By: Kat Harlton
via their press release:
Hold up to the Fire, Echo Nebraska’s sophomore effort, sees the Vancouver folk-rock outfit expand on their reputation of combining soul-strung acoustic songs with melodic pop sensibilities. They were determined to write music that was universally accessible and affirming, focusing on introspective themes of love, loss and perseverance.
The mission to spread positivity to a wider audience stems from heartbreak within the band itself. In September 2016, bassist and founding member, Gunn Park passed away after a battle with cancer. Even though this was a difficult time for the band, they focused on channeling this loss in a positive direction.
Devan, Gunn and multi-instrumentalist Andy Schichter started Echo Nebraska in the fall of 2014, with the release of a music video for ‘Hey, Allison’. Within a week of the video premiering, CBC Music added the video to their list of Best New Music Videos. Their debut EP, Send the Ships, would eventually chart across several campus stations, reaching a high of #3 on CJSF.
The band spent the next couple of years touring Send the Ships across Canada, with drummer Mike Lauder, violinist Carly Frey and bassist Dan Ponich. After showcasing at BreakOut West 2016 in Regina, SK and CMW 2017 in Toronto, ON, Echo Nebraska turned their attention to writing the songs that would eventually make up the new record. The title track, ‘Hold up to the Fire’ was written in honour of Park, weeks after his passing. Though Park never got to perform on Hold up to the Fire, his presence is felt throughout the record.
Echo Nebraska returned to the studio this past winter with producer Jeff Dawson (Daniel Powter, Holly McNarland, The Dudes), who helped hone in on the direction the band was taking with their new collection of songs. Colin Stewart (Dan Mangan, Yukon Blonde, New Pornographers) was brought on to mix the album.
Ultimately, despite the loss of their friend and bandmate, Echo Nebraska pushed their musical direction forward on Hold up to the Fire, resonant with messages of hope, love, and the power of human relationships.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Echo Nebraska and discuss inspiration, songwriting and what’s on their playlist.
Kat: Could you talk about the inspiration behind Hold Up The Fire?
EN: We lost our bassist, Gunn Park to cancer in September 2016. That obviously affected all of us on a variety of levels. We lost our good friend, not to mention all the creativity that he brought to the group. The new album has a number of songs that was written after his passing that deal with loss, tragedy and overcoming adversity. More specifically, the song ‘Hold up to the Fire’ was written directly for Gunn. Even though the new album is all about hardships, we brought a positive spin to the heavy lyrical themes.
Kat: What is your songwriting process like?
EN: Devan writes the lyrics and music on his own. For half of the songs, he would take them to a co-writer and they would hone in the lyrics and structure. Once that was ironed out, the band would jam the song and get the instrumentation going. Songs like ‘Ghost Town’, ‘Only in Dreams’ and ‘Hold up to the Fire’, Devan and Andy would demo together and solidify the direction and instrumentation before bringing it to the band.
Kat: Could you speak a little on your musical idols or role models?
EN: The band has a wide variety of musical influences. When the group first started, Devan and Andy were listening to a lot of Beatles, Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear. But as the band grew in members, tastes and influenced have evolved the sound. Carly listens to a lot folk. Mike is in to jazz. Dan loves Brit rock.
Kat: Have you ever been given any advice in regard to your music career that you felt you really connected with or made an impact?
EN: We were given good advice by Todd Hancock who told us the value of touring. He warned us not to overplay Vancouver and to branch out as much as possible. That always stuck with us.
Kat: What is on your playlist right now?
EN: We just got back from tour, and we played a lot of podcasts in the van… WTF, Reply All, Rewatchables, Pod Save America. Music hits were Dinosaur Jr., Father John Misty, Andy Shauf, and Curtis Mayfield.