Malahat Revue

"Directly after this show? I’ll ride my bike home."

Photo by Jonathan Taggart,
Photo by Jonathan Taggart,

The Malahat Revue is like one of those all-star superhero teams that will get together and join forces only for very special occasions. Comprised of Jeremy Fisher, Hannah Georgas, Aidan Knight and all the members of Said the Whale, the group united for their Bike-to-Work tour, which started in early July on Salt Spring Island and led them through B.C. for about ten days and 500 km—by bike. Their musical powers combined, they played only the best of each other’s songs. The show at the Vancouver Folk Fest was the last concert of six, and in between enjoying the sun and music, I got the chance to talk to Jeremy Fisher and Said the Whale’s singer and guitarist, Tyler Bancroft.

The whole project was Fisher’s brainchild: he had already experienced touring by bicycle. In 2002 he cycled from Seattle to Halifax to promote his first album. Fisher came up with the idea in January and initially wrote a proposal only to Said the Whale and Hannah Georgas, who were excited and in immediately. “I thought it was awesome,” Bancroft said. “[Just like] a camping trip with buddies and then playing shows.” Knight was eventually invited by Bancroft, who put out Knight’s new album Versicolour on his own label, Adventure Boys Club, in March. “I wanna be there!” was Knight’s immediate reaction, he said over the phone. And his addition to the group was an excellent idea, according to Fisher: “It’s been such a great group dynamic […] after every show people would say to me, ‘I’ve never heard of Aidan before but I really liked his sense of humour and the songs were amazing.'”
Rumour has it though that not everybody was as enthused when they first heard of Fisher’s plan and that people even got yelled at. Said the Whale’s bass player Peter Carruthers had never learned how to ride a bike, Bancroft confessed, and was “dead set against it.” But the upshot of his refusal was that he would drive their tour van, which was needed for transporting heavier instruments such as the drums.

To completely abandon any motorized vehicles didn’t seem possible, but Knight said he’d be open to using trailers next time in order to be even more self-contained.

Cycling for promotion is certainly a nice idea, but how about cycling in everyday life? According to Bancroft they all use their bikes regularly. Knight doesn’t have a driver’s licence, so he rides his bike everywhere, “regardless,” as does Georgas (who said in a phone interview that she’d fallen victim to Vancouver bike thieves for the third time now). And admittedly “it’s a great way to drink and drive,” Bancroft says, but of course none of them ever did that.

For bigger projects like this, equipment is key. They not only bought new bikes, but Bancroft for example got himself a pair of bike shorts and baby powder, “to treat the junk well.”

The group got sponsored by North Park Bicycles in Victoria and some of the musicians are now planning on reselling their bikes. If you’re interested in official preowned Malahat Revue bicycles you should drop by North Park.

As a not so experienced bicycle rider one might wonder how it feels to play a show after having cycled 55 kilometres with the sun beating down on you. “I would call it easy. I think it’s probably easier than having sat in a van for nine hours which is what the scenario usually is,” Bancroft said. “The difference between being cooped up in a tour van and getting to ride your bike and you feel like your blood’s been pumping all day and you don’t feel like you’re just a fat-ass, gaining weight all day, that was amazing.”
“It’s energizing,” Fisher added. But “don’t be afraid of SPF 50!” Knight warned.

One of Bancroft’s and Knight’s big don’ts while cycling is listening to your earbuds. This was not equally shared by everybody in the group and Bancroft admitted that he was worrying for the others’ lives every day. Fisher and Bancroft insisted on being confidential here and not telling who was “plugged in the entire time” but were at least so kind as to disclose that “she” listened to Peaches and that “Her name starts with H and ends with annah Georgas.” In a later phone interview Georgas explained somewhat bashfully that the music just made her so much faster, which could be confirmed by Knight, who called Georgas and Spencer Schoening of Said the Whale the “go-getters” of the tour, their secret being a cocktail of Caribou, Midlake, Peaches and Local Natives.

There was no general consent on the best stop. According to Knight their funnest concert was in Victoria, possibly because of the prank they played on Georgas when all of a sudden the whole band played her song “The Deep End” in reggae style. “They are funny,” Georgas admitted, who ended up being a target of the group’s japes more than once. In Roberts Creek they unplugged Georgas’ amplifier, leaving her mute, and finished the song by blowing into accurately filled water bottles. Bancroft was overwhelmed after every single concert, thinking it to be the best of the tour. Looking at it this way, their show at the Folk Fest inevitably must have been the highlight of their tour. After seeing them perform that evening I’d say this could definitely be true.
All members of the project knew each other before through some way or another, and had even performed together. Said the Whale’s rhythm section had backed Georgas on her tour last fall, and Fisher had toured with her before as well. Therefore practicing didn’t take more than three or four days, Fisher said. “The bulk of it was learning mine and Aidan’s songs but that came together pretty quickly.” They learned two hours worth of music, yet Fisher feels they missed out on many good songs, just because there is too much. “But I guess that’s a reason to do another tour.”

When the interview was almost finished, I asked for their future plans. Fisher is getting ready to bring out a new album in the fall and will do some “conventional touring,” as will Georgas this fall, while Said the Whale and Aidan Knight participated in the Peak Performance Project at the end of August. And then Bancroft added, “Directly after this show? I’ll ride my bike home.”