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The Breakmen: defining Canadiana

The Breakmen will be playing some not-yet-released songs when play the Roxy Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 16. - Peter Kelly
The Breakmen will be playing some not-yet-released songs when play the Roxy Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 16.
— image credit: Peter Kelly

When you’re a Canadian band that has spent years criss-crossing the country playing Americana, it’s only natural that something Canadian will seep into the music. That’s why The Breakmen often refer to their sound as ‘Canadiana’

“There’s something distinctly Canadian about the way we do it and the way our counterparts, our colleagues in Canada do it,” says guitarist, banjo player and singer Archie Pateman. “There’s something distinctly Canadian. I don’t know what it is. I guess it’s incorporating Canadian folklore, incorporating Canadian places.”

Americana is generally regarded as an amalgam of American roots music – a mix of country, bluegrass, folk, blues and other genres that have emerged from our neighbours to the south over many years.

It’s a genre that has been picked up by hundreds of Canadian song-writers, who have incorporated elements of Canada into their music – the wide open spaces, remote areas and massive landscapes.

“I think that’s a big reason things have turned into Canadiana,” Pateman said. “There’s so many song writers re-shaping this American music and owning it.”

I reached Pateman on the phone at his home in Cumberland on Vancouver Island. He and the rest of the band – Ben Rogalsky, Lee Watson and Matt Lawson – were there working on new songs and resting up between shows on the band’s 24-day tour around Western Canada that includes a stop at the Roxy Theatre in Revelstoke on Thursday, Feb. 16.

The band formed in the 2005 as an acoustic, mostly bluegrass band, but has since branched out, bringing in electric guitars and drums to their sound. The band was nominated for Americana Album of the Year at the independent Music Awards and was nominated for two Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Pateman said the transition to a bigger sound came about organically through the band’s song writing.

All of a sudden we were having pedal steel on the record, electric guitar and drums,” he said. “Then it was just the evolution of our sound ourselves.”

He said the change has opened up new venues for the band – they can still play quiet theatres but they can also perform in rowdy bars.

“It’s really changed what we can access and the audience we can touch.”

The Breakmen’s last album Heartwood was released in 2010 and the band will be going into the studio to record a follow-up this year.

Pateman said to expect “lots of energy, lots of great songs, vocal harmonies, great times.”

“We’ll be hitting you with the new songs that won’t be on any of the albums,” he said.

“They’re a continuing evolution. They’ll be a new surprising sound if you know our music.”

The Breakmen play at the Roxy Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. John Jenkins and Denis Severino & Maggie Davis open.

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