The East Pointers is not the atypical band which normally performs at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace. On the surface, this trio of Maritime folk-rock musicians would seem alien to an environment that normally spotlights trendy, alternative artists and groups. But there was fiddle player/vocalist Tim Chaisson, banjo-playing brother Koady Chaisson and guitarist cousin Jake Charron on Thursday, November 14th ripping through a setlist of east coast instrumentals and folk songs much to the delight of the assembled audience.
On tour to celebrate the release of their third album, `Yours To Break’, Tim Chaisson noted the following day that they had played Lee’s Palace about one year ago and the experience was so positive, they had to execute a revisit.
“Playing their last year was so much fun, we had to go back,” enthused Chaisson. “The audience there just seemed to relate to what we are doing.”
To say The East Pointers are not your atypical new rock band would be an understatement. Launched in 2014, this Prince Edward Island trio all come from a family background of traditional Maritime musicians. “I grew up listening to pop and rock music but my background is trad music (a word he uses a lot), the first instrument my father bought me was a fiddle so I was always keen to somehow merge current trends with traditional folk music.”
An artist who showed Chaisson the way was Cape Breton’s Ashley MacIsaac who’s “Hi How Are You Today” release in 1995 showed that a punk attitude towards fiddle music could reach a contemporary audience. This album not only sold more than two hundred thousand units (double platinum) but also won three Juno Awards and even spawned a radio hit single with “Sleepy Maggie”
“I remember hearing Ashley when he first came over to PEI, before his first album ever came out and I thought this was the coolest thing ever,” Chaisson reflected. “The fact that he could take trad music and make it sound so contemporary, sparked my interest. He and Natalie MacMaster were definite influences in me moving forward.”
The trio’s debut ‘Secret Victory’ 2015 release definitely resonated with the folk-rock crowd, winning a 2017 Juno for Roots Album Of The Year but when they came to recording their second album in 2017, ‘What We Leave Behind’, they felt they needed an outside input so they recruited Gordie Sampson as producer.
“Gordie totally understood what we are doing,” Chaisson enthused. “He’s a trad guy also but he’s also into pop and country. When we sat down with him for the first time we realized it was a match made in heaven.”
Sampson, who has written songs for the likes of Faith Hill, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood as well as being a prolific recording artist in his own right, encouraged the trio to develop a contemporary sound around their base fiddle, banjo and guitar instruments. Think of a folk version of Rush with Charron using two pickups on his guitar to simultaneously provide both bass and rhythm while he and banjo-playing Koady Chaisson also employ synthesizers to fill out their sound.
Hence the third album title “Yours To Break”, a reference to the band’s attitude towards expanding their East Coast roots to engage in a more contemporary sound by breaking traditional rules of what is cool and what isn’t.
Chaisson is the first to admit that some people who attend their shows based on hearing their songs on Spotify might be bemused by a lot of their instrumentals yet The East Pointers are winning over new fans, not just in Canada but in the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the USA and even Mexico where their sound is considered uniquely Canadian.
“When we first went to Australia we had no idea what sort of reception to expect, but they absolutely loved us,” smiled Chaisson. “We thought, let’s see what happens but we were blown away by the reception they gave us.”
Chaisson feels the internet is playing a major role in expanding the band’s sound globally. “Because of the internet, people have access to so many different kinds of music, they are not restricted to just one category,” he noted. “People from all over the world can connect with us and discover what we are all about. This makes it so much easier for us to travel to different countries.”
‘Yours To Break’ features 10 tracks, five being purely instrumental and five stylish vocal tracks. The lead single, “Wintergreen” was inspired by Koady Chaisson being diagnosed as bi-polar. “Colin MacDonald (The Trews) and I wrote that song about loving someone through everything, and the ups and downs he went through and believing in them even though they may not believe in themselves”.
The album’s material was partially constructed while Chaisson was in Costa Rica, brother Koady spent time in Australia and Charron was in the UK absorbing British folk influences. “When we all got back together we had all these various interesting regional influences that we absorbed into our music,” Chaisson explained.
As for future plans, The East Pointers are set for an exhausting six months of heading back to Australia and Europe before expanding their contemporary folk influences with more dates in North America.