by Nilabjo Banerjee

√  2nd Juno nomination.

√  Song featured in Hockey Night in Canada promo

√  Getting a Twitter shoutout from one of the biggest Canadian bands: Blue Rodeo

Would you say The Strumbellas are ridin’ high? Or maybe (more aptly), the six-piece folk ‘popgrass’ act are just “Sailing”. That is the latest single used on a HNIC promo, one of the biggest institution in Canadian television.

With another Juno nomination for the sophomore album, We Still Move on Dance Floors and SOLD OUT shows, are they sensing the momentum?

“It’s been really fun. Album sales are up, shows are selling out,” says the front man / principal songwriter Simon Ward.

But, instead of settling, the band is expanding their horizons first time south of the border with headlining shows. We asked them how that’s been:

“It’s nice to have that change, where one night you play a show to 5 people and next night you play a sold out show”.

The Strumbellas are set to make Wednesdays more fun during their month-long residency at The Dakota. You can also see them opening for Corb Lund with dates in April. In my chat with Simon, I found out about his favourite shows, his love for Alt J and encounters with Jim Cuddy and Adam Cohen.

 To work on the record, you went to the famed Bear Creek Studios to work with Ryan Haddock. Confirm or deny: there is a hot tub in the woods?

 There IS a hot tub in the woods. You come out of the barn or studio, go 10 steps into the woods, there is a little creek and leads you to the outdoor hot tub. It is pretty spectacular!

With all this touring and the driving that goes along with it, I know you kill downtime with TV Shows? Were you the one who posted that Sex & City Instagram update?

That wasn’t me. Might have been Dave. ‘checks with the rest of band in the van’. Yeah! That was Dave

 So you are telling me Ph.D candidate Dave watches Sex and City?

Yeah it was Dave! We have confirmation!

So, what are some of your favourite shows?

My forte is 90s comedies like Adam Sandler or Austin Power movies. You know what it is? I watch things that doesn’t involve much thinking. I don’t want to watch The Pianist or something.

Since we are talking about you, lets talk about your influences. It’s all across the board. Read somewhere it goes from Lord Huron, Edward Sharp to Alt J and Jackson 5. What would be an album or a song on your iPod that would surprise us?

Not only am I a fan of Alt J, I will go on the record, and say that is one of the best records in the last 10 years. They are just one of the most groundbreaking things I have heard in a long while.

As for surprise songs, I listen to a lot of cheeky music. I love the second MeatLoaf album, Celine Dion’s first record, etc. I love classic cheesy pop from 80s and 90s!

That gives you a leg up for band karaoke?

 Funny you say that! We did a band karaoke a while ago, and I did Sinead O’ Connor “Nothing compares to You”. I have been meaning to do that for a while. It’s really hard to sing.

You have talked about your ideal day including waking up in a forest, write songs, drink wine with Paul McCartney and Bono and go to bed. What do you think possible conversation topics would be?

 You know what? We are starting to have those conversations as we meet people that we admire. For example, we met Jim Cuddy at the Junos last year. Now, do I play it cool or ask him loads of questions and say I am a huge fan? So, the first thing I said was,  “Dude you got this sweet Gibson guitar in your studio. Will you sell it to me?”

He was like, “No!”

What would I say to Paul McCartney? ‘How was your day?’ I don’t know what would you say to Paul McCartney! Do you start with, ‘so you were in The Beatles eh?’

I am no conversation expert, but that would be the worst conversation starter with an ex-Beatle.

You wanna hear the most embarrassing thing that I have ever said to a musician? At the Junos, I met Adam Cohen. I introduced myself, and we were having a great conversation. Suddenly, there was a lull in the conversation, and all I could say, “so you are Leonard Cohen’s son huh?” And I just walked away. I felt so bad because I bet he gets that everyday of his life, and for some reason, that still came out of me!

Borrowing from the theme of crazy collabs at the Grammys, is there anyone you would wanna duet with or work with?

 I would like to do songs with someone like Danger Mouse or Pharrell. Someone who is totally different from our genre! I’d rather do that than duet with Justin Bieber!

What is the most gratifying thing about being in the Strumbellas?

 Having the outlet to play my music. We found a group of people where it seems to work really well both on a music and personal level! The most gratifying thing will always be sitting by myself and writing songs. That is my # 1 passion next to my family. Now that I have a group of talented people that can help me take what I did in my room and make it in a complete song with a band!

What is something about the band or yourself that no one knows? A secret talent?

 My hidden talent is that I can beat any human being in the fastest response to a multiplication question up to 11. I can’t do 12. But, up to 11! Both numbers have to be under 11.

Whats 11 x 11?

(in a matter of seconds), 121! I told ya man! I am a freak!