The good folks over at SPIN Magazine can’t seem to get over Bahamas (real name Afie Jurvanen) and his geographic diversity.
“Bahamas distills his brand of breezy soul… with summer-ready falsetto harmonies that float over a distorted riff, before ending with a quick solo, a move that reminds this laid back Canuck can shred.” (Nim Barshad)
“Singer-songwriter Afie Jurvanen may have been born in frigid Toronto, but when he records and performs under his musical alias of Bahamas, he brings warm, lush folk instrumentation.” (Killian Young)
When we spoke with Jurvanen on the phone last month, he brought it up: “It’s amazing that the name conjures up different imagery for people. If I’d named [the project] Alaska or something, it’d be very different.”
Why Bahamas, though? “I have a strange name, so I just titled it Bahamas.”
Okay. (He’s also part Finnish, so we didn’t push it.)
That was September 10, the first day of his North American tour in support of Bahamas is Afie, released mid-August via Brushfire Records. Jurvanen and his touring band have been listening to “Van Martin or Bonnie Raitt,” driving across the Midwest after starting on the Atlantic coast.
Next week, on October 11, Bahamas will be headlining Slim’s in San Francisco with opener Basia Bulat. We asked him primarily about Bahamas is Afie, an introspective, 12-track journey that is, as we found out, 100% Jurvanen.
Some tidbits from our conversation:
Where did you do most of the writing and recording for Bahamas is Afie? It has more of a rural background as opposed to your previous albums.
Well, I didn’t intend for it to be ironic, but I used to isolate myself from the band in the country; this one was the opposite: I recorded at a studio in the city called The Rooster with producer Don Kerr.
It was just the two of us; I’d bike over and we would work during the day. I would do the piano, and the bass and the guitar. I played drums on maybe three songs; Don did the percussion on the rest, but this gave me a chance to run around the studio trying different things.
I’ve been doing music for all of my life, so I’ve played in many bands where the whole band sets up and plays live together. This new album was a new thing for me — I love playing with a band — but [Bahamas is Afie] in particular…
It’s all you.
Haha, yes. Something to do with ego, maybe.
I imagine there’s more creative freedom sometimes, working solo. What about Don, have you worked with him before?
Oh yeah, previous recordings. He’s been in the Toronto music scene for years and years. We just get along real well.
Who provided the backing vocals throughout the album?
[Myself, sometimes.] There are also a lot of great musicians in Toronto, I just call people up and ask, “Hey, do you want to come by for a few hours?”
Why Bahamas is Afie?
When I first started playing, I wasn’t really sure what I was doing. I didn’t have an album or anything, it was basically just a personal project. Over the last six or seven years, I feel much more comfortable and confident now about where I’m at musically and in life. These songs have a sort of definitive quality to them, and I wanted to make a statement.
It’s like you’ve made a claim on the name.
People also wonder what it means, so I guess I also like messing with them.
What made you interested in guitar as a child?
I did everything as a child — skateboarding, all this stuff… I had a bunch of friends with guitars; it’s the perfect instrument if you want to accompany yourself. I’m really lucky I discovered it; it’s never-ending — there are so many genres of music to branch into.
Are there any tracks on the album that, over the course of production and finishing, have evolved notably?
Some of the songs are quite old, too; “Stronger Than That” is really old — I’ve recorded it several times so it’s nice to get a definitive version of that. There was a Celtic version, a folk version… it’s nice to have one that feels solid.
If you had to choose a food or drink to represent the album?
Hmm… coffee? It’s a pretty sobering experience. We’re not a party band, we’re a “do some pushups in the morning and find some coffee” sort of band, and we’re looking forward to being back in San Francisco; it’s a good place for that.
Article by Joanna Jiang