Poorfolk Reunites to Play House of Targ on Saturday

September 24th, 2015 by  |  Published in Concerts, Interviews, Show Announcements


Since Jonathan Pearce’s indie-rock band Poorfolk called it quits, the singer/songwriter has kept busy with the more subtle indie-folk act Winchester Warm. Now, Pearce is taking a week off from the new band to reunite with his old pals at House of Targ on Saturday, where they will do their first gig in over half a decade—and a new EP is on the way.

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend—or if you have lacklustre plans that you’re dying for a good reason to cancel—look no further than House of Targ on Bank Street. Also joining Poorfolk is Acres (featuring Matt Corbiere and Mike Zorn of Winchester Warm) and Species at Risk. Doors open at 9pm on Saturday, Sept. 26th.

This week, I got the chance to speak with Jonathan about both of his bands, songwriting, and the state of music in Ottawa today.

How long have you guys been kicking the reunion idea around?

Well it’s always something we want to do. It’s not because we’re not friends anymore, it’s just geographical constraints right? The bass player lives in Toronto, and works as a paramedic. And the guitarist, my brother in law, he lives in Montreal and is about to have a second child. So the last few years, whenever we’re all in town we jam. Our friends in Acres also haven’t played in a few years, and we just kind of decided that if we book a show, then we’ll have to make it happen. We love House of Targ, so we booked a show months ago, and it creeped up on us and yeah, here we are—getting ready to play on Saturday night.

House of Targ really does seem like the perfect venue for you to do that.

Yeah, I mean it’s just such a great vibe there, and we know Yogi [Ottawa musician Paul ‘Yogi’ Granger]. What’s funny about Yogi who runs the place is we used to jam in his jam space, and I’ve known him for years. And it just seemed like so much fun. You know, if you don’t want to talk to people, if you don’t want to watch the band, go play pinball. It’s just a great vibe there, and we’re super excited to be playing there finally.

You mentioned what your other band members are doing, and they sound pretty busy. But you must be getting busy right now too; I looked into your background and saw that you work for CPAC.

Yes, that’s why we were just doing a live event, and we’re currently about to go live to Thomas Mulcair, so my life is pretty busy these days with the election. But it’s also kind of the most exciting time to work at CPAC, because it’s all politics and yeah, the election only happens once every four years, so it’s a new schedule.

So, where does the reunion fit in, do you have plans that go beyond that one gig, and do you think that with the EP coming out, you might do some other stuff as well?

Well, I definitely think so. It just all of a sudden came together where we’re playing a show on Saturday, so we’re recording on Friday night with our friend David Gervais who plays in a great Ottawa band called The Gallop, because he’s got a studio at his place. So we were just like “We’re all in town, we five new songs that we haven’t yet recorded,” so I’d like to think yeah. We’re going to record the songs on Friday, and hopefully release it early next year, and yeah we’ll definitely play a few shows to accompany that. I think this kind of got the ball rolling, and made us realize that we miss playing rock and roll shows together.

It’s interesting that you said you’re working with David Gervais, because you’ve been working with Jarrett Bartlett at Little Bullhorn for a long time, haven’t you?

Yeah we have, and we love Jarrett, he recorded both Winchester albums and both Poorfolk albums. It’s nothing against Jarrett. It’s just the fact that Dave was available, and I like him and he has a space in his living room that he records bands in. And we’d love to work with Jarrett again, he does great work. But I think change is sometimes good. I recorded a song with Dave a few months ago, and I really like him. He’s a great guy, it sounded great, so we just decided to mix it up and go with Dave.

Poorfolk’s first record was written entirely by you, but your bandmates had a larger hand in writing Our Burning Street. Can you describe to me the writing process for the new EP?

Well that was actually a full band affair, whereas the first was solo, the second was a band album, and this one, now we get together. And what is so good about the band is we just know each other so well musically, and so these five songs came together. Maybe I had a guitar riff, and then we just jam on it, so it’s totally collaborative, totally band. So this is a band album, and that’s good. We work really well together.

With so many bands where the members all live in different cities, with the ability to collaborate online, it’s interesting that you guys got together in person to get the ideas together.

Yeah, well these songs have been kicking around. Like I said, every time we’re in the same city we get together and jam. And the songs, we’ve emailed ideas back and forth to each other, but nothing beats being in the same room no matter how great technology is. You can’t really capture the magic via skype or email. Don’t get me wrong, technology is great for bouncing ideas, and adding parts and ideas for songs. But nothing beats being in the same room, and drinking a few beers with your friends and playing music.

And hopefully, you can hear that in the songs as well.

I think so, yeah. And we were really excited about these new songs. A few of them are maybe five years old, but we still call them new because we haven’t recorded them yet. So yeah, we’re excited to just get five new songs out there and do it quickly. I just think that in the past, maybe because we were all in the same city we maybe laboured over things too much. Which can be a good thing, but it’s also hard to know when to let go. I think that because we just want to get these songs out there, and not that we’re going to rush, but sometimes it’s best not to overthink things, and just to go with your gut and you know, release what you record and not hyper-think and pick things apart.

Then at the risk of overthinking things on my end of it, over the years, Winchester Warm’s sound seemed to inch closer to what Poorfolk used to do. Was your decision to reunite a byproduct of that?

I’m not sure. I just think that with Winchester, it’s funny because sometimes I think oh, Winchester’s getting a bit too rocky, now I want to start something quiet. So it was kind of funny, because with Poorfolk it started super-quiet and then it got loud. And then I kind of started Winchester as a result of that, because I was missing the quiet. But no, I think now because Winchester is a band, just naturally things get a bit louder, but we still like to do the quiet. But I don’t know if I answered your question (laughs).

Well that said, can those bands coexist? Is it hard not to prioritize one project over the other?

