Olympic Symphonium no longer a ‘side project’

There was a time that Fredericton roots band The Olympic Symphonium were merely a side-project to other bands – a getaway if you will.

But a getaway from what?

The group’s three members occupied much of their days and nights playing with the likes of jam band heroes Grand Theft Bus, David Myles, and The Fussy Part, among others, and used the Symphonium as an outlet to bring things down a notch when compared to their other musical endeavors.

The Olympic Symphonium, made up of members Graeme Walker, Nick Cobham and Kyle Cunjak, released its newest record, The City Won’t Have Time To Fight, this past January on the Forward Music label. The record aches, lives and loves with the best of artists these days, evoking these emotions with relatively simple song arrangements that are complemented by the group’s vocal harmonies.

For the making of its new record, the group chose a different manner of recording. Where its two previous records were each recorded over a number of different sessions, the trio hunkered down and recorded the nine tracks that comprise The City Won’t Have Time To Fight over the course of one week.

“We gave ourselves one week to focus our energies on doing nothing other than making an album,” Nick Cobham says. “We had never recorded that way before.”

“The whole process was much more coherent,” Nick’s bandmate Graeme Walker continues. “It was a new way of working for us but it worked very well.”

The group recently returned from its first tour of Europe, where The City Won’t Have Time To Fight was released via Danish record label Kanel Records. The group’s European record release afforded them the opportunity to perform for audiences in Germany, France, Denmark and the Netherlands, an experience that both Cobham and Walker are eager to repeat soon.

“All the shows were well attended by listeners and we were treated with all kinds of kindness,” says Nick. “It was a great experience for our first tour there and we’re already getting excited to go back.”

“We are really happy with the support of our label there,” Graeme says. “They worked very hard to ensure the shows were promoted well plus their hospitality was incredible.”

A big difference between European and North American audiences noted by both Nick and Graeme was the fact that crowds tended to be extremely attentive to the show itself and paid special attention to the lyrics sung by the band.

“In Europe, people go to shows to socialize, hang out and drink but as soon as the band starts to play, all eyes and ears are pointed towards the stage. The crowds there seem to be much more attentive,” Nick says.

“People would come up to us after the shows and comment on specific things they enjoyed or ask questions about things they heard,” Graeme adds. “It was nice to know that people were listening that intently.”

Tours to Europe, critical acclaim, a growing international fanbase – all of these have put a bigger spotlight on a band that was not always the primary focus for those involved.

Although there is little doubt that each of the trio’s members will continue to pursue other musical endeavors outside the band, “Olympic Symphonium is definitely less of a ‘side project’ now,” says Graeme. “I think we are all pleasantly surprised with the reaction the band has gotten; it is an easy band to play in and people seem to be into it. Personally speaking, it is definitely my musical focus right now.”

Article published in June 2, 2011 edition of the Times & Transcript