The Slocan Ramblers
December 18th at 8 PM at The Front Porch Downtown!!
Don’t miss The Slocan Ramblers throwing down some bluegrass tunes this Saturday, December 18th at The Front Porch!! Bring your dancing shoes, this will not be our usual seated show. Instead, we’ll be setting the room up for dancing, drinking, and delight. Come out and join us as we celebrate the holidays and end 2021 in style with our last show of the year!
I recently sat down with Frank Evans, the banjo player for The Slocan Ramblers, to chat with him about the band, their inspiration, successes, and upcoming album. Read our conversation below. Also check out a few incredible videos of The Slocans to get excited for Saturday’s show. We hope to see you there!
About the Slocan Ramblers:
The Slocan Ramblers (2020 IBMA Momentum Band of the Year Award Winner & 2019 Juno Award Nominee) are Canada’s bluegrass band to watch. Rooted in tradition, fearlessly creative and possessing a bold, dynamic sound, The Slocans have become a leading light of today’s acoustic music scene. With a reputation for energetic live shows, impeccable musicianship and an uncanny ability to convert anyone within earshot into a lifelong fan, The Slocans have been winning over audiences from Merlefest to RockyGrass and everywhere in between.
The Slocans showcase their unique blend of bluegrass, old-time and folk with deep song-writing, lightning fast instrumentals and sawdust-thick vocals. With their trademark raucous energy, The Slocan Ramblers are at the top of their game – writing and playing tunes to keep you up all night. This is roots music without pretension, music to make you feel something – say hello to your new favorite band.
Interview With Frank Evans:
Eli: We’re here with Frank Evans, banjo player for The Slocan Ramblers. Thanks for joining us, Frank! How are you?
Frank: Yeah, thanks for having me! Good, good, looking forward to our show!
E: We can’t wait! So tell me about The Slocan Ramblers. You guys are out of Toronto, right?
Frank: Yeah, so the three other players in the band – our bass player Charles James, guitar player Darryl Poulsen, and mandolin player Adrian Gross all live in and around Toronto. I actually live in Nashville now, so we converge for tours. We’re making it work!
E: How’d you guys meet, and when did you start playing together?
Frank: We all met in Toronto, and started playing together about 10 years ago. Our old bass player and Adrian were at a jazz college together, and sort of found each other quickly because they were the only ones in a jazz college interested in acoustic music. I was working as a bike mechanic at the time and playing banjo occasionally, and we all started jamming together. We had a weekly gig at a tiny little pub in Toronto called The Cloak and Dagger. It was more of a dive bar – everyone in the neighborhood referred to it as the “Puke and Stagger.” We played there every Tuesday, and it was a good boot-camp for how to be a bluegrass band; how to power through this loud and raucous setting and get through three sets. If you can do that then you’re good in any scenario. After that, we started booking our own tours and it’s snowballed from there.
E: Nice! Forged in the flames of the Puke and Stagger. Well, you guys have grown a lot since then, your most recent album, Queen City Jubilee (2019), was nominated for Juno award. Congratulations! What’s next for you all; what’s in the works?
Frank: Thank you! Well, we’re about to release a new record! We’ve been in the studio, which has been a bit difficult through the last two years, as I’m sure you can imagine. But we made it work, and we have this new record coming out that we’re super proud of. We’re just about to start releasing some singles. We have our tour schedule starting to come back, some UK dates are getting scheduled, and those sorts of things are starting to open back up. We’re just crossing our fingers and hoping it keeps moving in a positive direction, and excited to get back.
E: Yeah, well we know that the last year and a half has been tough on everyone, and especially musicians. What were you doing during the quarantine?
Frank: Well, musically we had this new setup where we were doing remote jam sessions. Which is not quite as good as being in the same room, but you make do with what you have. We had a weekly YouTube series going on called Big Time Tuesday [check out the series HERE], where we would get featured guests to play a tune with us. It was kind of tricky to do virtually, but that was a fun project to get going. We all had our own things to keep us busy too – I’m a climber, so I learned a little bit about rock climbing. All the stuff you don’t have time for when you’re touring.
E: Were any of the new tunes influenced by the Tuesday jams?
Frank: A few were influenced by that, yeah. Our recordings have always been very “live” off the floor. Usually our way of making a record – especially with the last two – is that we would go on tour for two years, and we would practice the material, try it out on audiences, change the arrangements, and get it as tight as possible. And then we would go into the studio for a couple of days and record everything with a forest of microphones around us, sort of like a live concert but a little more high-fi. This time we didn’t have the luxury of doing that, so this album is more of a traditional “studio” record with layered tracks and harmonies. We started to use the studio as a tool, which was a new experience for us. We’re quite proud of it!
E: Awesome! The other big news for The Slocan Ramblers was that you all won the 2020 IBMA Momentum Award! Congratulations on that as well, that’s really cool. I understand that was all virtual, what was that experience like?
