As one of Canada’s most compelling folk duos of the last decade, Kingston, Ontario’s Kris & Dee figured that there was no better time to make their Maritime debut than the summertime.
“We’ve done a lot of work in the Ottawa to London corridor these last few years, which has been going really well,” guitarist Kris Abbott begins. “Along the way, people have been suggesting that we expand to places outside of that corridor and so, with a new record in our back pocket, we figured that now was as good of a time as any to head East.”
Performing at Moncton’s Plan b Lounge on Saturday night, the new album that Abbott refers to is the duo’s third full-length effort, A Great Long Game. The record is an attention-grabbing slice of folk-pop heaven that holds true to the ideals of musical luminaries such as Joni Mitchell, while also distinctly reflecting the storied history that Abbott and her musical partner and wife Dee McNeil bring to the group as well:
Abbott first made waves in the Canadian music scene as the guitarist-vocalist with Toronto rock band The Pursuit of Happiness, while McNeil has amassed a respectable following performing with the all-female band The Strap-Ons (not to be confused with the British punk band of the same name.)
“I was a big fan of The Pursuit of Happiness and knew of Kris,” an amiable McNeil says. “One night we were playing a show in Toronto, a mutual friend of mine and Kris’ convinced her to come out to the show, where we were introduced and struck up a friendship. Approximately a year later, we had returned to Toronto to play, but were without a guitarist and had Kris sub in for the show, after which point she became a part of the band.”
Perhaps ironically, Abbott wasn’t looking to make a return to music. Following the amicable winding down of The Pursuit of Happiness in the late 90’s, Abbott says she was in the midst of trying to figure out her next musical steps when she and McNeil met, but had found work outside of the realm of music to keep her busy in the meantime.
“I knew it would be hard to top what we accomplished with The Pursuit of Happiness,” Abbott says. “It was such an amazing time with amazing people, but once that band wound down, I truly didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was trying to figure out who I was, and, at the time, part of me wanted nothing to do with music.”
Abbott returned to school, obtained a degree in IT and began making a steady living working 9 to 5 as a technical project manager for a software company.
“I just couldn’t foresee a return to music at the time,” she admits. “I’ve never been the type of player that performs music just for the sake of playing, and, because I didn’t feel an intimate connection to music at the time, wasn’t anticipating making a return to making music.”
Abbott’s blossoming friendship and eventual marriage to McNeil was enough to sway Abbott’s decision, however.
“Dee and I spent a long time discussing music, what we liked about what we had done in the past and how we could picture moving forward in a project together.”
Kris & Dee began making music together in 2007, but it would not be until four years later that they would release their acclaimed debut record, Still Here Inside. Two years later, the duo released Bloom, their second full-length album.
Both McNeil and Abbott agree that their newest album is perhaps one of the most definitive reflections of their musical pasts in the present tense.
“I feel that each of us have different influences which have served as the catalysts for our style,” Abbott says. “Dee and I began making music together on acoustic guitar, which inevitably led to us being referred to as a folk group because the way we write our songs and the topics we deal with in the material would comfortably fit into the realm of folk music.
“It was actually a fan of ours who coined the term ‘super-folk,’ which is how we’ve preferred to identify ourselves because we don’t necessarily use traditional folk instrumentation in our songs. With our new album, more so than any of our previous releases, we made a conscious effort not to turn down the pop, punk or country influences if they reared their heads in the songs. If anything, we let those influences stick out more this time around.”
For McNeil, their steadfast refusal to box themselves into a specific sound or set of instruments on A Great Long Game meant that she was able to indulge herself a little more than she had done on prior efforts.
“With A Great Long Game, we assumed a lot of increased responsibility, from the recording through to the instrumentation, compared to our first two records. I was able to move around to different instruments with this album,” McNeil says. “It is not that we are opposed to working with others; there is much to be gained in doing so, however, it is also liberating to be in a position where we can be more self-reliant with each record.”d.ca
What: Kris & Dee
When: Saturday June 27, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton