Young unbridled talent is how one could classify the performances of Serenity’s first house concert of 2014. Kamloops based Matt Stanley & the Decoys and Lost in the Woods gave us a double dose of what is lurking in our neighbourhood city’s music scene a few hundred clicks south. Although the evening was brimming with great music, the only thing left to desire at our up close and personal venue was having the artists share a little more of themselves on stage with the audience, however they were more than open off of it, which I suppose is what makes these pieces so necessary. So let’s peel back the layers to learn more about their stories, because the truth is for one in particular, performing here brought us all full circle and back to where it all began.
The current house concert format at the venue hosts one act a night, however, in rare instances of circumstance, we get treated to a double bill. Tonight was one of those times. It just so happens that both bands share a member, Sean Poissant, who plays drums for the Decoys and fills a variety of roles for Lost in the Woods, including but not limited to percussion, guitar & vocals. In Sean’s infinite wisdom, he had double booked himself with both bands at different venues. Instead of having to leave one band hanging, Serenity agreed to host a gig for both of them, much to our good fortune.
Matt Stanley & the Decoys
Matt Stanley & the Decoys opened the show, playing mostly new songs they have been working on for their upcoming album. There is no question they have a rock sound that is on the cusp of something great. Frontman Matt Stanley’s vocals at times have a hint of a young Billy Corgan and even Anthony Kiedis, yet his true influences hail from classic rock, which was clearly evident in the band’s lively cover of Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” which closed out their set.
The band has been deep in the recording process of their new album which they hope to have available come summer, with a few digital single releases coming even sooner. Although they are a rock’n’roll band first and foremost, they have been stretching their versatility more and more to embrace other genres including punk and country-folk rock. These efforts are well founded, however take a lot of effort to pull together, something the current trio try to make a priority among their day jobs that are required to support their love and passion of making music. Bass player Will Fehr alone works 50 hours a week as an engineer, forcing them to squeeze every hour they can out of their schedules to play, write, record & perform.
The road has been less than smooth for Matt Stanley in his attempts to build a band to stand the test of time. With a string of lost band members over the years, which much to his own admission may be tied to him being the common denominator, Matt remains cool, calm & collected about his vision and where the current threesome are headed. Having recently finished building a custom studio in Sean’s garage, the band are psyched on their new material and are gearing up for a big push come spring to hit the west coast touring circuit.
It was humbling for us to hear Matt explain that he has had his sights set on playing Serenity for quite sometime, and that the experience didn’t dissapoint. Admitting that the location is unlike anything he has ever played, it was clear this Kamloops boy was eager to be welcomed into what has become a fairly local mainstay of a venue. It’s this type of persona off the stage that will carry him far in his pursuits, along with his bandmates. Will doesn’t say much but his quick soft spoken one timers are hard to miss, and Sean’s easy conversation style would put anyone at ease. With a night that gave props to some local homegrown talent, these guys did our valley proud, and with continued hard work, they will get to where they are headed.
Lost in the Woods
Speaking of locals, the night was a true homecoming for singer and multi-instrumentalist Dave Maccuish of Lost in the Woods who was born and raised in our community. The folklore surrounding the creation of our local venue starts with this young man a mere 6 years ago when he was visiting the acreage, a place he practically grew up on, as his mother and venue owner Shirley de Vooght have been best friends since grade school.
In a nutshell, years ago Shirley had been approached by her sister to use the acreage to host a Christian music festival. Shirley agreed and because she does not do anything small, had a custom outdoor stage built for the event. Shortly afterwards, Dave had been out to the acreage for a visit and brought his guitar. Shirley asked him to try a song or two out on the big stage. He sang Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold.” To this day, Shirley claims that it was that exact moment that her vision for creating a viable live music venue on the property came to be. And as they say, the rest is history.
Now this is a pretty hefty fable to live up to, however, Dave and his bandmates are not ones to let on any amount of ego. It is quite something to experience a group of young men so richly gifted act as if they do not realize the immense musical talent they possess among them.
Lost in the Woods has had its own evolution of sorts. Starting out as 3 Guys Folkin, they paired down and changed their name to Duo #2, only to change it again to the current moniker and in the last handful of months welcome a third member who completes and elevates their sound in a way I’m not sure they fully realize. After watching them perform and speaking to them afterwards, it is clear that music is what they live for, but like so many, are still trying to figure out the nuances of making it a lifelong career which of course takes a significant amount of blood, sweat & tears to become anything close to a reality. No matter where their path may lead, their journey is sure to be enjoyable if they keep making music like this.
With a sound that drew quick comparisons to last year’s break out folk trio The Lumineers, Lost in the Woods is a throwback to the rich history of grass roots folk music, showcasing the banjo & fiddle with rugged, yet tender vocals. For a guy who only picked up the banjo a few years ago, Dave’s affinity with the instrument had the audience in a joyful spell. Setting the stage with their vintage microphone, and an authentic style between them that cut a page right out of a how-to-look-like-a-cool-folk-band, their ability to craft a roots based folk instrumental is beyond slick. Sean didn’t even touch the drums in their entire set, but rather selected to showcase his significant abilities on the acoustic guitar & vocals. As for their new member I mentioned earlier, that would be Matt Cardinal, the fiddler. Performing both the fiddle & viola, Matt’s pristine sense of timing, melody and collaborative merritt within the band pretty much blew the top off their existing sound leading up to his addition.
Matt’s background is in concert orchestra, a fact that is not to be taken lightly, including that he was raised on the fiddle from his own grandmother who he still plays with to this day. Matt is a truly gifted talent who does not appear to have been classically taught with his disheveled hair, farmer’s hat, and laissez faire demeanour. However, when you ask him about his music, those soft eyes become sharper, his laid back tendancy changes to an upright stance, and the passion in his voice gives it all away. This is his first shot at being in a band, and he’s ready to work to make it happen. Like many musicians, including fellow bandmate Sean, Matt works in trades to make ends meet. He shared his current routine of listening to the band’s recorded practice sessions while at work, followed by returning to his motel room in whatever town he is working in at the time to rehearse the cues and pointers laid down in practice. Motivated to find his niche within the band’s current song anthology, his gracious dedication is nothing short of touching.
Having the now flexible access to Sean’s home based studio, Lost in the Woods are half done tracking their new album which will be released both digitally and on vinyl in late spring. Here’s hoping it translates their newly developed sound that is so entrancing in its live delivery.
Matt Stanley & the Decoys and Lost in the Woods performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on January 18, 2014.
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