It’s Wednesday night at the Village Idiot and a few dozen people are gathered to drink some beers and enjoy some music.
At the back of the bar, in between the doors to the kitchen and the bathroom, Denis Severino, Mike Shaver and Stephanie Webster are playing music – sometimes solo, sometimes in pairs and occasionally all together.
The music is a mellow variety of old-time, folksy Americana and the three performers trade off musicians and songs with ease.
The trio is The Coquihalla Highwaymen and Woman on this night. The following night, at the Last Drop, they’re at it again but this time playing a more upbeat set as Terry Dactyl & the Extinctions.
“The difference is two different repertoires really and a different feel to each evening,” said Severino in an interview prior to Thursday nights show. At the Village Idiot, he continued, “It will be a little more mellow, a little more down-tempo numbers. Here it will be a little more upbeat because people want to dance and go crazy.”
Severino, Shaver and Webster came together as a band over the past few years. Severino and Shaver, who are both from Ontario, first met tree planting in Northern Alberta several years ago.
“Denis and I would hang out and after a long day of working we would encourage each other to play,” said Shaver. “We didn’t really know each other at all.”
Upon their return to Ontario, Severino invited Shaver out to the music nights he hosted in Toronto. Fast-forward a few years and Shaver was living in British Columbia and playing in a band with Webster called Old Man’s Beard out of Salmon Arm. He convinced Severino to move out west and so he did.
After Severino moved out here, they went on tour together. He would play solo, then Old Man’s Beard would play and then they would play songs all together.
The tour exposed them to the music scene in Interior B.C. and, while on tour, Severino put together an album by a collective that goes by the name Ted Amongst Men.
“There’s all sorts of motley characters we ran into on the road that have been part of the collective. We’re really excited about the recording coming out.”
The three musicians cite numerous influences – Severino cites traditional Americana folk music while Shaver admits to being into harder, thrash metal.
“I don’t really know how we found the common ground because it seems like most of the stuff we’re doing here is old-timey folk, bluegrass, country kind of stuff and I never touched that until two or three years ago,” said Shaver.
Added Severino: “To Mike’s credit he’s brought of a lot of the thrash to the folk, and he’s written a lot of good folk songs too.”
Meanwhile, Webster said she grew up going to church where she heard numerous hymns, which exposed her to the traditional music the band plays.
In the band, they play a variety of instruments: Severino plays guitar, six-string banjo, mandolin and some harmonica; Shaver plays guitar and Webster contributes on the mandolin and banjo.
Their repertoire is a mix of originals and covers, though, as they pointed out, folk musicians regularly share, borrow, adapt and cover each others songs. They have a thick binder filled with hundreds of pages of music, some of which they know and some of which they’re still learning.
“It was a real relief to me that Bob Dylan totally ripped off Woody Guthrie in a way that I think is great,” said Severino.
The Coquihalla Highwaymen & Woman play every Wednesday at the Village Idiot starting at 8 p.m.
Terry Dactyl & the Extinctions perform Thursdays at the Last Drop starting at 9 p.m.