Mixtalks: The Olympic Symphonium and Halifax Urban Folk Festival

Halifax Urban Folk Festival, or HUFF for short, kicks off in Halifax this weekend, running from August 25-31. This year the lineup features folk veterans such as Willie Nile, Alejandro Escovedo and Robyn Hitchcock along with a crop of rising stars in the folk scene.

Fredericton’s folk-pop group Olympic Symphonium play the Carleton on the opening night of the festival, Sunday, August 25. While the band hasn’t released any new music for a while, expect to hear lots of new tunes at HUFF. Mixtape caught up with the band to see how their summer is going and the bands latest plans.

Mixtape Magazine: It’s been a few years since we’ve had a new album from the Olympic Symphonium. When can we expect some new music?

Olympic Symphonium: I know, we’re sorry. Our fourth album is done and being mastered right now though. It was recorded last December at the legendary, and most likely haunted, Salty Towers Inn in St.Andrews and was mixed and produced by Joshua Van Tassel. It’s a lush sounding beast that is much different from our previous releases and deals with heavier subject matter.

Needless to say, we’re very excited to get it out but having learned our lesson about touring in the winter (it’s dangerous and no fun) we’re going to wait until Spring 2014 to put it out. It sucks to wait, but we’d like to not have to cancel release shows this time around…

MM: How do you approach playing new songs live to an audience that has never heard them before?

OS: Our live shows are usually full of new material, it’s how we test drive the songs and secure the arrangements. Lately we’ve basically only been playing new stuff because that’s what’s fresh and exciting for us. Not that we’re against doing older stuff by any means, we’re constantly throwing in songs that we haven’t done in years or learning a fun cover to mix things up.

MM: What can people expect from the Olympic Symphonium at HUFF?  

OS: Our last show at The Carleton was really fun. We had just come back from a festival in Newfoundland and it was guitarist Nick Cobham’s birthday. We fed him cake onstage. Another time at The Carleton, Nick and Dennis couldn’t get off work so Rose Cousins and Alan Jeffries filled in. It’s always been memorable playing there and we’re with our good friend Feuerstack so there’s likely to be some silliness to balance out the slow, depressing music.

 MM: Are there any moments from playing festivals this summer that stick out?

OS: Performing in a tiny old church, built in 1856, for the Larlee Creek Hullabaloo in Perth-Andover, NB as well as in the old courthouse in Gagetown, NB for Follyfest. We played both those venues completely acoustically and it was lovely. Small, unique, intimate venues are where we usually are the most comfortable and have the best shows.

MM: Who are some artists from New Brunswick people should keep an eye and ear out for? 

OS: I just saw this guy, Kurtis Eugene, perform for Backstreet Records’ 25th anniversary and he killed it. He’s a part of the Shifty Bits crew here, a group of young musicians led mainly by a band called Motherhood, that are doing really interesting and exciting things.

Olympic Symphonium plays the Carleton on Sunday, August 25 along with Forward Music label-mate Michael Feuerstack. Tickets are $15. Show at 9 p.m.

Photo: Supplied