Friday the 13th with Timber Timbre

An ominous day such as Friday the 13th should be spent around large groups of happy people, so as to ward off any negative vibes. That’s why I went to The Ford Plant, a popular alternative music venue, to check out indie and folks artists Timber Timbre, Jon Rae Fletcher, both from Toronto, and Guelph-based Jenny Omnichord.

In an interview with the lead vocalist of Timber Timbre, Taylor Kirks, he spoke of the struggles of living in such a large city as Toronto. He stressed the fact that while it is easier for musicians to live in a large city, he is always happier in a secluded country setting. Kirks also spoke of the importance of intimacy and community in his music.

Timber Timbre is signed to the Out of this Sparks, a record label owned by Stuart Duncan. Originally a music promoter from Guelph, Duncan, says Kirks, promoted the sort of intimacy that the band was looking for in a label.

“I was acquainted with Forest City Lovers, who are signed to the label and I felt good with him [Stuart Duncan],” said Kirks. “It’s a more cooperative label, more tightly knit.”
Kirks began experimenting with music and a four-track recorder at the age of 15. In the past, he played backup in many different bands before he first started experimenting with Timber Timbre in 2005.

Throughout the evening, I noticed that Kirks was easy to approach and sociable with all of his fans. Following his set, he struck up several conversations, both with fans and friends.
Kirks did he set with a new band, celebrating their very first performance as a group. But the band worked together so naturally and comfortably, no one would have been able to tell otherwise. At the beginning of the show, Kirks, on a 12-string guitar, fed sound bites into a sampler box and played it back to an eager crowd. He also incorporated a wooden train whistle and a slew of different types of shakers in creating Timber Timbre’s unique sound. Also on the stage that night with the group was a saxophone player and an accordionist.
The lights in the venue were shut down and a red lamp sitting on the stage was all that illuminated the room. Timber Timbre’s bluesy-folksy ambient sound set the tone for the rest of the show. The crowd was mesmerized by Timber Timbre’s ability to turn low-fi blues into a sophisticated, polished sound, sitting and standing up close to the front of the stage, clapping and singing along.

They mainly showcased tracks from their newly released self-titled album, a few old favourites were also played which got the crowd out of their seats and excited.

Songs like “There is a Cure” from his 2007 album Medicinals, a slow blues-driven track reminiscent of old-time prison chain gang chants, and overall a sing-along favourite for the crowd. He also played “Home,” a banjo-strumming, hand-clapping tune from his 2006 album, Cedar Shakes.

Following the set, I joined Kirks in another room in the Ford Plant, one with a bunch of instruments and even a quirky Vietnamese bamboo hat. Kirks was a soft spoken, but with a very alive and engaging personality that shone through. We didn’t talk for long, but Kirks managed to talk about past and present challenges facing him and the successes he has achieved in spite of those obstacles. He revealed that, when writing, he struggles with lyrics, a surprising thing to hear since his lyrics are always so intricate and brilliantly crafted.

Past Timber Timbre releases were mostly written and composed in his Toronto apartment, with the exception of his 2006 debut Cedar Shakes, an album written in complete isolation in a cabin in Bobcaygeon, Ontario. Kirks explained that he writes better in solitude.

“I was just living there and working at the time. It was a weird time- a difficult time, and I needed to get away from the city. The way I live in Toronto- there’s essentially no reason to be there.”

His newly released album was the first in which he did some in-studio recording, with contributions from Toronto-based music engineer Chris Stringer.
He explained how his music has evolved since his earlier albums and stressed that he wants to continue making music that appeals to a wide audience. “I’m more interested in making music not necessarily for a specific audience, [an audience] that is available and interested in what we are doing- more collective and broad.”

Timber Timbre continues to gain musical recognition within local indie and folk communities throughout the country, but he keeps his ego in check. He remains modest, both about his music and his success. And with a national tour in the works for this upcoming spring, both are sure to be appreciated more and more.

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