Well I think with Winchester, we just all live in the same city. And what’s funny about Winchester is that both Michael Zorn and Matt Corbiere play in Acres, so that’s the funny connection. And actually we met Acres in 2008, when we both played with Poorfolk, and Acres opened for Pleasant Animals, so that’s how we met. And now the bands are connected because we both play in Winchester Warm.

So you said you got together with your bandmates to write the new Poorfolk EP, what about Winchester Warm? Do you write songs specifically, or do you also do that as a band?

With Winchester, because it’s more acoustic I’ll usually write some parts with songs or some parts of songs at home, and it’s still collaborative but usually it’s Matt and I, the drummer, because originally Winchester was just a two-piece. And then yeah, with Winchester maybe the songs are a bit more finished, and with Poorfolk it’s definitely more jamming out, because it’s rock and roll and you’re just kind of jamming on things over and over.

With the Winchester, because it’s a bit more structured, a bit more singer/songwritery, yeah, the songs are a bit more finished. But at the same time, Mike and Matt add so much greatness to the songs after. But the general structure is more finished than they are with Poorfolk songs. But like you wrote in that review (my review of Winchester Warm’s performance at Bluesfest in July), they add so much to the songs, Mike and Matt.

Absolutely. You can definitely feel that live, the songs always sound like they started out as a guy in his basement with a guitar, but they naturally progress into this thing that takes up so much more real estate than that.

Yeah, exactly. Matt Corbiere our guitar player, he is like a genius with texture. He has all of these pedals going, and he really knows how to make things work well. He knows when to add things, and not add things. And also Matt is such a great bassist, and he and Matt work really well as a rhythm section, so I feel pretty lucky to have great bandmates like that.

So, going back to the new Poorfolk EP, you’ve sent me a new track called “Jamaica.” Can you tell me a bit about what that song is about?

Oh yeah, you know that one is an older song, and it’s a very rough mix. You know what, that song was recorded live at The Verge, a radio station in Toronto. And actually, it was recorded in 2009. But what is it about—you know what, the lyrics, I feel like it’s not really about anything. Well wait, that’s wrong. But wow, I hadn’t thought about that. I mean, I love the song but…I think I had just moved to Ottawa, and the line is “this city I used to love,” and I had just gotten out of this breakup, and I wrote this. But what I always find about lyrics is that sometimes you have this one line, like “in this city I used to love,” and then, it’s kind of stream of consciousness but it’s amazing how my lyrics just kind of lead to other places. So maybe it’s about running away from things. Hiding in Jamaica.

But yeah, I find that’s what is so neat with my lyrical process and how I write lyrics, I find that the music kind of guides my lyrics and I don’t try to think too much about things because I think that sometimes crowds what the music is trying to say (laughs). Do you know what I mean? That’s how I work.

Do you think that your environment has been a consistent theme for you when you’re writing?

Definitely. Obviously when I’m going through some struggles, but yeah, no doubt.

You might find this funny, and it was obviously unintentional and due to the rough mix as you say, but I had trouble deciphering whether you were saying “this city I used to love,” or “this city I used to loathe.” I thought that was interesting.

Okay, yeah. Actually, you know what? I may in fact be saying that line because they’re one and the same, right? Loving and loathing.

Yes, they do go together don’t they. But I wasn’t sure, and it was a bit of guesswork on my part.

Yeah, exactly. And that’s cool, because I think sometimes I would sing something else instead of love. And I like that, because it’s open to interpretation. So there you go! But something else I say in that song is “this city I used to love in this city I used to love.” Like “I used to love in this city, and I used to love this city.”

So one sentence rather than two lines.

Yes, exactly. And also loathe, too (laughs).

Yes, well it is a sleepy city.

Yes, but a lot going on at the same time. Which I think I used to hate about Ottawa, but moving out of Montreal where there’s a dizzying amount of things going on. Actually, Ottawa now, I find there is a dizzying amount of things going on every single weekend. So it’s kind of exciting to see things happening here.

The guitar melodies in that song seem to both honour the 90’s Canadian music scene, but mourn for it at the same time. Do you miss the music you grew up with?

I don’t know if I so much miss it, because I still have my old mixtapes. No, I don’t think I miss it because there’s so much good Canadian music happening today. I do think I miss that kind of purer time. But what can you do, besides go back and listen to your old tapes, cassettes, or cds. Now, I just think back to that time in Canadian music where now there’s just so much music and so much good stuff, but there’s also so much bad stuff and it’s so hard to wade through it. Whereas before, I think it was easier to just kind of be okay, Eric’s Trip. Okay, Sloan. There weren’t as many bands to choose from.

It’s impossible to wade through it all, but it can be rewarding when you attempt to.

Definitely. I mean there’s so much good music it’s crazy. I listen to more music now than I ever have and there’s still not enough time to listen to it all.

So going back to the gig at House of Targ, did having such a great venue to play at influence your decision to do the show?

We’ll we’ve known Yogi for a while so he was super-down. But the thing about Targ is that you have to book it months in advance, so we booked it in May. So luckily we secured that Saturday night months ago, and he knows us so that’s what’s so great about Targ. Yogi and everybody else who runs the place, they’re super-supportive of local music, and they’re often throwing new bands on bills, and they pay you well. It’s just a great atmosphere, and I think it’s really added a lot to Ottawa’s scene.

I bring friends from out of town there, and they’re blown away. They’re like “What? This is in Ottawa? We need this in Montreal, we need this in Toronto.” And they’re blown away, they’re like “Is this real life? Perogies? Music? Pinball? Videogames?”

So finishing things up, I think you’ve said there are five songs on the EP. How many of the new songs can your fans expect to hear on Saturday night?

All five of them!




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