When we hear “one-man band,” perhaps many of us have an image that frankly does not involve music at any kind of decent level.
And then there are the performers like The Alkemist. This individual certainly fits into the category of one-man band but he does not come across as that typical image as he plays.
Jay Myers, aka the Alkemist for about the last four years, has been performing since he was in Grade 4 when he started with the school orchestra and has gradually developed into the popular performer he is today by playing with school groups, by himself and with others.
He feels that his sole performances have been going really well and that he has been building a very nice fan base within northern B.C. and Alberta.
“I have tons of gratitude for the northern communities. I’m getting into music festivals more and I feel inspired by a lot of other northern artists,” he said.
When asked how he would typify the style of music he plays, he answered, “That’s a good question. It’s in a vein of kind of an alternative folk. It’s a good style for around here especially with all of the Telkwa musicians. And there is such an interesting array of eclectic musicians in Smithers. I play some Irish and some fiddle. I play some banjo and some chitney fiddle. Some of it is psychedelic, some of it is finger-picking and blues. It’s all over the map,” he said.
“I mostly play fiddle, banjo and guitar. I have a set of foot drums that I play with my set. I have a kick drum and a hoof boot — it’s basically a hiking boot that I’ve strapped a whole bunch of deer hooves to. It’s definitely like a full workout for sure. I’ve also got a cymbal that I’ve got on a pedal. What I’m going for is to try to create as big a sound as I possibly can. I’m trying to make it sound as if there is a band on stage,” he explained.
He does not currently have anything that he bashes his head into but, according to Myers, he has thought about it.
He started playing fiddle when he was young and moved on to the guitar when he was 16.
“I felt that violin was not cool anymore. I picked up banjo along the way,” he said.
Along the way he moved out to Haida Gwaii about six years ago and started up a duo with a friend. During this period, they decided to start to write their own original music and the pair inspired each other to write new and interesting sounds. With that project, called Shadow Cast, they had kind of a psychedelic alternative folk thing going and between the two of them they were driven to have that big sound. They would try for different combinations, such as his friend playing guitar and singing while he was behind the drums set hitting the drums with his feet and playing bass or some other instrument.
“That was kind of what got me going in the foot drums. We had about seven different set-ups on stage, trying to keep it interesting,” he said.
When he left Haida Gwaii, he continued with the foot drums.
“I was heavily inspired by one of my favorite musicians, Drummond Belltower, and I kept going with the alternative folk,” he said.
With the various types of music he plays, the audience he attracts is kind of varied.
“It’s cool. It’s a wide demographic. I get a really good response from kids, youth, teenagers, young adults and up,” he said.
As he has become better known in the region, he has begun to play at a wider range of locations.
“I played at the local Midsummer Music Festival the last two years. I played the Barn Stage and the 4-H stage. I had a full house. Then I played the Main Street side stage where people were not just listening to the music. They were also dancing. It was one of the greatest feelings in my musical career,” he said.
As the Alkemist, he has played all over the region, including dates in Kispiox and Fort St. James.
All performers seem to have their special dreams and Myers is no exception.
“I have this one funny dream. I want to open for the band Primus when they are on tour. It’s a really outlandish goal because they are a big band but I’ve been super inspired by their music. I want to send my album to them pretty soon and send them a letter letting them know how inspirational they have been for me,” he said.
“My dream is not necessarily to reach any modicum of fame but just to have a good fan base, perhaps just in western Canada, so I can go around to festivals and have a reasonably successful tour,” he explained.
The Alkemist has played in some of the local breweries such as the Smithers Brewing Company in the past and he feels that it is an opportunity to, “see some great people, enjoy a great vibe and listen to live music. What more can you ask for?”
His next tour starts with four dates in Alberta followed by six stops in northern B.C. These start in Prince George on Feb. 22, Williams Lake Feb. 23, Horsefly Feb. 24, Smithers Feb. 28, Terrace March 1, and Prince Rupert March 2.
Myers has played in all of them previously except Horsefly. On this tour, it will also be his first time at the legendary Standeasy Legion in Jasper, AB.
In Smithers he will be joined by Theresa Michelle Mohr.
Terrace, Prince Rupert and Smithers are among his favorite places to play because he feels he has perhaps his largest fan base in the area.
For additional information on the Alkemist, check his website at thealkemist.band