Ryan Beattie and his family left Vancouver Island for the Lower Mainland when he was four. Looking back on the move, he knew it would be only a matter of time until he found his way back.
The imposing singer-songwriter has been stationed in Victoria since 1998, shortly after he graduated from high school. The Island locale has given him plenty of exposure and inspiration in the years since.
But while Beattie’s musical identity — first through art-rock group Chet, now via solo project Himalayan Bear — came into being during his time in Victoria, he doesn’t discount his experience living in White Rock.
“You have these wonderful beaches and places where you can go as a teenager to drink beer and have bonfires,” he said. “I became a musician in that environment.”
Beattie made an album when he was 16, though he considers the outcome “horrible.”
As for what he’s put to tape during his time on the Victoria scene, Beattie is more forgiving.
Modest and somewhat soft-spoken, Beattie is among the best in the city when it comes to penning stirring songs.
Two of his projects — Chet, which he co-founded in 2002 with his brother, Patrick, and indie-rock faves Frog Eyes, which Beattie joined on guitar during its final phase — were also must-see concert attractions.
As a result, Beattie often found himself on some of the finer Victoria concert lineups in recent memory, opening shows for Modest Mouse, Feist and Arcade Fire.
Beattie says both Chet and Frog Eyes ceased operations three years ago, which gave way to Himalayan Bear as a full-time entity. He initially created Himalayan Bear in 2005 as a side project for his solo musings. Nowadays, it’s the primary focus of his attention.
“Himalayan Bear is good because I can do it whenever I want,” he said. “There’s a rotating lineup of people that play with me, whereas Chet has members — half of whom live in Vancouver.”
The Himalayan Bear lineup often includes locals Tolan McNeil and Rad Juli, among others. For his gig Saturday at Logan’s Pub, he will be joined by drummer Mark Tyler.
“I like it that way, especially from show to show. Everybody knows the songs, but every time a different band approaches it, the different configuration makes the songs fresh again.”
After a decade and a half of making music, the spirit of collaboration is what moves Beattie.
“For me, revisiting things I’ve already created … it’s not enough. It’s more inspiring to work with other people. You’ve got to grow, right?”
Where were you born and raised?
I was born here in Victoria, but I was raised on the Lower Mainland, in White Rock.
At what point did you know the city was not for you in the long term?
Luckily, we had beaches down there. But it’s very suburban. So as soon as I could, I got out of there and moved back to Victoria.
When did you arrive in Victoria? What brought you here?
That was 1998. A lot of friends were moving to Victoria, mostly to go to school. But I wasn’t really too interested in post-secondary, I just wanted to start making records. Which is what I did.
What is your favourite thing about Victoria?
It’s beautiful and majestic in its own way. I love being able to walk everywhere. I dislike big cities, but being able to tour with the frequency I have been touring, I get enough of the outside world. I feel comfortable here. It’s my home and an inspiring locale for music.
What is your greatest accomplishment as a person? And as a professional?
I don’t want to equate success — whatever the hell that means — with some moment of professionalism or attainment of wealth.
For me, I haven’t felt completely satisfied with a record yet.
My greatest accomplishment is to be able to keep doing it, in the face of whatever.
I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to turn my life over to other forces.
First album you purchased?
The first album I went out to the store and bought was Nirvana’s Bleach. Which is probably a pretty common answer for people my age.
I love John Cale, Gabby Pahinui, José Alfredo Jiménez, a lot of weird stuff. But I’d say my favourite is the latest album that sounds most compelling to me.
First concert you attended?
I think it probably was Santana with Colin James, in 1990. My dad took me.
Favourite concert you attended?
It’s either the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band performance from three years ago, or the Neil Young and Crazy Horse show back in November.
If you had one motto or rule to abide by, what would it be?
Every song is a love song. It’s all about the inflection.
Ryan Beattie (as Himalayan Bear) performs Saturday at Logan’s Pub for the fifty-fifty arts collective’s Valentine’s Party. Tickets are $10. Doors are at 9 p.m.
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