Music Interview: Falconhawk

By Garth Paulson

People can’t make up their mind about synthesizers. Once all the rage during the ’80s, the symbol of everything wrong with music throughout the ’90s and recently the very definition of hip. Despite the confusion swirling around these dastardly devices, some artists manage to overcome the controversy to make damn fine music with those unholy synthesizers. A prime example of these privileged few are Calgary’s very own purveyors of genre-defying, dance-inducing, sing-along compelling synth-driven rock, Falconhawk. This weekend the band releases their sophomore album, Here’s your Ghost. Exploring much more mature and darker themes than their previous work, Here’s your Ghost, may take some getting used to for fans of the unabashedly fun predecessor Hotmouth. Although initially slightly off-putting, the new album ultimately surpasses its predecessor with its catchy riffing, blissful beats and warped delivery.

“That’s why I was worried about this album,” offers Kara Keith, the sultry voice and keyboardist behind Falconhawk. “The last one was so dancey, so bubble gum pop. This one is so dark. It still has a bunch of pop riffs, but the content is so morose. I was really scared of that.”

As one of the leading bands in a tightly knit and burgeoning scene, Keith and her band mates–bassist Steve Elaschuk and drummer Dave Alcock–prepare to make the next step towards the wider recognition they deserve. To do so they have to clear the one hurdle which seems to trip up so many Calgary bands: getting out of the city. The list of great Calgary bands who have never succeeded in carving out a niche for themselves outside of Alberta is long and depressing, especially considering the near-weekly emergence of another internationally acclaimed “it” band out of Toronto or Vancouver.

“It’s hard to tour,” says Keith. “If you’re in Vail Halen you’ve got like 19 people you have to take on tour, it’s really hard. All bands need to do is get the hell out of Calgary. The country is so vast, the problem is people just stay here and get comfortable. They play a show a week and think they’re doing really well.”

Though it may be hard to crack the barrier to wider acclaim when coming out of Calgary’s still pigeonholed music scene, Falconhawk certainly has the charisma, not to mention the talent to pull it off. With all the great bands spilling from Calgary’s reservoir of talent beside Vail Halen, Chad Van Gaalen, Kris Demeanor, The Dudes, Internal Affairs, Mico, Urban Divide and Hot Little Rocket. It seems inevitable that the rest of the world will eventually wake up and pay attention to our sleepy corner of the world.

“I went to art school with most of those people,” remarks Keith. “We all come from the same age group and have been struggling for awhile. It seems like we all just came out of nowhere and are good friends, but we’ve actually all been around since we were 18. We’ve gone through all these different bands together, I’ve recorded with Chad [Van Gaalen] and Chris Vail used to be in Falconhawk.”

Caught in the middle of all the hype and possibilities swirling about them, Falconhawk manages to keep their head firmly on their shoulders. In the midst of a rising profile, critically acclaimed music along with spots on MuchMusic and MTV Canada, the band still comes across as a humble group of friends playing music together because they enjoy it. It’s something which will likely never change whether they become the next big thing to come out of Canada or remain Calgary’s little secret.

“We’ll never be doing stadium tours,” admits Keith. “I’d love to be like the Flaming Lips. There’s this dream that you can keep your integrity, do this for life and quit your day job. Right now it’s so hard to keep the balance. I want to get to a point where we can quit our day jobs.”

Or if that isn’t possible, Elaschuk offers another equally suitable future.

“In five years I’d like to finish every show to a bottle of whiskey with my name on it and make enough money to buy a new lawnmower,” he laughs.

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