurvanen’s quiet cries for lost love and yearning rightfully took center stage in the studio amongst the strums of the acoustic guitar.

Bahamas followed the first track with another track off of Pink Strat, “Southern Drawl.” Another acoustic tune, “Drawl” reveals shades of Jurvanen’s musical influences growing up, such as Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and other Canadian folk artists who are lesser known here in America. When he was young, Jurvanen relied heavily on public radio to listen to classic rock in order to gain some perspective of the musical world and how to break into it.

“[Growing up in Ontario,] there were not a lot of references for music,” said Jurvanen. “It wasn’t until I moved to Toronto when I realized that there were other people out there like me playing music.”

His peers have surely made an impact on Bahamas’ music, for Jurvanen claims that he gets deeply inspired whenever one of his friends emotionally moves him with a piece of music. However, the influence of his friends may be tiny compared to the influence of his family.

“My family has a huge influence in everything I do, not just my music,” said Jurvanen with a slight smile, leaving one to only imagine the kind of memories that play in his mind at the mention of his family. His family is such a crucial part of his life that upon going to Bahamas’ website, one is immediately shown excerpts of a short film called “Sunday Dinner,” which is an intimate look at one of Jurvanen’s traditional family gatherings at his mother’s house in northern Ontario.

“I’m so grateful that you’ve found a way to put all your resources into your music and songs – found a way to put yourself out into the world, in such a beautiful way. You’re magnificent!” says Jurvanen’s mother in the film to a teary-eyed Jurvanen. With that kind of love and support from his family, it is no surprise that Jurvanen feels comfortable enough to embrace simplicity and bare all of his emotions in his music.

That bravery and adherence to simplicity was shown once again in the WERS studio with Bahamas’ final in-studio song, a track off of Barchords called “Montreal.” Another soft, sleepy tune, “Montreal” sounds like Jurvanen’s plea to a disappointed lover for forgiveness and one more chance. It is the most heartfelt and emotional of the three tracks, and offers insight as to why Jurvanen finds himself being labeled as a Canadian version of Jack Johnson.

Bahamas will continue touring until the end of the year and then will most likely take a little break next winter before heading into the recording studio again to record a third album. Once that is completed, Jurvanen and his band will resume touring and sharing his unique brand of simple, sincere acoustic rock with the public. Jurvanen enjoys being on the road and playing his music, but as for the question of whether or not he’ll ever travel to the island of his project’s namesake, the answer is simple.

“Nope,” said Jurvanen with a chuckle. “I am way too superstitious to go to the Bahamas at this point.”

By Christopher Gillespie
Photo by Jeeyoon Kim

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