Andrew Seale

What’s up with the man who calls himself Revelstoke?

There's a one-man-band from Toronto called Revelstoke, and Revelstoke has been getting some attention lately. We checked in to find out what's going on.

Creating an Internet-based keyword dragnet across Web and social media applications is standard operating procedure for modern journalists.

Working at a Revelstoke newspaper, I’m interested in what anyone, anywhere is saying about Revelstoke. But sometimes the net snags unwanted catches.

Did you know, for example, that there’s a whiskey bar in Saitama, Japan called Bar Revelstoke? Or that the Philips Distilling Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, makes a spiced whiskey called Revel Stoke? It’s “inspired by the age-old tradition of rugged Canadian outdoorsmen infusing their whisky with vanilla and spices.” (Okaaay.) It’s 90-proof and the bottle features a moose skull with antlers — I’m sure drinking a whole bottle would leave you rather rugged.

One fish my net has been hauling up lately is Andrew Seale, AKA Revelstoke. I’ve, so to speak, tossed him back into the sea a few times over the past months, but he keeps popping up again and again. So, I took the bait, and sought to find out about this fellow from Toronto who calls himself Revelstoke, and why people are talking about him online more and more.

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Andrew Seale, 26, is a Toronto-based musician and journalist who’s been going by the name Revelstoke for the past several months, including some shows at bigger indie venues there.

His unique one-man-band take on experimental folk music blends guitar, mandolin, banjo and vocals using a foot-pedal to loop the track, building it up into what Seale calls “mini-symphonies.”

“I play my guitar with a violin bow a lot, and then I finger-pick around that and then I add a bit of banjo, and as I am going I’m recording it with … a loop pedal. So I just kind of build these compositions and sing with them,” Seale told me during a telephone interview a few weeks ago.

After leaving his journalism job with mining newspaper The Northern Miner, Seale went on an extended vacation in southern Europe, spending time in Spain, France and along the Mediterranean where he worked to develop his music, including his trademark style.

The result is a reflective step back that combines his music and writing backgrounds.

“Journalism plays such a large role in my song-writing,” Seale says. “You look at this small cycle we get caught up in with the news, but there’s so much abstraction when you look out. There’s got to be a social study in every song I do. There’s always some element of society that I’m examining when I write.

“It’s just this weird abstractness to the music just builds intrigue. I need that intrigue when it comes to music. I was really, really hoping that other people would like that about it and that would sort of be something that would interest people, and it’s worked.

Revelstoke’s first album is called Esprit descalier — a French term that means, roughly, thinking of a witty comeback when it’s too late. It was an online version for the past several months, but has been newly re-released earlier this month. The title track is called, For Those of You in Revelstoke!

The online album and shows around Toronto have garnered Seale attention. He’s been picked up by Audio Blood, a company that promotes and develops artists. He’s been playing bigger venues with established acts.

“I get booked with a lot of full bands. They see me with my guitar or my banjo and expect it to be a nice singer-songwriter thing, but it grows as the song progresses … the song itself actually gets bigger,” Seale says. “It’s outside of what’s happening right now. I’m sure there’s lots of musicians who probably find ways to do similar things … but in terms of Toronto, it’s just kind of glowing, because it’s a little bit different than what people are doing with the guitar at this moment.” If all goes well, Seale hopes to come out with a major release sometime in the future. And, of course, he hopes to come Revelstoke to do a show soon.

So what does he sound like? He describes himself as ‘experimental folk.’ His string-driven songs are often sparse, highlighting philosophical lyrics that are driven by obscure references and personal experiences. If you want to take a listen for yourself, see http://revelstoke.bandcamp.com.

Oh, and why does he go by the name Revelstoke? For one, Seale’s old name — Snowflakes with Plastic Forks — wasn’t working for him.

A few years ago, after he graduated from journalism school, he jumped into a van with friends for a trip to the West coast. They had a brutal trip through spring storms on the Prairies, and emerged to their first glimpse of sunshine when they woke up one morning at the KOA Campground in Revy. “I’d never even heard of Revelstoke,” Seal says. “It was beautiful, our first real beautiful day. It was just unreal.” While he was putting Esprit d’escalier together, the Boulder Mountain avalanche disaster of 2010 was in the news, and it reminded him of his experience here, so he went with the name.

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On his bandcamp.com page, Seale prefaces each song with a quote. For Those of You in Revelstoke! is introduced with the following words from Belgian writer, philosopher and Situationalist International participation Raoul Vaneigem: Who wants a world in which the guarantee that we shall not die of starvation entails the risk of dying of boredom?

The lyrics of For Those of you in Revelstoke! go like this:

For Those of You in Revelstoke!

Revelstoke was covered in snow,

and I dreamt of you when you were just a little boy.

Russian girls in Russian underpants

crawl south and wait for you to dance.

and I pictured you covered leaves

and I kissed you covered in leaves.

It took two hundred miles of power lines

just to watch the sunset in HD.

We had closed captioning in Spanish.

While I slept you sang to me.

There are a million worlds that are

there are a million that will never be

And I worry that this bed will never be made

will you still sleep in it with me?