It is easy to think of Eagle & Hawk as an Aboriginal band.
The members are First Nations and they have a traditional singer and dancer – Ray “Coco” Stevenson and Buffy Handel — available for their shows.
Then you have the fact that Eagle & Hawk won the 2008 Aboriginal People’s Choice Award for Best Rock CD; it was named Best Group, Best Songwriter and Aboriginal Entertainer of the Year; and it won the 2002 Juno for Best Music of Aboriginal Canada.
And its show at the Yukon Arts Centre Saturday, Oct. 24, is presented with Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon.
But you listen to its music and all you can think is, “Whoa! Rock and roll!”
It’s a progressive style of rock with the influences of roots, crafted with intelligent lyrics and is presented with a high degree of skill that allows you to hunker down into a favourite chair and let it wash over you.
“Both,” says Jay Bodner, when I ask him over the phone if Eagle & Hawk is an Aboriginal band, or a band with Aboriginal members.
“Our mandate is flying the Aboriginal flag and all of the members are ensconced in the culture,” he continues. “But we are not limited to just an Aboriginal band.
“There are elements of the contemporary, but we blend in aboriginal themes and lyrics.”
As for Handel’s traditional dance with hoops and grass, Bodner says it is not gratuitous: “It seems to me that a lot of bands are throwing in a dancer to make it more Aboriginal. To me, it seems we need more purpose and a particular song.”
Besides that, he says Handel is “an entity unto herself”. She is a businesswoman, very driven, and involved in jewelry, clothing, corporate workshops and broadcasting.
The mandate of Eagle & Hawk may be Aboriginal, but the passion is for rock and roll.
Bodner says he loves watching a good rock show, himself. He wants to know that the performer wants to be there and wants to entertain. Throw in some audience interaction and he says he walks away feeling like he is pals with the performers.
If the performer doesn’t care, then, “That’s boring, man! I can listen to the music at home.
“If performers are sulking and hiding, what is the fun in that?
“We are from the generation where it is a SHOW.
“It’s the best job in the world.
“Me? I like to pride ourselves in audience interaction and, I say this in the most humble way possible, we have some great songs — heartfelt songs — but our audience interaction, humour and connection is really important.
“A few jokes, a little seriousness; we endear ourselves to the audience.”
So, Eagle & Hawk won’t be producing any “dues videos” anytime soon then?
“I think it would be hilarious to do a ‘dues video’,” says Bodner. “Bon Jovi, Dead or Alive, yeah, man, that’s what I wanted to do: life on the bus.
“Some people want [dues videos], but who wants to bitch about rock and roll being so crappy?
“I just feel blessed we can still be in the game. The work part is not fun, but playing live is what I live for; I would die of heartbreak if that stopped.”
Eagle & Hawk was formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1994. At that time, Bodner was in another band. Casually knowing its guitartist, Vince Fontaine, through a musicians’ hockey league and various jams around the city, Bodner knew that Eagle & Hawk had a couple of CDs out and a tour of Europe under its belt.
So, when Fontaine needed a vocalist for another European tour in 1998, he asked Bodner to join.
“They were doing some Top-40 stuff at the time and I knew they were on the scene, but I had never seen them.
“I had been going solo after my band had broken up, but the ‘Europe Carrot’ hanging in front of my nose was tempting.
“And it turned into a dozen years.”
Bodner says he doesn’t know how much longer it will last and, besides, “Rock and roll is feast and famine; not a lot of work in the winter.”
So, he has been working toward his nursing degree and should graduate next year.
But, first, he gets to visit the North: “I’ve never been to Whitehorse; I love the North; there is something about how I feel there; the air, the smell, the landscape.”
Eagle & Hawk will be on the Yukon Arts Centre stage Saturday, Oct. 24, at 8 p.m. Tickets are available at the YAC Box Office and Arts Underground.