James and Blackburn Keep Things Simple

jamesblackburnAFormed in Ottawa around 2008, the space-rock trio James and Blackburn are set to make their Metro Moncton debut at Plan B Lounge on Wednesday evening. The group, comprised of guitarist-vocalist Owen Edwards, bassist Landon Kotchpaw and drummer Sebastien Button chose the sometimes tour-unfriendly time of the winter to travel to the East Coast. Nonetheless, the guys have their fingers crossed that the weather will be co-operative during their brief Atlantic Canadian tour.

The seeds of James and Blackburn come courtesy of cousins Kotchpaw and Edwards who began making music together in their grandfather’s basement.

“Owen and I basically grew up playing music together and recording ourselves in the basement,” Kotchpaw begins. “After high school, we moved into an apartment together and then met Sebastien who was a co-worker of Landon’s that wanted to start jamming.”

Taking their band name from the streets on which they lived in Ottawa (Owen and Landon lived on James Street while Button lived on Blackburn Street), the trio started recording their debut full-length effort Island Universe. Firmly rooted in rock music, the record also inhibits a kind of ambient space, much like Pink Floyd or a more recent band like Secret Machines.

Having relocated to Toronto from the nation’s capital roughly two years ago, both Button and Kotchpaw agree that being a band in Toronto has forced the group to step up their game in terms of both their songwriting and their live show:.

“In Ottawa, there are naturally fewer places that a band can play compared to Toronto,” Button says. “Being in Toronto, I think that we head into every show wanting to be the best band we can be. It’s not a matter of directly competing with the other groups in the city or on the show bill; it is a kind of healthy competition though because you are always looking at what others are doing.”

“That has been one thing that we have found since we have lived in Toronto. The city really makes you push yourself to be a better band,” Kotchpaw says.

At a time in music where the number of instruments that a band employs in order to achieve their sound seems to have only grown with time, there is something inherently refreshing about James and Blackburn. Some might believe that a trio is too limiting in terms of creating a big sound however it is nothing that either Button or Kotchpaw concern themselves with. James and Blackburn are able to deliver the goods both on stage and on record.

“We put a big emphasis on our live show. It is something that is key for us,” Kotchpaw says. “There are so many bands that can sound amazing on record but then don’t translate all that well live. We want to be sure that our live show delivers.”

“It is crazy how much you can learn from playing in a band together for a few years,” Button says. “We have seen our live show constantly change and mature. As a result, we have gotten more comfortable on stage. Being a three-piece band, we rely so much on being in sync with one another on stage. It is not necessarily the quantity of instruments you have on stage that is going to make the band. Really, we are all about keeping things simple.”

Article published in the January 4, 2013 edition of the Times & Transcript