An exclusive Q&A with Jon & Roy

In the grass redone bJon & Roy, the acoustic folk rock trio based out of Victoria, B.C., have gone from being a west coast secret to an internationally recognized band.

Consisting of Jon Middleton (vocals, guitar), Roy Vizer (drums, percussion) and Ryan Tonelli (bass), the trio have released two albums together to date. Their latest, Another Noon, found Jon and Roy on an Exclaim! sponsored tour across Canada, a nine month ad campaign with Volkswagon, an invite for Jon to sing the national anthem for an NHL game and an overseas tour with Buck 65.

If that’s not enough resume fodder, they’ve also got a few future accomplishments to add to the list. Jon and Roy are currently touring across Canada with The Cat Empire. Come December 13, they’ll be organizing their second instalment of the Jon and Roy Holiday Special show in Victoria, which will feature acts such as Hey Ocean, Dan Mangan and Hannah Georgas.

Roy was nice enough to take a break from all the fun he’s been having to answer a few questions via e-mail. Here’s what he had to say:

1. Since the release of your sophomore album Another Noon, you’ve accomplished a heck of a lot. How is this newfound recognition treating you?

Roy Vizer: Well, I think that we are just happy to continue doing what we love. Getting the recognition is great and deep down I think some sort of recognition keeps you going and moving forward, but at the end of the day, Jon and I just want to keep growing as musicians and continue producing music that interests and excites us, and hopefully some listeners, too.

2. What is it about your music that resonates with such a varied audience? One day you could be playing to a bunch of indie kids, and the next you’ve got an ad campaign with Volkswagon!

Well, Jon and I are pretty non-pretentious, down-to-earth people so maybe that makes it easier to relate to our music than a big rock star persona with a wig, costume and two pounds of makeup. We’re not trying to reinvent anything and we don’t try to create music that’s meant to be commercial. I think that comes through a lot in our music and definitely in Jon’s lyrics. I also think that playing in a variety of genres makes us a bit more accessible to people, but you never really know what it is that people respond to. Pinning it down kind of kills the mystery and makes it too scientific … we make music that we like playing, not for a target audience.

3. Coming from Victoria (which, from my experience, is a very tight-knit city), how did the local arts and music community influence where you’ve ended up today?

I think at the early stages we got hooked in to a group of musicians that supported and encouraged us to keep playing. Both Jon and I have also performed and recorded with a bunch of musicians in the area and I think when creative people flock together it creates an environment where people are more inspired and challenged to create. Victoria definitely has that sort of inclusive, supportive community.

4. Listening to Another Noon, I feel like Victoria and the west coast in general place prominently in your songs. Is this a correct observation, or am I way out in left field? And if Victoria DOES contribute to the majority of your musical fodder, what is it about this city that inspires you so?

A lot of Another Noon was actually born in Vancouver while Jon and I were living in a big dilapidated mansion near the water in Kits. We played a lot of music at the time and we traveled around BC too, but I think Victoria does have a special place for both Jon and I. To me Victoria just strikes a perfect balance between being a real city with a pulse, while at the same time having that direct sightline to the landscape that makes it so surreal and beautiful. I also really like moist air.

5. Now that you’ve been travelling and touring intensively, how has your perspective of Victoria changed? Has it changed at all? Do you long for home, or do you find yourself looking elsewhere for inspiration?

I can definitely say that every time Jon and I get back to Victoria we appreciate it. It really is a hidden gem in Canada, but that being said, I think the band definitely feeds off the energy that we get from exploring this country. Places like Wakefield, Quebec, Kensington market in Toronto and those smoky-sweet, late-night shawarma shops in Ottawa really inspire us too …

6. You’re about to tour with The Cat Empire. How do you feel about that?

We are uber excited to be playing with a great high energy act that we have all been fans of for some time. We are also super excited to be playing in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, places we’ve never played as a band.

7. The Cat Empire employ some pretty dense instrumental layers. Do you think touring with them will convince you to add other instruments to your minimalist songs?

I don’t think that playing with them will have that affect but we are definitely branching out with more instruments and bigger arrangements on this upcoming album on our own.

8. The didgeridoo: a future instrument of Jon and Roy, perhaps?

I won’t rule “the didg” out for the future. We are big fans of Xavier Rudd and the way he plays.

9. You’ve just announced your 2nd Holiday Special, a Victoria show that will feature yourselves and Current Swell, Hey Ocean, Dan Mangan, Sgt. Strumalong and Hannah Georgas, to name a few. Why do you feel events like this are important to the music scene?

To be honest, we just really like these artists and wanted to share the stage with them. So we came up with the idea for the show. Last year was a huge step for us and we’re really fortunate to be in the position to gather the talent and put on a show that the musicians and the audience will really enjoy. Also, I think that events like these really do help to open people up to new artists that they may not have come across on their own.

Jon & Roy’s upcoming tour dates:

November 15 at Sugar Nightclub—Victoria, B.C.*

November 17 at The Commodore Ballroom—Vancouver, B.C.*

November 18 at the Garibaldi Lift Company—Whistler, B.C.*

November 20 at the Starlite Room—Edmonton, Alberta*

November 21 at MacEwan Hall—Calgary, Alberta*

November 23 at Louis’ Pub—Saskatoon, Saskatchewan*

November 24 at the Garrick Centre—Winnipeg, Manitoba*

November 25 at The Outpost—Thunder Bay, Ontario*

November 26 at O’Hanlans—Regina, Saskatchewan

November 28 at the The Royal—Nelson, B.C.**

December 12 at Errington Hall—Parksville, B.C.***

December 13 at Alix Goolden Hall, Holiday Special Show—Victoria, B.C.

(*with The Cat Empire, **with Sunparlour Players, ***with Wil)

Listen to “Another Noon” and “Little Bit Of Love” from the album Another Noon below.

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