The origins of band names are a varied bunch. While some groups opt to give their band a name based off an inside joke amongst members, others choose a moniker symbolic to one or all involved.
And then there is Cape Breton folk band Pretty Archie, performing at Moncton’s Plan b Lounge on Thursday Feb. 19.
“Pretty Archie was a local character who used to play music in front of Sterling Mall in Glace Bay,” Pretty Archie member Colin Gillis begins. “When we were first putting the band together, one of the guys joked that we sounded like Pretty Archie would have. The name just stuck from there.”
Not surprisingly, seeing how there are Maritimers all over this great nation of ours, Gillis says that in their travels, they have encountered many people who recognize the name of the person after whom the band is named.
“We could be somewhere in Western Canada when a random person will approach us and tell us they know the meaning behind our name. It’s quite something.”
Being on the road is something that Gillis and the other members of Pretty Archie – Brian Cathcart, Matt McNeil and Redmond MacDougall – have all become rather accustomed to in the past few years since forming.
Like virtually every independent act on the Trans-Canada Highway can attest to, touring life is generally a series of highs mixed in with the occasional low. Yet, Gillis insists there is nothing else he would rather be doing.
“Being in a band these days, you really have to work at it. Putting out a record alone isn’t going to reach the same audience that going on tour could bring you,” he says. “It’s been a steady climb for us but we’ve reached the point where, in some cities, we are seeing the fruits of our labour pay off by playing bigger venues or just all around better clubs. Touring is definitely a process but it’s an enjoyable one, at the very least. The four of us are such close friends, I consider myself lucky to be able to do this with three of my best buddies.”
The friendship between the members of Pretty Archie dates back to middle school. While they routinely made music together, the thought of a band resulting from those somewhat impromptu jam sessions didn’t become a reality until 2012.
“After high school, we were kind of spread all over the country. We would always get together anytime we could over breaks and whatnot but the ball really began rolling after Brian and Matt recorded an EP. I joined them, followed by Redmond a short time later and then it occurred to us that we would move forward by making the band the top priority for each of us.”
For Gillis, that meant his career as a teacher would assume a “back-up” plan priority instead of being how he spent his days on a full-time basis.
“I think each of us had a glimpse of what a 9 to 5 life would be like and decided we didn’t want to spend our whole lives fighting the music bug and regretting not having at least given it a shot.”
In addition to countless tour dates, that “shot” has resulted in two full-length records from the band, including the newly released North End Sky. Recorded at home in Cape Breton with Producer Jamie Foulds, Gillis says the group aimed to make a broader sounding album this time out, adding in more in the way of instrumentation.
“With North End Sky, we wanted the songs to be an accurate representation of what we envisioned. Our first release, Steel City, was recorded live off the floor but with the new record, we went about the recording in more of a deliberate manner. We strived to make every one of the songs the best we could,” Gillis says.
What: Pretty Archie
When: Thursday Feb. 19, 9:00 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton