Toronto indie band EastSideWest chats with Guitar Justice about starting their band & their musical journey together.
Americana/singer songwriter. We are influenced by many genres of Americana, including swing music from the 40’s soul and folk music from the 60’s and 70’s to more contemporary artists such as Tom Waits and Amy Winehouse.
HOW DID YOU START YOUR BAND?
We met playing in a reggae band, which is also an outreach band fundraising for the less-fortunate. We decided to explore different genres of music together and that’s how EastSideWest started. Our easygoing attitude has made the music come together quite smoothly.
A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR INSTRUMENTS
James: Classical guitar was my first instrument, and currently I proudly play a nylon string guitar made by Drak Traphagen. In EastSideWest, my main instrument is an Ibanez Arch Top, which for the money is an excellent instrument, plays well above its price tag.
Fabienne: My instrument is my voice. I would spend hours daily in my room singing the number one hits from the radio. Writing my own songs somehow soothes me. When I sing, I feel it’s my soul expressing itself.
WHEN YOU STARTED PLAYING
James: I’ve been playing guitar since my early teen years. Punk Rock was my first love, and I have many fond memories of belting out Bad Religion covers in my friend’s garage. Later, I focused my attention on Classical Guitar, studying at the University of British Columbia with Michael Strutt. Currently I’ve been focused on Jazz guitar techniques and harmonies. It is much of this, along with related forms/genres such as the Blues that informs my playing with EastSideWest.
Fabienne: I’ve loved singing for as long as I can remember. I used sit in my room taping songs from the radio and then playing them over and over to learn the lyrics. I wrote my first song when I was 12. Back in those days I didn’t have a smartphone or money, so I would record the songs on the answering machine to remember the melody. In high school I sang in the choir and talent shows. In my late teens I had a vocal coach to help use my voice optimally. The songs I write are deeply personal and come from my heart; they are an expression of the joys and sorrows in my life.
EVER BEEN TO A HIGHER LEARNIN’ BOX?
James: I studied guitar at the University of British Columbia, I also got a degree in library science there.
Fabienne: I have a Bachelors of Commerce from Concordia University in Montreal.
YOUR SONGWRITING PROCESS
We work together. Often Fab will come up with a lyrical or melodic idea, and I’ll work it out then throw it back at her and she’ll modify further. This process will continue until we have what we’re looking for. James normally harmonizes the music and creates the guitar arrangements; while Fab is the final stop for melodic content.
I don’t think it’s important for musicians to write their own songs. Having a unique and passionate voice, while providing interesting and original music is what is important. Willie Nelson is always Willie Nelson, regardless of who wrote the tune. John Coltrane’s “favorite things” is brilliant. If, however, you fancy yourself a songwriter not just a performer, than writing your own songs is pretty important, but if your art is that of an interpreter or performer than the “proof is in the pudding” so to speak.
MUST BANDS BE “SUPER-FRIENDS” TO MAKE THE MUSIC WORK?
I think it’s best if bands can be friends first. Music is a social thing, if it’s only about money, that’s too bad. It’s a celebration, and for the most part it’s good to celebrate with people you like. Though, I think it is more than possible to work well with people on a professional basis where friendship is not a factor; however respect always needs to be there.
I think ego is probably the biggest reason bands fight. Allowing for and respecting contrary opinions is hard, but to get along a mutual respect is necessary, and sometimes one just has to suck it up for the better good. If you are not willing to say, “I don’t agree, but I respect and accept this person’s opinion”, then problems are probably going to eventually materialize.
ALL ABOUT THE FAME, OR ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC?
That depends on your definition of fame. We use music as a way to express ourselves and would love to be heard by as many as possible. We get a strong sense of satisfaction from other people’s reactions to our music. As fun as it is to sing to ourselves, we would prefer to sing to crowds so in other words, yes fame is important.