The Cape May have been an institution in the Calgary music scene for years now. Their moody, poetic lyrics and understated musicianship have provided the band with a devoted and constantly growing fan base. Still, the band was exposed to a largely new audience and a different atmosphere than they're used last weekend at the Calgary Folk Festival. The Gauntlet briefly sat down Cape May frontman Clinton St. John after a crowd-pleasing workshop with Final Fantasy and Eleni Mandell to discuss his band's experience at the festival.
Gauntlet: What have you managed to see so far, and what did you think of it?
Clinton St. John: Neko Case was great. The girl can sing. When you're in your hometown there's life stuff that to take care of so I've been a little distracted throughout the festival to this point. I haven't gotten to see as much stuff as I would like to. I did a three-song set on the main stage on Thursday night and that was awesome. I'm not saying I was awesome, just getting in front of that crowd was great.
The crowds here are just so appreciative. It's really different than the bar atmosphere, which is kind of hit and miss. Some nights you'll play in a bar and it will be great, people will be listening and other times people are there for different reasons. They go there and they drink and they socialize; people just don't focus in on the music. With our music it's really driven by the lyrics so to have an audience sit and listen is really important. People come here to listen to music.
G: How do you approach workshops?
CSJ: That was the first one we've ever done today [with Final Fantasy and Eleni Mandell]. At first I didn't really know how we were going to go about it. We sent each other a few tracks so I least got to know the lyrics for [Mandell's] songs so I could do some backups and get to know what keys the songs are in so I can do a little bit of jamming. I'm not the greatest improviser, so it was nice to have a bit of a heads up. At the last minute when we were getting ready to go on [festival staff] were like, "You're the host." We've got no stage banter, generally speaking. I just don't like to do that. When we play it's usually music from beginning to end of the show. We like to have it be a seamless piece so there's zero room for lousy stage banter. It's really contradictory to our music. The music's moody. A friend of ours said that our music is good when the candle is burnt down to the end of the wick.
G: Not a bad description.
CSJ: Not a bad description at all, yeah. It's different playing during the day. I feel like our music is more appropriate at the end of the day because it is pretty reflective. But still, it's nice to get out, the sun is shining, people are happy and, like I said, so receptive, and so we kind of just winged it.
G: Considering what you just said about your music, were you apprehensive of playing with other people?
CSJ: No, I thought I'd give it a whirl. I was more apprehensive for the potential for a disaster. It's actually pretty easy because, well, Eleni had her band, they were up there throwing down and if you find a part you can compliment, that's the thing. I can see it going really bad if everyone was really determined to get in there and do something. Up there everyone gave the song space and picked their moments.
Owen [Pallett] from Final Fantasy is sick. He can do the experimental, weird stuff and on the last song he played a perfect country violin style. Worse comes to worse, everyone just plays their own song and they don't jam at all.