by Christopher James Vasseur
In a UK basement club called The Cavern in a town called Liverpool a small folk duo takes the stage. Yes, that Cavern.
In the audience is the fiddle player for the Elvis Costello band. The room is legendary, and April Moon (from another initialed homeland) begins to play their set . The other homeland being PA. As in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Yup, that PA.
Jamie April and Jason Moon have had a strange journey to this hallowed stage where the Fab Four themselves one day long ago forged and honed their now legendary (early) songs.
As I mentioned, the fiddle player for Elvis Costello was among the cavern crowds often celebrity ridden guest list that night. By some strange cosmic circumstance, she ended up playing with them on stage that night and was then willing to lend her chops to their new record. This is but one of the cool stories I hear from the duo as I chat with them from across the pond.
The pair met while bumping into each other doing things like dinner theatre and Shakespeare in the Park in and around Prince Albert.
They ended up joining/creating a band called Manic Trees and carved out a nice little spot in the blooming Saskatchewan music scene. The band also took them over to the UK where they fell in love with the land. And eventually each other.
Manic Trees went through a “Fleetwood Mac'' type break up where both the keyboardist (Jason’s Wife) and the drummer (Jaime's husband) got divorced from the two. Traces of this triple break up (two divorces and a band break up, ouch) still rears up its head in their music, see "Queen of Destruction" as a prime example.
Jamie and Jason followed their hearts to the UK and started April Moon. In fact, they follow their hearts all over the world these days. I caught them beach side off the coast of Morocco, so I think they are doing pretty okay.
We’re talking about their third album, “The Other One Was You”, which was self released last year. The album is a departure from the previous two as those were rooted in “pop rock similar to the 1970’s sounds” as mused by Jason. The new songs have more of a folky flare, even jokingly referred to as “Canadiana ” by the duo. Which means, of course, Americana with touques (and/or socks) on.
This is why they actually took a turn from their (and a lot of current musicians including yours truly) plan of just releasing singles. “They all started to sound like they could go together on a compilation.” Jason states. Combined with a couple “lock down leftovers”, we have this beautiful new record. Another problem with singles is there is no physical object to sell people at your shows. It’s a strange time with records being too expensive, CDs becoming irrelevant and digital music not really doing artists any favours. This is also why the band puts a lot of creative effort into their marketing, a la music videos.
The pair have now animated two music videos. 2020’ Epic “The Ballad of Johnny West” and the very charming video for “The Lord Hath Taken Away” from the new record. Using crayon drawn art combined with puppets and live footage of the prairies, the song is an homage to the place they grew up. The song is based loosely on stories Moon used to hear from his Grandmother. One in particular is her marching along with Tommy Douglas when national healthcare was but an idea gaining momentum.
They still come back to these parts every summer with another return planned for this September. For a couple that performs together, travels together and spends most of their time together, they must have developed some sort of way to manage this. As with any couple, it's not always paradise as can be heard on the charmingly real track “At least we are not lonely”.
If the record started out as a series of singles, you can't tell. The songs are woven together with a diverse tool box of sound and a warm folk duo centre to everything. I have fallen head over heels for the music of the PA/UK hybrid and their tunes that call back to a dirtier, free flowing time of the leftover hippy children of the 1970’s.
Soaring guitars? Check. Beautiful Harmonies? Check. Poignant lyrics that evoke thought and emotion? Check. DIY self animated music videos? You better believe that's a check.
This is a band that has it all, even Elvis Costello's fiddle player, Laura MacMillan.
The duo was onstage about to play the song “The Lord Hath Taken Away”. The stage was the aforementioned Cavern Club stage. They have a mix bag music night there where you will hear anything from Norwegian Harmony singers to Japanese Electronica Acts. And of course, prairie folk duos from Canada. The crowd at these events can be eclectic enough without the fabled history of the biggest band ever backing it up.
Anyway, the pair invited up the fiddle player this night on a whim to jam with them on a song she didn't know. When finished, they had such a great time that Mac Millan offered to record the part on the record the very next day. One can only imagine what kinds of other adventures this duo has had on their musical journey. Maybe this summer I will get a chance to ask them in person as we end our call with plans to meet up this summer and maybe try to play a show together. They offer to set me up on their side of the pond should I want to stretch my musical muscles over there and I offer the same in return for these parts as our own musical landscape is getting bigger and bigger every day.
So, if anyone knows of some show opportunities for this amazing band this summer in SK, please get in touch with them! You won't be sorry. April Moon is the real deal and I cannot wait to see what this creative team comes up with next!