Gypsy-folk band Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra needs shot of relaxation

PREVIEW

The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra with High Society and Jesse LeBourdais

When: Thursday, 9:45 p.m. (doors at 9)

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Where: Club 9ONE9

Tickets: $14.50 at Lyle’s Place, Ditch Records, the Strathcona Hotel, B.C. Smoke Shop and ticketweb.ca

 

The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra already has a plan for when its tour winds down later this month.

A whole lot of nothing.

After its current series of dates, including a stop tonight at Club 9ONE9, the veteran Victoria group is taking a break from the road. The band’s schedule has mostly been wiped clean for the next six months, in part to give members time to recharge their collective batteries.

Only a single summer event — July’s Calgary Folk Festival —is on the group’s post-February schedule. It’s precisely what the band needs, according to singer-accordionist Ian Griffiths. “A big lesson for us in 2012 was that it is possible to burn out,” Griffiths said, relaxing in his Victoria home Tuesday for the first time in months. “We’re still young guys, but we’re pushing 30, and if we want this to be sustainable, we have to take a step back and take a breath, and realize it’s important to maintain.”

The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra got its start while most of its members were attending the University of Victoria. The five musicians have diverse musical backgrounds, ranging from traditional jazz to flamenco guitar and African hand drumming. Yet the gypsy-folk fusion worked.

The band, which Griffiths formed with percussionist Paul Wolda in 2006, solidified its core lineup in 2007. There wasn’t a membership change until late last year, when fiddler Patrick McGonigle left for Boston. For the two treks since his departure, the band has employed both Mack Jonsson (for dates in January) and Jacques Mindreau (for dates in February).

The new members were given a first-hand look into one of the province’s busiest bands. The Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra is booked to play 14 shows in 21 days this month, a pace indicative of the past five years for the group.

With three national tours and numerous treks through the U.S. and Europe, the lead-up to their breakout year in 2012 was a wild odyssey, Griffiths said. “We’ve done the circle of the continent repeatedly. Music is super fun, but part of that is you have to tour.”

The band planted temporary roots in Toronto last year to record Follow My Lead, Lead Me to Follow with Victoria native David Travers-Smith. The full-length recording was a product of nearly two years’ planning, with everything from regular writing sessions to long stretches of road work.

The songs on the album benefited from the diverse range of environments where the band regularly plays, Griffiths said, from house concerts to summer festivals and darkened nightclubs. “We can easily do a sit-down theatre show that’s all intricate and listening-based, as easily as we can a Saturday night at a big folk festival where everybody is there to party and dance. I love having big sweaty dance parties, but what I love more than anything is having diversity.”

The group’s roots stretch from Alberta (where Griffiths and singer-guitarist Kurt Loewen were born) to Vancouver (home of bassist Peter Mynett) and Wolda’s native Cortes Island.

Yet the group is just as much a product of the West Coast where it was born, Griffiths said. “As much as we draw influences from all over the place, there is something West Coast about our music.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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