When Victoria folk band West My Friend hits the stage in Victoria to launch their fourth album, In Constellation, it’ll be a bit crowded.
Actually, “a bit” is an understatement: the trio will be accompanied at the Alix Goolden Hall on Sept. 20 by a full choir and orchestra, making for 140 or so musicians in total.
The full complement of strings, horns and voices is needed, however, to give the audience a true reflection of the expanded depth of material on the new release, says West My Friend accordionist/vocalist Jeff Poynter.
“It should be a fairly ridiculous situation,” he says with a chuckle at the planned accumulation of instruments and players on stage. “This album is the first with the orchestra … We’ve rearranged one of our older songs for the choir, and the orchestra will be playing on almost every song.”
Besides playing all seven songs from the new album, Poynter, guitarist/flutist/vocalist Eden Oliver and mandolinist/vocalist Alex Rempel will revisit tunes from past albums, and the added accompaniment will definitely give them a different flavour, Poynter says.
While the band has pre-released videos for the songs “Saltwater” and “Build a Bed” from In Constellation on their YouTube channel, the album release concert will give longtime fans of the band, and those who might be curious about their creative process, a chance to hear this new sound live for the first time.
“In our ten years as a band, we’ve noticed that sometimes people aren’t sure what to do with us: our instrumentation, our songwriting, our atypical arranging … In Constellation is what happened when we leaned into that impulse and didn’t hold back,” says guitarist/vocalist Eden Oliver.
|West My Friend album cover for In Constellation/Moss Photography|
Veteran folk musician Adrian Dolan, who co-produced the album with Joby Baker, created the symphonic arrangements for the 53-member orchestra and recorded them to match up with the West My Friend compositions.
“Recording the album was a celebration as we welcomed old (and new) friends into the studio and watched the endless layers come together,” Oliver says. “There were times when all we could do was laugh at the unbridled ridiculousness of it all and times where the arrangements reduced us to tears. This is not an album we could have made in our early years as a band.”
To help celebrate the band’s 10th anniversary, cake will be served during the intermission at the Sept. 20 performance, courtesy of Patisserie Daniel.
West My Friend is accustomed to unique concert scenarios, having played everywhere from a 100-year-old streetcar on a bridge, to a sailboat, a yoga studio, bookstores, museums and more. They played a couple shows in Oregon to start this mini-tour, including one in the hayloft of a 100-year-old Salem barn.
“They squeezed 100 people in there,” Poynter says. “It was nice to be close enough to see everyone’s faces and talk to them.”
At Alix Goolden Hall, West My Friend will get a chance to reconnect with old friends and make some new ones, playing powerfully lyrical songs with themes ranging from anxiety to belonging and love, over backgrounds of violins and trumpets that swell, collapse and tumble between the band’s bold harmonies.
Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for students and people on low incomes, and free for children 12-under. You can find them online at ticketfly.com. Read more about the band and purchase the new CD/album at westmyfriend.com.