Her name may be Eden, but unlike the John Steinbeck novel or film of the same name starring James Dean, she lies west instead of east.
Originally from Terrace, B.C. and now based in Victoria, Eden Oliver and her band West My Friend are part of that Vancouver Island acoustic, indie-roots, chamber-folk movement, where music knows no boundaries.
About to perform an intimate house concert at Pottery Road Studio “E” in Vernon Saturday, Oct. 1, West My Friend draws from jazz, classical, folk and pop influences, which can be heard on new album, Quiet Hum.
“We will be playing a mix of everything on the tour,” said Oliver, adding the band will showcase its acoustic prowess on a bunch of instruments including mandolin, guitar, banjo, accordion and bass.
Oliver actually started out in music as a flautist, and has played the instrument on past albums and tours.
“I started playing the flute in Grade 6. My family couldn’t afford private lessons so I joined the school band and that’s how I got started playing an instrument.”
She continued to play the flute while studying music education at the University of Victoria, and it’s there where she picked up the guitar and started singing and song writing.
She also met her two future bandmates, mandolinist Alex Rempel and accordionist Jeff Poynter.
“They went to a fine arts school in Langley together and were also in a band together. We met through another band at UVic. That was seven years ago when we were just leaving university,” said Oliver.
It was some time after that West My Friend found its feet and, particularly, a bassist, with a number of band members moving on to other projects and to pursue other careers.
One became a coffee-roasting yogi, one left to become a police officer, but is now doing education, or something…
“Another girl left to play in another band,” added Oliver. “It took us a couple of years to start touring… We wanted it to be worth our time.”
West My Friend eventually connected with bassist Nick Mintenko, who studied jazz at the Royal Conservatory and also performs with Hornby Islander Marc Atkinson. They went into the recording studio and the result was their 2012 debut, Place, which garnered several nominations, including Roots Album of the Year and Song of the Year, at the Vancouver Island Music Awards. Their sophomore release, When The Ink Dries, followed in 2014, and was nominated for the Oliver Schroer Pushing The Boundaries Award at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.
For Quiet Hum, West My Friend holed themselves in a friend’s studio on Mayne Island for two weeks in January. They flew in Juno winning producer David Travers-Smith, who has worked with the Wailin’ Jennys and Pharis and Jason Romero.
“He mastered our first two albums,” said Oliver, adding the result was her most personal songwriting project to date.
Some of the songs off Quiet Hum came from a residency Oliver took at the Banff Centre. Others came from more obscure places.
Lead single No Good Monster was inspired by an excerpt Oliver read by film director Miranda July.
“In it she talks about the detour one takes in the process of making a film and the inner demons that worked against her in her own writing,” said Oliver. “I felt the same way about my writing. I said ‘I can’t write anything.’ My roommate said, ‘go inside and write something from there,’ and this is what I came up with.”
West My Friend have been busy touring since Quiet Hum was released in May. They just wrapped up a European tour, which Oliver said was incredibly successful.
“There is definitely an acoustic folk following there. Folk is alive and well,” she said.
The band plays a few U.S. dates in Oregon and Washington before they head north and as far east as Winnipeg.
“This is the last big leg of the tour, which at six weeks has been our longest tour so far,” said Oliver.
West My Friend stops by Pottery Road Studio “E”, 964 Pottery Rd., Vernon, Saturday. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Concert starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 at the door. Please reserve your seats via text or call Sherrie at 250-260-0878.