Frank: Thank you! Yeah, it wasn’t quite the same as being in the convention center in Raleigh – just in our kitchen as I was making pasta – but it was fun all the same. That’s been a cool experience as a Canadian band, it’s hard to know how you’ll be accepted coming to a place where this music originates. The IBMA organizers have been very kind to us over the years, and super supportive. It’s been really nice to see that, and we can’t wait to go back. We weren’t able to go this year, but are hoping to get there this year!
E: Being a Canadian band, do you find that there are barriers you have to break through in folk music? Has that been different now that you’re in Nashville?
Frank: Um, yes and no. The style of bluegrass here is a little cleaner, and people you play with know the arrangements of records more often. In Toronto, if you want to hear bluegrass, you’d go to a bar or a rowdier setting. That fosters a style of playing where you’re playing a little harder and singing a little louder. For example, there is this band that was hugely influential on us in Toronto called The Cranks, and they played at a bar every Wednesday. They always played quite loud, rowdy crowd, and had a raucous, fun set. We’ve always been very fond of that style of bluegrass and took that tradition onward.
E: Has your personal style as a banjo player changed over the last ten years?
Frank: Yeah, I think so! I mostly come from an old-time background. I started going to Clifftop [old time] festival when I was 10 or 11, and bluegrass was strictly not allowed at Clifftop. I remember that at that time, there was this one wing of Clifftop that was bluegrass, but it had an impression of “don’t go there, kid.” So I didn’t grow up on bluegrass, but went to a bunch of old-time jams. I think some of that old-time playing has blended into our style as a general approach to music.
E: Interesting! Well, I have just a couple more questions. What’s your favorite musical memory?
Frank: Playing at The Front Porch is up there! Hmm, what else… Very early on we were hired to teach at RockyGrass festival, and getting to teach and play alongside some of our influences was amazing. Festival experiences like that have been incredible. We also love touring the UK, but it would be nice to branch out to some of the other places in Europe, and see where the bluegrass communities take us.
E: Is there an artist you would most like to collaborate with – living or dead?
Frank: One of the early influences on our band vocally and as a bluegrass band – he speaks to that raucous and rowdy style – was Dave Evans. He passed away a couple of years ago now, but he’s always been one of my favorite singers. I never got a chance to see him, but it would have been pretty amazing to get to play some music with him.
E: I like that you mentioned that you teach. One of the main things we do here at The Front Porch is offer music lessons and classes! Do you still teach?
Frank: Yeah, we’ve all been doing a lot of private lessons online, which has been amazing during the pandemic. It’s worked for both sides of the fence – a lot of people have the time to learn a new instrument, and it’s also been our lifeblood while shows haven’t been going. If any of my students are out there – thank you so much, it’s been an honor to work with you.
We’ve also taught at a lot of festivals and workshops, online and through various schools around the country. We love teaching, it’s one of our favorite things to do. When we’re out on tour we try to go out to do school shows for different grades. You never really know what you’re going to show up to. Once, we went to a school in Ontario to do a show. It was 9 in the morning, and when we showed up we were told, “you’re going to be in the big theater, there are about 900 first and second graders, and you have 90 minutes.” So we had to figure out what to do.
We have this one song called “Groundhog” that is sort of a rowdy call-and-response song, and we encouraged the kids to get up and moving around. Kids went all over the place – there’s not enough insurance in the world to cover that. When we were packing up after the performance we saw a stage tech wheeling a cart full of broken chairs from the audience. We felt bad about destroying their theater, but we got through the 90 minutes entertaining all these kids.
E: You heard it here first, folks, Slocan Ramblers, raucous live music – chairs will get destroyed!!
Frank: That’s right!
E: Your upcoming album is called Over the Hill and Through the Fog, and you funded the album through a Kickstarter campaign. How was that? I like the idea of community sourcing the album.
Frank: Yeah, it was our first time doing something like that! Our fans were amazingly generous. And we did some fun things like put together jingles for people, and offered up preorders and stuff. It was a really nice way to see our community out there, and reminded us about how far we have to ship these records.
E: That’s amazing. I think this last year has shown how interconnected we all are, and it’s great to see artists like yourself take advantage of that connection through the internet to fund these projects. It’s really cool!
Over the Hill and Through the Fog is the upcoming album [read more about it HERE], and The Slocan Ramblers are playing at The Front Porch on Saturday, December 18th. Tickets are on sale now, it’s going to be a fun, raucous dance party! Come and join us. And thank you so much for joining us today Frank, we are so excited to have you guys in Charlottesville and can’t wait to the show.
Frank: Thanks so much! We can’t wait to be back at The Front Porch!
Come out to see The Slocan Ramblers on December 18th!! The show starts at 8pm. Get tickets here:
Check out The Slocan Ramblers 2019 album Queen City Jubilee (2019 Juno Award Nominee for Traditional Roots Album of the Year):
Interested in sparking a musical fire? The Front Porch offers individual and group music classes for all ages and skill levels! Sign up for a class with one of our amazing teachers today.
Love what The Front Porch does? Learn more about our Roots and Wings outreach program here, and donate to support music education in Charlottesville.
Just looking to listen to some music? Check out our upcoming concerts and events!