Jon and Roy Go Home

Published: September 12th 2010
in Culture » Music

Jon and Roy
Pic: Jon and Roy
Drummer Roy Vizer
Pic: Jon and Roy

The surefire ticket to every great Canadian musician's success is securing grants and getting backed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). This was the way with folk-reggae-rock band Jon and Roy, who have risen to musical recognition to be the season openers for the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts yearly Live Sessions program on Sept. 23. CBC Radio 2 is co-sponsoring the event and recording the performance for its Canada Live Series.


They will be playing songs from their 2010 album Homes, which they promoted over their summer festival tour, with stops at all the major central and western Canadian folk festivals.


Vancouver’s Chan Centre is also a stone's throw away from Roy Vizer’s parents' house and where Vizer played at his high school graduation over 10 years ago before leaving for the University of Victoria, where he would meet his musical match in bandmate Jon Middleton.


“I think Homes is kind of like a natural evolution of our music. The first two albums were pretty sparse in terms of what we would add to our songs from performing them live, so we were somewhat hesitant to add a bunch of stuff. On this album we felt a little freer and got some really great musicians to play some solos and just sort of layer it more,” Vizer says about the recording, which took much longer to produce than their previous albums Sitting Back and Another Noon.


They also added more instrumentation and collaborated with guest artists who added fiddle, keys and mandolin to the mix. 


“CBC has been incredibly supportive since about two years ago so it's been really great,” says Vizer, the drummer and percussionist who makes up the latter half of the band's simple, unpretentious moniker.


“This is about the third or fourth CBC-sponsored show that we've had and they always have a very high level of production and they've really got good people working on the sound.”


But this year, the Victoria-based band completed their tour without the help of sponsors, getting by instead on the strength of their reputation and their booking agent. Rounding out their exposure with lots of radio time in Vancouver and Victoria and being chosen by Starbucks for their Pick of the Week download card featuring new artists gave them the added leg up. Between these marketing avenues, publicity has taken care of itself, allowing Vizer to sit back and enjoy the scenery of the changing terrain of the Canadian landscape from the window of the car as they travel between gigs.


Throughout his journey as a musician, Vizer says he owes a debt to the Vancouver Jewish community for their support and expects to play to a sold-out crowd.


“Early on, we've had good support from the Jewish community. I have a good network of friends in Vancouver and the Jewish community is pretty strong there, so in that sense it has been good. A lot of our Vancouver shows have ended up being Jewish reunions almost,” Vizer says.


Although Vizer's current musical tastes are not Jewish, he says his drumming is definitely influenced by the Middle Eastern style. However, he said he is open to the possibility of getting into new types of music beyond the scope of what he is creating with Middleton. 


“I always thought of doing a Klezmer reggae mash-up at one point but I really don't really know where I'm going to go with it yet,” he says. 


For now, the musical fusion he experiences with Middleton is where he is setting his sights.


“When I met Jon it worked really well in a musical sense, so we just kind of started playing music together and it felt pretty natural so we just kept it going,” he says.


Jon and Roy are performing on September 23 at 7 p.m. in the Telus Studio Theatre at Vancouver’s Chan Centre for the Performing Arts.

Related articles: (Jon and Roy, Vancouver, Victoria, folk, klezmer, reggae)

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