Taking their moniker from a Cape Breton character that used to play music in front of Glace Bay’s Sterling Mall, Nova Scotian folk group Pretty Archie – playing Moncton’s Plan b Lounge tonight – shares they are able to find a little taste of home no matter where they go throughout Canada.
Whether it is Capers that simply recognize the character from whom the group takes its name, or simply hearing of the group via word-of-mouth, Pretty Archie’s Brian Cathcart says the band continues to be humbled by the support they have received since forming in 2012.
“We’ve been lucky to receive widespread support for the group in all kinds of different cities across Canada,” he says. “It’s been a bit of a slow build in bigger cities like Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa but there hasn’t been a tour we’ve completed yet where we haven’t come home pleasantly surprised at the people that have seen us play.”
Without fail, Cathcart says the group routinely encounters ex-pat Cape Breton residents in virtually all corners of the country.
“I think, to some degree, a lot of those folks that have moved away from Cape Breton to find work elsewhere are looking for some kind of connection to home. This band just happens to be that connection for a lot of them; they are the ones helping grow the band.”
While the group remains grateful to their fellow Capers for helping spread word about the band, Cathcart acknowledges a common refrain among those they have met is a shared desire that they could return to their home province.
“So many of the people we meet across the country wish they could be doing what they are doing at home in Cape Breton. It’s a theme that’s prevalent in a lot of our songs, as well. The fact is there has just been so much change seen in Cape Breton over the last 50 years, especially with so much of the industrial work having left the island. It’s just not realistic for people to always find work in their desired field in Cape Breton,” he says.
The bond of friendship between Pretty Archie’s members, which also includes Colin Gillis, Matthew McNeil and Redmond MacDougall, dates back to middle school. While the friends routinely made music together, the thought of becoming a band didn’t materialize until 2012 when Cathcart and McNeil initially teamed up to record an EP.
Three full-length records later – 2013’s Steel City, North End Sky (2015) and 2016’s Sing Alongs and Love Songs – the group’s latest effort sees the band having moved into a more distinct pop direction.
“The subtle move to more of a pop sound was how we wanted to present these songs. They are certainly among the most polished tracks we’ve put to tape, for which we would credit [producer] Jamie Foulds. This album was the first time we’ve worked with a producer. Having another set of ears in the studio was invaluable, really. We aren’t the kind of band that is precious about our songs; if someone has an idea to make them better and help them live up to their potential, we are all for it.”
What: Pretty Archie
When: Wednesday May 24, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton