An Interview With the Rising Canadian Indie Band BOMBARGO!
Rising Canadian-based indie band Bombargo, who’ve already caught the attention of Taylor Swift and Sir Richard Branson, recently made their U.S. debut this fall. They brought their “Good Time Guarantee” to the Western region of the country on September 19th in Hollywood, CA.
The band’s feel-good music — including pop singles “Oxygen,” which broke into Canada’s Top 50 Hot AC radio chart this summer, and “Mr. No Good” as featured on Swift’s first “Songs Taylor Loves” star-studded Spotify playlist – recently hit 2 million streams on Spotify.
“We couldn’t be more excited to tour the USA for our very first time!,” shares lead vocalist Nathan Thoen. “The inception of Bombargo happened at a music festival in the States, so having the opportunity to tour through this majestic country has the dream coming full circle!”
The septet’s “North American Dream Tour” has had stops in Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Seattle, Portland, Missoula, Salt Lake City and Fort Collins, among other markets, mixing headlining gigs with dates supporting The Main Squeeze. They wrap up this tour tomorrow night in Denver, opening for Michael Franti & Spearhead at the brand-new Mission Ballroom.
(www.bombargo.com for ticketing information)
Bombargo (Nathan Thoen [vocals], Spencer Chilliak [guitar/vocals], Anthony Thoen [guitar], Matt Folkerson [guitar/keys], Sammy Lee Folkerson [bass], Connor Newton [saxophone], Niall Cubbon [drums]) drops a vibrant splash of soul on their funky indie vibes with layers of rock and R&B infused throughout. The band brings unrivaled energy to the stage with sing-along anthems, magical five-part harmonies, and powerful messages of hope, happiness and chasing your dreams that combined make for one of the most passionate and memorable live shows ever – they guarantee it!
After attending the Sasquatch! Music Festival over five years ago, Nathan and Spencer were inspired to form a band. Bombargo soon put out an EP and, in 2017, released their debut full-length album, We Are Bombargo. The band has been rapidly making a name for themselves ever since with their captivating music and exuberant live performances, opening for John Butler Trio, Michael Franti & Spearhead and The Dead South along the way. Bombargo is currently writing and recording their second full-length record while shooting an autobiographic film set to coincide with the release.
Learn more about Bombargo in the following All Access interview-
Thanks for your time! What is on tap for the rest of your day?
Today, we’re waking up in Bend, Oregon. Hopefully going to go film a vlog of the day with some surfing on a standing wave, skateboarding at the park, and rehearsing a performance for a TedxTalk we’re playing in Boulder, CO.
Now that we are into the 10th month of the year, how would you say that 2019 has treated this band? What have been some goals this group has had this year? How close are you to reaching them? What are you already excited about for 2020?
2019 has been a pretty amazing time for us. We’ve had so many big goals and its pretty surreal just how many of them were achieved in 2019. Getting a team (signed with Madison House and Paquin), touring the States (we’re currently on the road with The Main Squeeze and are ending things opening for Michael Franti & Spearhead in Denver), breaking into the Top 40 pop charts in Canada (“Oxygen” our single has been climbing the charts!), and even playing a stadium (we played our 33,000+ stadium at the biggest Saskatchewan sporting event the Labour Day Classic Halftime show which was again – unbelievable)! We’re just super grateful for everything that’s been happening. For 2020, there’s so many big things on the horizon and we can’t wait to see what’s in store!
Can you recall the moment when you thought you could be in this group together? Was it hard to think of a name that you could all agree on?
The moment this band was started was when Spenny [Spencer Chilliak – guitar/vocals] and I went to a music festival together. We had just met and while we were there we said “we should start a band”. Now that was the initial inception of Bombargo, but I really think we found our groove and started taking things seriously about 2 years ago. Naming a band is the hardest part of having a band, haha!
How do you think your hometown has influenced the sound and how you all carry yourselves in this group? How has the music scene there changed over the years?
Growing up in Prince Albert we were definitely a bit insular in northern Canada and I think that really allowed me to explore music on my own terms and not really get lost in the shuffle of what the scene was listening to. I always gravitated towards the 70s, which I think was a big inspiration to our Vintage Pop sound. When my brother and I moved to Saskatoon, it was a real treat to find a thriving young music scene where kids were in bands and really going after it in a big way like The Sheepdogs and Reignwolf. I think Saskatoon is an amazing place to call home and has been so supportive of our band in such a big way. The music scene seems to be constantly evolving and in Saskatoon it’s great to see that even with all the electronic music becoming popular, real live music is still alive and well.
Let’s talk about your debut album, We Are Bombargo. What was the inspiration for these songs? Did anything surprise you about the overall process of putting it all together?
We are Bombargo feels like a lifetime ago! The songs were inspired by so much and I really look at that overall process as a big learning lesson on the studio and getting comfortable with that process!
How did your singles “Oxygen,” which is currently featured on Canadian AC radio, and “Mr. No Good” come about? What was the inspiration for them? Are these songs an indication of what’s to come from your next album?
“Oxygen” and “Mr. No Good” really came from that place of wanting to write timeless music. I feel like we have really found our groove and these songs are definitely an indicator of what’s to come on our next album. It’s been so amazing to see the positive feedback and the commercial success of these songs as this was always the lane I wanted to be going down.
Generally, how does this group go about writing your music? Do you write together or separately? What is the first step in your music-making process?
It’s always different and I love that! Sometimes one member will bring a piece to the band – either a melody, lyrics, a voice note on the phone; sometimes a song just falls out during a jam, it’s always different and very collaborative.
I always like to ask bands if you all hang out socially apart from the music? In other words, when you aren’t working on music, do you guys enjoy hanging out for fun?
We definitely do! We’re a band of brothers and outside of music we love to skate, snowboard, surf, and just hangout. My brother (Anthony Thoen – who’s also in the band) and I are also film makers so outside of music we do a lot of creative film work.
How do you feel that this band has grown through the years? What has remained the same? What do all of your various musical experiences bring to this group?
The band has grown musically in a lot of ways over the years and I think adding sax, keys, and more harmonies really helped our vision come to life. Something that’s always remained the same though is the mission for what Bombargo stands for. We always want to be a positive force in the world that gives back and helps remind people of the magic this life holds. I feel like people are so quick to quit on their dreams and we want to be living permission slips that help inspire everyone to go after what they love because I truly believe when everyone is doing what they love, the world will be a better place.
Where do you think you are all happiest – in the studio recording new music, on stage performing or elsewhere?
I’d say pure bliss happiness on stage, but lately we’ve been getting a really big high from the studio and I think the more we learn the more fun we have in there.
What do you think makes for an ideal show for this band? What have been some of your favorite shows and venues over the years?
We love putting on a show. I think nowadays music is so accessible that if someone just wanted to listen they could do that at home, if someone comes out to see your show they’re looking for a show and that’s what Bombargo always brings. We love getting people moving and grooving so anytime we get to do that whether it’s to 10 people or 30,000 people, we’re just happy we get to share our music and put on a show!
We’re super stoked to be playing in the USA. The dream for this band started in the States so to be playing here now feels full circle. It’s been pretty legendary playing some of these infamous rooms that huge artists have played, like the Crocodile in Seattle – WHICH crazily Nirvana had played 27 years prior (TO THE DAY!) when we played…That still gives me goosebumps.
The reception has been amazing so far and we’re so grateful to be playing these big shows on our very first run to the US!
How has social media impacted this band? How often are you all on your different sites interacting with fans? How have you been able to utilize it through the years?
Social media is a really amazing tool to help fans and bands connect and we never take for granted how amazing this technology is. So many people give social media a tough time but I really think it’s such an awesome vessel when used in the right way and allows everyone to have a voice and stage to share their thoughts and art. That’s something that a lot of people forget. The fact that YouTube exists and we can literally post anything, anytime is amazing. Back in the day artists would spend so much money cutting a video and then send that tape into MTV and if it wasn’t selected for TV, no one ever saw it. Just having the potential to share it is a gift.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how you all think being musicians and in this band still gives you the most joy in life today? Do you find that your music is an escape to all the current events?
I think as Bombargo, we’ve always found so much joy in the music we make and the people we get to share it with around the world. Life can always be hard but we hope our music and message can help remind people that life really is a beautiful thing and that when we come together, we can make it better.
What musicians have really been inspiring you all since you first started making music?
I think the Beatles would be number 1 for me, but there’s so many artists – The Rolling Stones, ELO, Chicago, Hall & Oates, Steely Dan, Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Sly and the Family Stone… there’s just to many.
What do you hope is the message of your music? What do you hope people continue to take away from your songs?
I always hope that people feel a little bit brighter and a little bit lighter, sometimes life can be hard and we want our music to replenish and rejuvenate the world and help remind them just have magical this all really is!