CityFolk: Trad/mod, the East Pointers are making music their way

The East Pointers are Jake Charron, Tim and Koady Chaisson.

The CityFolk music festival is, like modern folk itself, a creature that is ever evolving and more eclectic. The same can be said of the East Pointers, who, through three albums, have been weaving the traditional and the contemporary into something new that’s not quite either.

“It’s hard to pick a genre that this album fits into,” says Jake Charron, the musician from Barrie, Ontario who is the member of the trio not from those parts around the rural, eponomyc East Point in Prince Edward Island. Cousins Tim and Koady Chaisson and Charron are set to release their third album, Yours to Break (Oct. 25). It’ll follow 2017’s JUNO-nominated What We Leave Behind and 2015’s JUNO-winning Secret Victory. They’ll also return to City Folk to play on Sept. 15.

Yours to Break was, like What We Leave Behind, produced by the Grammy-winning Cape Bretoner Gordie Sampson, whose other work includes Rascal Flatts and Carrie Underwood. The album is rooted firmly in traditional Island music driven by fiddle and story, all of it refreshingly entwined with new styles and influences — or as their PR notes describe it, “Billboard-worthy pop hooks, deep acoustic groove, trance-like trad breakdowns and three-part harmonies.”

While the East Pointers were on the road, Charron took time to respond to a few questions, reprinted here with minor editing for clarity, length and such.

Q: Where are you now?

A: We’ve just arrived home after a couple weeks in the U.S., gearing up for CityFolk in Ottawa this weekend. It’s been a busy summer. We’ve been mostly touring in Canada and the States, but had a quick trip to Mexico, and a festival over in Denmark.

Q: Did you grow up in musical homes? What brought you to music?

A: Tim and Koady come from a very musical family with seven generations of fiddle players. I grew up in Barrie and also had lots of music around the house. I think it’s fair to say that our parents’ love of music started the whole journey for all of us. . . Our instrumental tunes are fairly steeped in the P.E.I. Celtic traditions, and a lot of our songs have been about the East Coast. Leaving and returning home seems to be a bit of a theme throughout our song writing.

Q: How did you come together as a band?

A: Tim and Koady are first cousins, and I met them on the road about 10 years ago. We had a lot in common musically and hit it off. Many late night jams, and a few pops later, we decided to start a band… Tim plays the fiddle, sings lead and plays some percussion with his feet. Koady plays tenor banjo, tenor guitar, a foot-pedal synthesizer and backing vocals. I play guitar, keyboard, synths and also backing vocals.

Q: Where was the new album recorded?

A: In Nashville at a studio called the Sound Emporium. Just like our previous album, we worked with our friend and musical hero Gordie Sampson. Gordie is originally from Cape Breton, and is the perfect fit for the music we try to create. He gets the traditional influence, but is also a monster at the pop/indie production.

Q: How is the new album different from those previous?

A: It feels like a good representation of where we are at as a band. We have some new sounds and new instruments on the go, and it’s been fun to write. It’s hard to pick a genre that this album fits into, and we feel pretty good about that.

Q: Your music melds traditional and contemporary sounds, in sometimes startling ways. In Country Cable, the first instrumental on the new new album, fiddles dominate the beat, then the beat changes and what sounds like an electric piano takes over. (It made me think of the Doors’ Riders on the Storm.) Then, later, I think it’s a guitar takes over, sounds like a Jazzmaster or such?

A: You’ve pretty well got it! That’s Koady on a Gibson electric tenor guitar for the last section.

Q: The albums are vocal track, instrumental track, vocal track, etc. Why?

A: That’s not something we set out to do, but it felt like the right flow for the album once we had all the tracks picked out. Our live shows tend to have a similar split of instrumental and vocal songs, but for us, it feels like there is less of a divide between the two on this album.

Q: Is there a typical way that a song comes together?

A: We all have little bits and pieces recorded in our phones or written down in a notebook, so we sit down every so often and try them out as a band. Sometimes they grow into songs, and other times they don’t! It’s pretty collaborative though, for all the music and lyrics.

Q: How has being on the road affected the process?

A: We spend a lot of time together on the road, and sometimes these are the only times we have to write. You also experience a lot of different emotions on the road away from home, so that can be inspiring. And we get to hear lots of amazing music at festivals, and meet cool people, so that’s all part of our process too.

The East Pointers play the City Stage at City Folk at 3:30 Sept. 15. For more

Share Post
Written by

Peter Simpson, a native of Prince Edward Island, was arts editor and arts editor at large for the Ottawa Citizen for 15 years, with a focus on the visual arts. He lives in downtown Ottawa with one wife, two cats and more than 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures.