Tonight, Boreal Sons play their first show ever in Toronto at The Horseshoe Tavern. The Calgary five-piece released their art-folk debut album Threadbare on the first of October, and I haven’t stopped listening since. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Evan Acheson of Boreal Sons about harmonies, heartfelt lyrics, his bucketlist, and more. Dig in below:
AMBY: Hello Boreal Sons, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. What have you been up to?
Boreal Sons: Well, I’m delighted to speak with you too. We just released our first full length album and are partway through a coast to coast Canadian tour. We’ve had a short break at home for a couple days after playing shows in B.C. and Alberta and are now ready to head east. This is our first chance to travel past the prairies, so we’re excited for what’s next.
AMBY: Which three songs are the quintessential Boreal Sons?
Boreal Sons: Wow. That’s very difficult. I think the song Sparks would be my first choice because of the way it satisfies my thirst for interesting chord changes and vivid lyrical imagery. The second, Tremble, because of its sweeping movement and long vocal phrases. And if I can only choose one more, then I suppose the track Secret Keeper. I think it’s one of the most emotionally honest songs I’ve written. Hopefully the listener could get a good sense of Boreal Sons from just those three.
AMBY: You recently released your debut record on October first. How did the title Threadbare come about?
Boreal Sons: The title came from that last song I mentioned actually, Secret Keeper. The lyrics “leave me here tattered and ragged / threadbare and naked” to be specific. Overall, I’d say the album is about learning to be honest with yourself and vulnerable with others, and what it might feel like to have nothing left to hide.
AMBY: The harmonies on the album are a beautiful touch. How did the use of harmonies become such an important part of your sound?
Boreal Sons: Before we could even play our instruments, we grew up singing together in church, and in the car on long road trips. So singing together has always come naturally to us. (Laughs) I also used to listen tothis really cheesy 80’s a cappella group when I was a kid. So maybe even that had an influence. More specifically, when it comes to writing and recording, I think harmonies have been a great way to add layers of depth to our sound. But there are lots of times on the album and in our live show when we avoid harmonies. Vocal harmony only works in the right places, and definitely not all the time.
AMBY: I couldn’t help but notice how heartfelt and thought-provoking the entire album is, and I’m fascinated by the lyrics in Coward. What’s the story behind the song?
Boreal Sons: Wow, thank you. I’m not sure how much of a story there is, but I first thought of the idea for Coward while I was with a group of friends at a party. There was music playing and lots of people talking, and I noticed a girl sitting nearby with this strange expressionless look on her face. It was like time had stopped, and she had sort of just faded into herself as everything was going on around her. That image was powerful for me and became a metaphor for a muchlarger ideas, I guess. It got me thinking about how easy it is to be surrounded by people yet still feel alone. More than that even, and I don’t know why, but it seems so easy sometimes to pull away from people you care about. So many of us want to have good relationships, but end up letting people down and hurting theminstead.
AMBY: Where did the name Boreal Sons come from? And what other names had you considered for the band?
Boreal Sons: Boreal means northern, and Sons means… Sons. We chose it because made it sense. Our previous band name from several years ago was Dear Peru. It didn’t make sense. And it sounded like “deer poo” in a loud room. We like the new name better.
AMBY: “You wear your scars like they’re who you are, your birthmarks” is a lovely line. What inspired this lyric?
Boreal Sons: That line is from the song Refrain, which I wrote on the same day I heard from two separate friends on two separate occasions that their long-term relationships were ending because their significant other had cheated on them. Within the context of the song, that line was inspired by certain people (many of us actually) who let negative events from their past define them, to the extent that they begin to see their flaws as something they can’t escape, or as something they’re born with.
AMBY: Which Boreal Sons lyric is your favourite?
Boreal Sons: I’m still quite happy with the line, “With your hand in mine and standing still / as your shirtcuff skimmed the windowsill / sweeping flecks of dust into the air / for the beam of sun to hold them there” from the song Sparks. I think I like it because it communicates a clear picture that invites an interpretation from the listener. For a while now I’ve been trying to capture more vivid and concrete imagery in the lyrics I write.
AMBY: What are the top five things to do on your bucket list?
Boreal Sons: -Move out of my parents’ house
-Become a self-sufficient adult citizen
-Be the opening act for a Stevie Wonder show
-Win the McDonald’s Monopoly grand prize
-Write an Oprah’s-Book-List-worthy self-help book
AMBY: What’s the best release of the year?
Boreal Sons: Violent by We Are The City. We think it’s a remarkable and innovative record. The lyrics are raw, the sounds are huge, and there isn’t a note out of place.
AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about Boreal Sons that nobody knows yet?
Boreal Sons: Although I may look like it some days, I’m not actually on the brink of starvation. Earlier today I was talking to a lovely elderly couple who asked about our tour. They seemed very concerned for my well being. After commenting on how disheveled I looked from not showering in a couple days, they offered me money to “get something to eat.”
Thank you Boreal Sons, for giving us your answers!
Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout