One month ago, the Canadian folk-rock/indie rock sextet Carmanah released their genre-blending second full-length album, Iris. Recently, I spoke to the band’s frontwoman and creative mind, Laura Mitic, about the band’s new album Iris, their downtime they’ve had throughout 2020, the meaning of the band’s name, and more!
Is there any significance to the band name, Carmanah?
Carmanah is named after the Carmanah Walbran Provincial Park on Vancouver Island near Port Renfrew on the ancestral and current territory of the Pacheedaht and Ditidaht Peoples. This land is home to a forest that has never been logged, and the ancient trees that grow there include some of the largest Sitka spruces in the world. We first chose the name somewhat naively, hoping to find a namesake that connected us to our west coast home. But over the years, we continue to learn more about the communities that protect the forest and those who spared the old-growth trees from being logged in the late 1980s. The cultural and environmental significance of the forest is irreplaceable and invaluable.
What are your musical influences that shape the overall blend of roots, rock, and blues together to your distinct sound?
While I’m often discovering new music that inspires me, I consistently draw from a few of my favourites, including but not limited to: Feist, Dusty Springfield, Nancy Sinatra, Roy Orbison, The Chambers Brothers, The Beatles, Bahamas.
Could you walk me through the typical Carmanah songwriting process?
I usually begin the writing process alone, with my guitar and a cup of coffee (I write best in the mornings). Once I have the framework of a tune, I bring it to the rehearsal space with my five pals/bandmates. Everyone adds their own creative touch and influence, and we compare notes and ideas to make the song as strong as it can be. Every musician in Carmanah brings their own flare to the creative process, which makes writing new music really fun and exciting.
If you got the chance, what musician would you like to collaborate with? Rather this is past or present and either to write a song/album with or even tour with?
I’d love to collaborate with Leslie Feist on a song or two. I feel like we could sink into something really creative, quirky, and deep together. Maybe if we could also borrow Dusty Springfield from the past, we could start a sweet and badass harmonizing trio.
You guys released your most recent album, Iris, on October 2nd. How has it been received by listeners so far?
Iris has been received well so far. Normally we’d have embarked on a tour or two by now where we would be able to witness the album’s impact in person. But we are happy with what we have seen online with streaming numbers, music video views, radio play, and playlist adds. We’ve received some really nice feedback, which encourages us to push on, especially since like I mentioned, we can’t tour, and that’s our favourite part of this whole music gig.
Do you have a favourite track, or even more than one track off your brand new album, Iris?
It tends to change, but my most highlighted favourites are “Demon Host” and “Stand Up.” Both tunes have distinctive musicality and harmonies. I had a lot of fun with the lyrics; in creating something relatable yet mixing in some symbolism and quirkiness so the songs leave something for the imagination and can mean different things to different people.
Is there any song off Iris that you are looking to perform live in front of an audience, whenever that chance might be?
Hmm, live streaming and the few small-scale performances we did this past summer aside. I’m most looking forward to performing “Something Else” in a large live-setting. This tune is strange, dreamy and a little haunting. Throw a sweet light show into the mix, a great venue, and a music craving audience fresh out of living in a distanced world for a year. Yeah, we’re going to have an amazing party.
How has it been releasing a brand new album in the middle of a worldwide pandemic?
Releasing Iris during a pandemic has been an interesting experience. Originally the album was supposed to drop in the late spring, but our team decided to push back the release so that we would have content to share throughout the summer when everything else was coming to a halt. This gave us time to release singles with music videos and additional content to go along with them. We drew out the full release until October 2nd. I’m grateful that we had an album ready to go at the time the pandemic hit so we could develop a strategy that enabled Carmanah to be able to share our creativity intermittently throughout the summer.
How have you six been keeping busy with all the downtime?
My bandmates are all active and creative people, so there’s been lots of home projects, creative endeavours, and adventures on Vancouver Island. Personally, I did a lot of gardening, paddling, portaging, foraging, and hiking over the summer.
Pat, our lead guitarist and all-around handyman, has been making a tour rig out of a 1972 GMC Greyhound bus. It runs on used vegetable oil and will soon be a tiny-home/tour bus for our music adventures…One day.
Mikey, our keys player, created a podcast called Carmanah Radio (available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Podbean) where we interview interesting people, chat about current topics, and reminisce with the band back to some of our wildest stories from the road. Eventually, the goal is that the podcast will join us on tour to help record stories and interviews from our travels.
Collectively we have been using this opportunity at home to create content for Iris (music videos, live streaming, live recordings) and to work on new music and new ideas. Since everything is up in the air, we are staying flexible and taking it all in stride.
Finally, what are your plans, if there are any, for the rest of the unforeseeable future?
We’ll continue to create, imagine, and plan for the future. With one or two new albums under our belts, a tour bus ready to go, and six stoked musicians, we’ll be ready to go as soon as possible.
Thanks for the time.
Thanks for the questions!