What: The Paperboys
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. (doors at 7)
Where: Upstairs Cabaret, 15 Bastion Square
Tickets: $20 at Lyle’s Place, Ivy’s Bookshop, Long & McQuade, the Royal McPherson box office, or beaconridgeproductions.com; $25 at the door
It appears that 2014-15 was a very busy period for the Paperboys, the Juno Award-winning folk group from Vancouver.
Looks can be deceiving, according to frontman and founder Tom Landa. Despite releasing their ninth studio record, At Peace With One’s Ghosts, in December, and staging a summer tour of Europe, Landa admits to taking his foot off the gas a bit where the roots combo is concerned.
“I don’t know if you could say I let the ball drop in Canada, but it hasn’t been getting my full and undivided attention as it once did,” Landa said.
“The Paperboys just disappeared for a while.”
The band is making up for lost time, at least on Vancouver Island. The group — which hasn’t played on the Island since 2012 — will perform Friday at Upstairs Cabaret and Saturday at Errington Hall near Qualicum, followed by another round of Vancouver Island dates booked for early 2016.
The Paperboys don’t have any Vancouver dates on the agenda, which isn’t unusual, Landa said. The group has developed a large following in Washington state and Germany, its two biggest markets by far. Vancouver rarely factors into their tour schedule.
England and Ireland are also strong markets, Landa said, but nothing can match their audience in Seattle.
The union was developed early in the Paperboys’s career. Landa has kept pushing forward in Washington, occasionally at the expense of Canadian fans. He’s hoping to spend more time in Canada in the future, but it’s hard to deny the pull of the Emerald City.
“I haven’t been able to create that [bond] with other cities. We tried, but it just didn’t take off in the way that Seattle did.”
The band was at its peak in Canada during the late 1990s, when their brand of Celtic pop was cresting nationwide. The Paperboys earned a trio of Juno Award nominations between 1996 and 2001, winning for best roots and traditional album in 1998 for Molinos. While there’s still a distinct folk and roots element to what the Paperboys do, nothing in their music qualifies as traditional anymore, Landa admitted.
“We’ve dabbled in a lot of different genres of music. That’s one of the things that make us quite unique. We can give a tip of the hat to all these kinds of music, and mix them in what I would say is an effortless way. It doesn’t seem like we’re forcing one genre over the other. We’ve been able to marry them well.”
Victoria has always been a home-away-from-home for the Paperboys. The now-defunct Steamer’s Pub was packed every time the group crossed the strait, and the band graduated to selling out the largest clubs in the city. Through his connection to Victoria, Landa often recruited some of the city’s best musicians for his two primary projects, the Paperboys and Locarno, a trend that continues today.
His wife, violinist Kalissa Landa (née Hernandez), and trombonist Nick La Riviere, both hail from Victoria.
Geoffrey Kelly of Spirit of the West remains with the band on tin whistle and flute, which keeps one foot in the Irish tradition. But Landa also favours a horn section, which brings soul music into its repertoire. That musical melange has taken the Paperboys far away from their early sound, but it has also made the band much more versatile.x
For the better part of its 20-year existence, Landa said, the band has played without a setlist, which can be tricky if the players are not on the same page. Having been at the helm of a band that can play at least a half-dozen musical styles with no problem whatsoever, no such concerns exist within the Paperboys.
“We call it as we’re playing,” he said.
“If we’re playing a theatre, we will play quiet, listening numbers. If we’re playing a Friday night event, we’ll try to keep the dance-floor happy. We play what we think the night calls for.”