Perhaps one of the most exciting weekends of the year in Hamilton is the annual arts and music festival Supercrawl.
For three days, vendors and food trucks line the closed-off streets, with local stores, galleries and restaurants open at extended hours for the throngs of festival-goers excited to experience the vibrant art and music scene the city has to offer.
This year, one of the most highly anticipated musical acts was The Strumbellas. The Silhouette had a chance to sit down with two members of the Supercrawl headliner during the festival: David Ritter, singer and keyboardist, and Jon Hembrey, lead guitarist, to talk music, European tour food and the feeling of success.
The Strumbellas are a Juno-award winning six-piece indie rock outfit from Lindsay, Ontario. In 2013, the band released their second album, We Still Move on Dance Floors, which went on to win the Juno Award for Roots & Traditional Album of the Year Group category in 2014.
Earlier this year, the sextet released their third album, Hope. While We Still Move on Dance Floors was a success both commercially and critically, Hope is their first album to make a big in on international charts, with the single “Spirits” going double platinum in many countries. It is no surprise then, that the band sees Hope as a progression from We Still Move on Dance Floors.
“For me, all the records make sense as a progression. We Still Move on Dance Floors is a bit more indie or pop-like than [our first album] My Father the Hunter was. And Hope is probably more pop-like, more indie and more rock & roll than We Still Move on Dance Floors,” explained Ritter.
“So they kind of chart our growth in a certain direction. Maybe there’s more of a leap on Hope but it all makes sense to me as a progression.”
Since the band’s inception in 2008, The Strumbellas have experienced a steady rise in Canada with a dedicated and supportive fan base. However, the level of global attention Hope has garnered has resulted in massive leaps forward for the band, including a gig on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and an upcoming world tour.
“I’ve been a big Stephen Colbert fan for a long time…so I was pretty jazzed to meet him,” Hembrey said. “You know how [when you’re starstruck] you preemptively [come up with a response] to someone in your head? So [Colbert] goes: ‘Thanks for coming on my show,’ and I said: “You too!” Immediately I thought to myself: man, I’m a total loser… but it was such a cool experience for us to play on [such a lucrative show].
“And of course we are stoked about the tour,” Ritter added. “They have these pretzel croissants in Germany which are pretty amazing…Europe is fun, it’s very different. We eat really well when we’re over there. The fans are really amazing and different in each country so that’s cool. [After Europe] we’re back in the States for a while and it’s nice to be down there.”
“We’re just meeting some of our American fans for the first time… it’s kind of a change of pace from up here [in Canada] where people have known about us for a while [so] that’s nice and exciting.”
Having been catapulted onto the global stage in a few short months, it seems only reasonable that anyone, even veterans such as The Strumbellas, would find this magnitude of success a little surreal.
When asked whether he’s had a big “wow, we made it” moment yet, Ritter responded by saying that it’s the little moments that come and go rather than a, sudden revelation.
“Playing in the Ed Sullivan Theatre [for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert] was a pretty big deal… getting nominated for our first Juno was a big one, winning a Juno was [an even bigger] one… recording We Still Move on Dance Floors was a cool moment too,” he said.
“We recorded [in a studio] in the woods outside of Seattle that had a lot of history. There’s a picture of Lionel Richie and Eric Clapton hanging there, and Soundgarden and The Foo Fighters also recorded there…it does feel surreal though,” he admitted.
“It does sometimes feel abstract, such as when we get an email saying we’re getting airplay in South Africa and I’m sitting in my bachelor apartment in Toronto going like, ‘Well what does that even mean?’”
If the upcoming year resembles anything like the Strumbellas’ past year, David Ritter will likely be spending a lot more time in his Toronto apartment reflecting on the continued success of his band.