For six high school students, their friendship was formed during the production of a high school musical, but their musical fate was sealed on a trip to Vancouver Island.
Daniel McBurnie, Graham Gomez, Alexa Unwin, Robert Hardie, Sean MacKeigan, Jesse Brook and Blair Hansen – now members of the band Good for Grapes – were all students at Fleetwood Park Secondary School in Surrey, B.C, when they met while working on a student musical of J.K. Rowling’s popular Harry Potter series and became friends.
“I started doing the soundtrack for the musical because it was a small drama program and we didn’t have an actual band and that’s where I met Graham. That was the first musical project we did together,” McBurnie said. “We all just became really good friends because we were all drama geeks and we all loved music and we all loved playing music and so we started playing together.”
However, it was during a busking trip to Victoria in 2010 that convinced them to form a band.
“It definitely wasn’t the busking that convinced us to be a band,” McBurnie said. “I think on that trip it told us that we could travel well together and we really liked each other and we were playing and having fun around each other and that’s more valuable than anything.”
On Friday (Feb. 7) the folk band will be bringing its talents to Nanaimo with a performance at the Queen’s. McBurnie describes Good For Grapes, who have perviously opened for Yukon Blonde, as a big and energetic band.
“It’s really energetic folk music, like acoustic instruments, big arrangements and lots of brass,” McBurnie said.
Since forming in 2010, Good For Grapes have released two records. Their self-titled EP was released in April of 2011 followed by their first full-length album, Man On the Page, which was released last October.
Last year the band participated in the Peak Performance Project, where it placed in the top 20. As a result, Good For Grapes, along with the 19 other finalists, were invited to a week-long boot camp held in Princeton, B.C.
“The learning opportunity of being part of the Peak Performance Project and just being up at that camp and getting an opportunity to listen to all those teachers … I just cannot imagine a situation where you would get that. There isn’t a university course where you get that,” McBurnie said.
Good For Grapes placed fourth in the competition. According McBurnie, attending the boot camp provided him additional motivation and insight.
“A huge feeling that I came away with was motivation to enhance my career … they teach you all these things about your career like the 12 different things you have to balance to keep your career intact because there is so much to music nowadays in making it in the business. After all that, they would always end with ‘but it all comes down to your songs. If you don’t have good songs then none of that matters.’ It was kind of encouraging because you get so drowned in that information,” McBurnie said. “It’s like, oh my God I need to write good songs, I need to be a good business mind, I need to do this, I need to be motivated, I need to get up at 8 o’clock in the morning and work all day, but then they remind you it’s all about the music.”
The name Good For Grapes came purely by accident after a series of small exchanges. Prior to their busking trip to Victoria, Unwin asked Gomez if he wanted some grapes, in which he replied, “No I’m good for grapes.”
“Somebody laughed and said that would be a funny name for a band. We would always joke about stuff like that,” McBurnie said.
Onboard the ferry to Victoria, the sextet began playing music on the ship deck to passengers.
“We were playing and a ton of people came out and watched us. We were totally unprepared for that and I think they thought that the ferry had hired a band. So they were watching us and after we had pulled out everything that we could and someone asked us what our band name was and Graham said, ‘Good for Grapes, you can call us Good for Grapes’,” McBurnie said.
McBurnie said that while their name doesn’t have a deep meaning, it does symbolize their friendship.
“It’s almost like a testament to our friendship and our silly kind of nature,” he said.
Good For Grapes performs at the Queen’s this Friday at 7 p.m.