Hypnotic. Enchanting. Soul churning. Epic. Beautiful. These are just a few words that come to mind when describing Windborn’s performance. Windborn doesn’t just play music, they become it. They engulf the listener in such a way that you feel the fibre of each note, each verse, each beat.
Having a distinct vulnerability to their sound to begin with, tonight’s performance was especially personal. Windborn’s creator and songwriter, Jeff Pike, has not only been performing here over the past 4 years, he lived on the property for a period of time following immense heartbreak, and subsequently, wrote the majority of the soon to be released third album right here at the venue. This immediately created a shared intimacy and relationship with the audience, even with those here for the first time. It is no surprise Jeff sought refuge and found solace at Serenity when he needed it the most. At a place that is known for its familial atmosphere, Windborn’s return was a true homecoming that was felt by everyone.
Undoubtedly, Jeff Pike is the creative engine behind the core of Windborn’s sound. He crafts all of the songs in an experimental process that is far from traditional. Although he was raised by parents who played and taught both piano and guitar, Jeff was not exposed to music as a child outside of a limited selection of faith-based options, and he was not at all interested in learning to play instruments from his parents. It wasn’t until his mid-late teens that Jeff began to play around with music on his own, and like any suppressed preacher-raised young man would do, he started a metal band. However, once he began to explore the world of music, he discovered he not only had a voice, but an ability to create sounds and beats through approaching instruments without any preconceived rules or expectations. In a nutshell, Jeff’s songwriting advice is as follows: “If it sounds bad, stop. If it sounds good, keep going.” To this day, Jeff does not read music or write songs based on standard chord progressions. He literally just plays, in the true sense of the word, as in plays around with different finger placements on the guitar, or beats on the kick and various hand drums until he hears something he likes. It’s the most organic way of making music you can imagine, and what is most impressive is how natural it comes to Jeff and how in tune (for lack of a better word) he is with his instruments to be able to create what he does. Shockingly, he thinks his process is a relatively simple one that could be picked up by anyone who can carry a tune in the shower. Of course this is not true, yet this belief he carries showcases an endearing humility regarding his massive talent.
If Jeff Pike is Windborn’s ship and captain, Nils Loewen is its sails. Nils met Jeff a few years ago when he was attending college in Winnipeg. Following one of Jeff’s shows while on tour, he ended up at the college in a jam session with Nils and some other music students, and the two of them had an instant musical chemistry. On that very first night they wrote what became the song “I Shot The Sky” that ended up on Windborn’s sophomore album Measures. Following graduation, Nils made the move to BC to officially join the band, and the two of them have been creating Windborn’s signature sound ever since. His cello elements breathe beauty and depth into the songs that bring out different feelings and qualities for the listener to sink their teeth into. Visually, Nils’ physical presence brings an intensity to the performance, which is offset perfectly by Jeff’s playfulness on stage. Having majored in a variety of music genres and instruments in college, with a current focus on dabbling in the classical works of Bach, Nils brings a true renaissance quality to the band’s transcending sound.
There is no question Windborn’s songs force you to self examine and reflect. Although there were moments that triggered intense sadness, most of the night elicited true joy for the opportunity to witness these two exceptional musicians share their gifts and hearts with us. We were spellbound by what they created on stage, so much so that during the intermission people kept looking at each other saying “Wow,” along with a common sentiment shared about it being difficult to put into words the pleasure and appreciation we felt as an audience.
To say the men of Windborn are a match made in heaven is an appropriate use of a highly overused and rarely true idiom. Their collaborative songwriting process boils down to Jeff writing the songs, Nils listening to them and then adding cello components where he feels they fit. Out of this passion for creating and trust in one another, they are producing some of the most original music that is indefinable by genre, yet unmistakably genuine.
Windborn performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on February 22, 2014.
The third full length album “Calm in Chaos” is set to be released in the coming months.
Until the album’s release date, you can download the track “My Love” for free on Windborn’s homepage at http://www.windborn.ca where you can also find links to the two previously released albums, current tour schedule, and more.
Photos courtesy of Steve Mechem.