Pining for Banff’s beauty

By Andy Williams

It’s always hard to judge how profound and significant a band’s name is. Some names have oodles of thought put in to them and when you hear the back story or the genesis of the name, it can alter your perception of the band altogether. Others are clearly the creation of a bigwig at record company, or the product of the bravado that comes with a few too many beer. Rage Against the Machine — profound, Pussycat Dolls — not so much. Pine Tarts fall in the former category, though it may be hard to glean the significance at first glance.

“I was living in Banff, and I thought of it as a slang term for the type of kids that lived in Banff,” explains frontman and vocalist Jesse Powell. “Sort of whimsically minded young people who end up living in abject poverty, but living the crown-jewel of beautiful places of the world. People coming from all over coming Canada and elsewhere to this beautiful place, and living super poor, but it makes them super rich.”

Though the explanation provides startling insight into a side of Banff that isn’t often seen, it still doesn’t explain the connection between the town and a garage-rock/power-pop band. If one were to associate music with the idyllic mountain locale, folk and country seem like the most obvious genres, but Powell disagrees.

“It’s the funny division of the facade culture existing in this deep, profound wilderness,” says Powell. “I was trying to reconcile that shiny, glitzy edge of Banff with its roots. I was trying to take a form that was a folk culture to young people, which I don’t think is folk anymore. It’s rock’n’roll.”

Though he concedes he doesn’t find it as beautiful, Powell has since moved to Calgary to focus on his music, citing the transient nature of Banff’s populous as a severe obstacle when starting a band there. Powell has a solid idea of the course he wants to chart through Calgary’s music scene.

“It’s a tricky situation. In Calgary, and most scenes in Canada I suppose, the people that go to shows are the people in the bands for the most part, with a bit of crossover,” he says. “With Pine Tarts’ music, I was always trying to make it more pop. It’s not just for band people who know all the strange, rare garage-rock. The bands that are big hits with local crowds are generally bands that are for musicians and for collectors, and they hit a lot of reference points that other people won’t get. It’s an exclusive club.”

Powell isn’t putting this kind niche down, he’s just aiming for a wider audience. He has friends in these scenes and wants them to be able to appreciate his music, but he also wants to make it accessible enough for people to just pick up and dive in to. He’s carried this thoughtful approach into how the band intends to distribute its music.

All their releases — including the recently released 10 inch, Two Moons — have been on vinyl and Powell has no intentions of changing things. This may seem contradictory to Powell’s intention to make the their music accessible, but each record will include a download card for fans to grab the songs in mp3 format online.

“No one wants to collect CDs, they are just clutter and garbage — they don’t look nice on your wall,” he says. “One of the things I think about with our music and our shows is the ritual aspect and vinyl fits in. Often it just sounds better too.”

Though it comes with a cost. Records are more expensive to produce than CDs, but Powell think it’s worth it.

“All we do is lose money on that stuff, so if you lose a few hundred bucks more, who cares?” Powell laughs.

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