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Out of the West
Following their southern swing last summer, West My Friend has turned its collective eye to the east — well, kind of.
The Victoria-based acoustic ensemble, comprised of four UVic grads — including two former Langley Fine Arts School students — is returning to Langley next month.
The March 7 concert, at the United Churches of Langley, will be just the second show in a road trip that will take the band around B.C. and into Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba as they introduce songs from their new album, When the Ink Dries.
Jeff Poynter, who plays accordion in the band, graduated from LFAS in 2007, while his bandmate Alex Rempel — mandolin — earned his own dogwood there and headed to the Island the following year.
Eden Oliver — vocals, guitar, flute — and Adam Bailey — bass and vocals — round out the group.
All but Bailey were classmates in the music department at UVic. He studied political science instead, but introduced himself to the trio one night after a concert in a Victoria café. The band happened to be looking for a bassist, but Bailey was living in Toronto at the time, so they sought out another musician to fill the role.
By the time they found themselves once again in need of a bass player, Bailey had returned to Victoria and West My Friend, as it exists today, was formed.
Since then, they have been making original music and playing it wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Last summer, the ensemble toured down the west coast, making a stop in Langley (with an outdoor gig at the local farmers market) before setting off for Washington, Oregon and California.
During that tour, they played at universities, clubs, coffee shops and arts centres.
Among the gigs also were several private house parties, which were booked through a website — concertsinyourhome.com — where a band performs for the householder and then is given accommodation for the night.
Though it’s still more popular in the U.S. it’s “definitely a growing thing” north of the border, said Poynter.
During that tour, the band performed songs from its first album, 2012’s Place, but mixed in several of their more recent creations as well.
“It’s good to tour with new material,” said Poynter. “It helps us to tighten it up and decide where we want to go with it.”
When The Ink Dries, has a bit of everything, he said. From songs featuring just the four of them — “like you’d hear live” – to others that feature a 27-piece “mini-orchestra” including strings, brass and an organ.
One of the singles off the new CD, Missing You, is available to listen to at no charge on the band’s website.
With its pop music style, it’s not really typical of the band’s sound, said Poynter, adding that West My Friend is better known for its more folky guitar and mandolin sound, creating an acoustic blend of instruments and four-part harmonies.
“Eden wrote it on a piano. Of course, we don’t travel with a piano,” said Poynter.
So, while out on the road, it falls to him to take over on the accordion.
Poynter actually studied saxophone while earning his degree, but he took up the accordion as well, after receiving one from the parents of one of his own music students. He had studied piano, so the portable instrument was easy enough to pick up on his own, he said.
If fact, every member of West My Friend is a multi-instrumentalist.
Starting out, at concerts they would play a bit of everything from the glockenspiel to the banjo, changing instruments on the fly from one song to the next.
“It was fun and the audience liked it,” said Poynter. But eventually, it got “a little ridiculous” he added.
“We decided it was probably a good idea to choose one.”
Poynter, who was playing both saxophone and accordion, asked his bandmates to decide for him. It was unanimous.
Poynter and his accordion — joined by Oliver, Rempel and Bailey (and their respective instruments) — will take the stage at the United Churches of Langley on Friday March 7 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $15 regular admission and $10 students/seniors. Advance tickets are available at the United Churches of Langley, 21562 Old Yale Rd. ( at Five Corners in Murrayville).