East Van dance band Maria in the Shower plays Traverse Lounge this Friday.

Help Maria in the Shower strip down to the essentials

Kootenay roots, East Van-based quartet needs your help to distill their eclectic musicality into essential Maria for their upcoming album

What is Maria in the Shower up to on their latest mini-tours? It was on the tip of our tongues. Product testing? No. Product development? No.

Vocalist, trumpeter and accordionist Jack Garton chomped thoughtfully on a Nomad burger while we sat around a bench in Farwell Park on an overcast Sunday afternoon.

“Focus group!” he recalled.

Dressed in a los muertos skull T-shirt, scuffed vintage leather flats, black jeans and topped with tangled, oily brown hair, Garton doesn’t fit the image of a marketing-focused musician.

He refines the ‘focus group’ concept for me.

He means the tour’s about developing their upcoming album by creating the music with input and reaction from the audience: “Part of the message of the show is to use music to have a way of saying here we are all together and life is crazy and we all have difficult things that we deal with, but we’re here to revel together and enjoy life for this period of time in the same space,” Garton explains.

Maria in the Shower’s debut Revelstoke show will be a showcase preview of the band’s new songs, which they’re refining for their upcoming make-or-break album, the first since 2011’s Hidden Sayings of Maria in the Shower.

The East Van-based quartet’s music is usually described with a mounding mouthful of adjectives (samba, rockabilly, folk, Balkan, old-time, punk, cabaret, reggae, Cuban, swing – eclectic).

Garton and bandmate Todd Biffard (percussion, vocals) explain as they’re approaching their 30s, with several children amongst them, now’s the time to consolidate Maria’s artistic vision. They’ve eschewed commitments to labels and are slowly digesting their musical vision into a distinct, defining project.

The quartet also includes Invermere natives Martin Reisle and Brendon Hartley (who weren’t in the band van when the band swung through Revelstoke on Sunday). All of the musicians have diverse musical backgrounds; each brought unique skills to the band that contributed to their sprawling, genre-hopping sound.

Their new recording effort will be an effort to cull it back to essential Maria.

“We all came from different places musically, so we’re stuck with this extremely large palette and we’re trying to refine it to a small thing, which is a difficult challenge,“ explains percussionist Biffard. “Ultimately, I think it’s the only way to come up with something fresh…”

While we talk, an eastbound train passes through the long Farwell bend, its wheels sending a chorus of shrill, wailing shrieks across the park.

“If we can drive our train all going in the same direction, and the four of us can contribute to create something new, I think we have a lot of potential to do that,” Biffard finishes.

What to expect: Energetic, arty, talented musicians known for dramatic presentations and occasional acrobatics. A musical journey through 20th Century musical genres driving towards a unique fusion. Accordion, horns, upright bass, four-part vocal harmonies, contemporary folk movement with a punky tinge. They’re a dance band, so be ready to dance. Bring your boas, bow ties and dancing shoes.

Where can I find out more about the band? The Internet, my friend. Their website has a full compliment of videos, downloads, photos and more at full-service mariaintheshower.com.

What else is new? The show is being hosted by Revelstoke native Angie McLeod, who’s recently launched a business as a promoter. She’s also got a new Revelstoke arts-focused website in development. McLeod is also partnering with other local promoters to bring a classical music concert series to Revelstoke in 2014, although that’s still in the development stage.

Have I heard Maria in the Shower before? Several CBC BC radio programs have featured Maria songs over the past several years. Maybe you’ve heard them play Don’t Build a Wall ‘Round the Graveyard (Ain’t no one tryin’ to get in).

Anything else I should know? The show’s at the Traverse, starting at 9:30 p.m. on Friday, August 23. Advance tickets are $15 at Chantilly and Mountain Meals.

 

 

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