By Carli BerryOBSERVER STAFF
Shredding a banjo is a normal, every-performance activity for Shred Kelly.
The folk-rock-pop band brought lightening-fast riffs and a lot of twang to the 24th annual Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival.
“They’re second only to Iron Maiden in stage presence,” said concert-goer Brody Thomas.
The Fernie-based band took time to cool off in the 32 C weather, speaking with the Observer before their performance Saturday night.
The 2016 festival is Shred Kelly’s last stop on a two-month tour that took them from New Brunswick to Salmon Arm.
“As artists they treat us so well (in Salmon Arm). It’s so laid back. It’s one of the best vibes being a performer,” said singer/keyboardist Sage McBride.
Banjo player/singer Tim Newton, 38, and McBride, 30, both went to Roots & Blues in 2009 as attendees to see Elliott Brood. They came back in 2012 to perform as a band.
Shred Kelly is known for their eccentric performances, punk-style banjo and lyrics referencing Canadian themes like: bears, small towns, cabin fever and the northern lights. The band also started playing with synthesizers on their latest album, Sing to the Night, which was released in 2015. They draw on bands like Fleetwood Mac, Arcade Fire and Old Man Luedeke for style and stage presence.
The other members include: drummer Ian Page Shiner, 29, bassist Jordan Vlasschaert, 30, and guitarist Ty West, 36.
The band is currently working on another album, crunching out songs and recordings in the next few months, and is playing in Germany’s Reeperbahn Festival on Sept. 21 and 22.
The band was able to stay fresh and keep their audience while combating challenges artistically on their third album.
“The biggest challenge for every artist is to put something out every time that is different, but still at the core not moving too far away from who you are,” said Newton.
It’s about finding a relatable song that appeases a large audience, he said.
“On our third album, everyone in the band contributed more, and we kind of found our sound. We’re a little more comfortable in our own skin,” said McBride.
They call themselves “ski bums.” The band formed in 2009 in Fernie during an open mic night at one of the bars.
“We had been friends before, but not musical friends. We got offered our first band gig after that,” said Newton.
“All of us brought different things to the table. I had just bought a banjo which is the driving force and sound of the band. Our guitar player came from a punk-rock background. Eventually we brought a pop sound on top of that.”
Keeping up with practising is important to the band as Shred Kelly is not a full-time gig.
“Our throats will get sore if we’re out for a weekend,” said McBride.
In the band’s down time, Newton is a youth-care worker and McBride works as a substitute preschool teacher.
It’s about finding balance to juggle jobs and the band.
“Sometimes (there’s) not a lot of rest, sometimes the touring gets done and the jobs get done, but we’re missing time to song write or connect with friends and family,” said McBride.
At the end of the day, Shred Kelly goes back to its roots.
The single Sing to the Night has a music video that was inspired by a hot dog day in Fernie, where everyone dresses in 80’s ski gear.
Shred Kelly also used ice instruments in their music video, The Bear, that were created by purchasing a large freezer in Fernie, said McBride.
Fernie is also the home base for creating music.
“It’s kind of hard to write a lot on the road. When we get home that’s when we pool the stuff together.”
Singing/songwriting is done in three ways.
“For me I have to have the music first,” said Newton. McBride adds lyrics on basic chords.
Jamming together helps the band create songs as well, with Newton and McBride writing the lyrics.
To find out more about Shred Kelly, visit shredkelly.com.