Acoustically Electrifying:The Bombadils (Interview)

“I even played bass for a while. Besides playing electric guitar, I’d also get asked to play some acoustic stuff. But, since I didn’t have an acoustic guitar at the time, I used to borrow one from a friend so I could play folk joints.
-Mark Knopfler

The  Bombadils from Montréal, Québec captured my attention with their energetic playing, catchy melodies and interesting combination of styles. From Classical, Jazz, Bluegrass and Celtic; the mix will keep listeners engaged until the last track is played. This interview started out with Luke Fraser and then everyone got involved in answering the questions.

Listening to Ally Bally is quite an experience. There are tender as well as frenetic moments that can be found in one track alone. The Jazz and folk influences are unmistakable but you guys are able to make everything sound controlled. How is it possible to come up with such distinct mix?

It’s a result of our various backgrounds and influences and the fact that first and foremost we are close friends, secondly band members. We all have classical training which Luke, Sarah, and Noam are currently furthering, while Anh and Evan have branched off to jazz. We wanted to start a folk music group and it was only natural for these influences to come through. The accessibility of music in the digital age makes it easy to be influenced by a variety of styles, but it’s the live exposure to music that really gives us a reason to play it. Montreal is a very culturally rich city so it allows us to experience the styles we love in a live setting, be it listening, jamming, or performing.

I noticed that Luke’s guitar playing in Galway Girl(A Steve Earle original) is very clear together with beautiful lead vocals and harmony. I love the unique percussion here. What’s the inspiration for this arrangement?And what made you guys decide to record this track?

Galway Girl is a song Luke used to sing with Tristan Legg in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The first few months of The Bombadils were actually before we met Luke. We finally met him at a party and Galway Girl was one of the songs we jammed. One of the many great things Luke brought to the band was this song, and since then it has gone over well around the campfire and on stage. It’s one of those songs that doesn’t seem to get old no matter how much we play it.
All credit for the percussion goes to Noam. In this group he plays a South American instrument called the cajon– basically a drum-kit in a box.

Would you please tell us the story behind the instrumental track The Scholar?

Sarah and Luke had to learn some Irish sets for a wedding they played with Jean Duval, a notable flute player from Quebec, and this set was in his repertoire. It’s also a set that Sarah has been working on with the renowned Irish fiddler, James Kelly.

The Bombadils:Luke Fraser,Evan Peter Hodgson Stewart, Noam Bierstone, Sarah Frank and Anh Phung . Photo by Marshall Gayman
The Bombadils:Luke Fraser,Evan Peter Hodgson Stewart, Noam Bierstone, Sarah Frank and Anh Phung . Photo by Marshall Gayman

Sarah Frank’s vocals are beautiful! And her violin playing is always jaw dropping. Angeline Baker is a very old song which dates back to 1850. I see a reference here. What made you guys decide to sweep off the dust form this old tune and make it new?

This is a popular tune in the bluegrass and old time world. We were mostly inspired by two arrangements: by Chris Thile and by Crooked Still. The High Reel and Mountain Road are a couple fiddle tunes we threw in to put a Celtic stamp on it.

Tullochgorum is a popular piece done by the likes of Dougie MacLean, Natalie Macmaster and Ashley McIsaac among others.Are there traditional pieces you wish made it to the recording?

The tracks we have are only the beginning of  what we would like to record. We will be working on a full-length CD this fall and would definitely like to include a variety of traditional tunes. Montreal inspires us put in some Quebecois and Irish tunes, and being so close to the United States, we’re able to travel and get a taste of bluegrass and old time styles.

You guys came from McGill Univeristy. How was it possible for you all to sit down together to form band? I am sure there are musician cliques out there but how was this decided-and even the name Bombadils. Who made this up?

Again, it starts with friendship. That’s what this music is about, it’s about socializing and sharing music. Evan and Sarah have known each other since high school and they moved to Montreal at the same time. Sarah and Anh became fast friends within the first week of school, and met Noam shortly after. As far as we knew, he was a percussion player like any of the others. Lucky for us, he’s one of the best!

Tom Bombadil is a character in The Fellowship of the Ring (first book in the Lord of the Rings trilogy). He speaks in seven beat metre which is our guess to why Nickel Creek used 7/4 time to write a tune called “In the House of Tom Bombadil.” We’re all very inspired by Nickel Creek’s virtuoso mandolinist Chris Thile.

How do you describe each member’s personality in a few words?

We could try to answer this question properly but it’s really just an opportunity for us to make fun of each other…




3 Replies to “Acoustically Electrifying:The Bombadils (Interview)”

  1. Thanks Christi. I love it when Canadian bands add their elegant twist to folk music. This band has my full support and can’t wait for their CD. Just talked to Luke the guitarist and he is also from Nova Scotia.


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