The five Saskatoon-based musicians can trace their roots back in all different directions and don’t hold still for long as far as genre is concerned. Ska, rock, reggae, funk, latin, jazz — all’s fair in Misterfire.
Brought together by a shared passion for music-making, after almost five years of playing together, the band has developed their own unique sound. It’s a mashup of their distinct influences and it works because, as a group, exploring uncharted territory is a key part of the creative process.
Misterfire recently put on two high-energy shows at the Saskatchewan Jazz Festival, playing tunes from their 2011 debut album All Lit Up and testing the waters with tracks from their upcoming album, Darling, This Is War. Recorded this month, their new album sees the band join forces with Wide Mouth Mason co-founder and bassist Earl Pereira (now of The Steadies) who helped them sculpt a new, more accessible sound.“We’re all still really passionate about the music and that’s something that comes through on the stage” – Cameron Baribeau
“The album itself is quite diverse,” said lead vocalist Ben Fortosky. “Our first album was pretty eclectic, but this one … none of the five tracks sound the same. There are five different styles.”
Darling, This Is War marks a deliberate shift in the way Misterfire approaches their songwriting and recording techniques. A broader appeal is the name of the game this time around.
“I think if anything it’s made us a little bit more aware that, from a musical marketing perspective, it’s important to try to tailor your music a little bit towards the audience as well,” said Fortosky. “You can write music for musicians and that’s totally cool, and we still do that … [but] it’s also important to think how the audience is responding to you. So Earl brought that to our attention a lot through his work, and it was good to be exposed to that.”
But even though genre-bending is part and parcel for the Misterfire vibe, working with Pereira, who pushed hard for a “poppier” feel, took some getting used to. Most of the tracks that the band brought to their new producer were already cemented into their repertoire — and were promptly turned on their head in the studio.
That’s why before they even set foot in a recording booth, the band had to switch back into education mode, relearning and wrapping their heads around their own songs. Choruses were tweaked, melodies simplified, rhythmic nuts and bolts were tightened where necessary. Pereira brought his pop influences to the table right away, arranging the songs “for the people as opposed to the musicians,” balancing raw musicianship with an emphasis on more focused, catchier tunes.
The album was cut in a week of marathon recording sessions from sunup to sundown.
With the recording process fresh on their minds (mixing and mastering will happen towards the end of summer) the guys are in high spirits about how the EP is shaping up.
“We haven’t heard the mixes yet … but the way things were sounding in the studio sounded quite good.”
Misterfire’s current lineup, established in 2011, features Ben Fortosky on lead vocals (and also trumpet and rhythm guitar), his brother Emmett on bass, lead guitarist Jordan Welbourne, drummer Ethan McKibben, and Cameron Baribeau on keyboards (although is trombone is never out of reach).
A band full of young, enthusiastic, multi-talented, multi-instrumentalists, they put on one hell of a live show. Their Jazz Festival free stage performance on Wednesday June 26 managed to drive away the clouds and rain with the sheer power of their groove and draw a healthy audience, including a few keeners who wasted no time busting some moves in front of the stage. Like the sun they seemed to coax out from behind the blustery sky, their chemistry and energy on stage shined through strong.
Baribeau chalks that up to their shared love of music.
“I guess the main thing that brings us together — we all have day jobs or school, or whatever — [is that] we’re all still really passionate about the music and that’s something that comes through on the stage.”
Added Ben: “It takes a lot to keep a group together for five years. We are really passionate about what we do.”
You can catch Misterfire again in Saskatoon during the Taste of Saskatchewan on July 18. They’ve also got shows booked in Regina and Calgary in August, and are planning to release Darling, This Is War in September.
Keep scrolling for more photos from Misterfire’s June 26 Saskatchewan Jazz Festival performance, and have a listen to one of their tracks from 2011’s All Lit Up