Life in the Van Lane

It’s a band in transition – in more ways than one.

When Gordie Tentrees sent an e-mail promoting a northern tour by some friends he had met at music festival last summer, the group was called Jesse Dee and Jacquie B.

Three days later, it still was – complete with a website in that name.

By that afternoon the website, and the name, had changed.

“We just recorded a brand new record that’s going to be released under a new name, and you’re actually the very first person that we’re going to tell the new name to,” Jesse Dee explained on a Skype call from the top of Kickinghorse Mountain in B.C.

“We just decided today that we’re going to let it out of the bag.”

The new name, Picture the Ocean, comes from the lyrics of one of the songs on the new CD, which will be released in May.

When Jesse Dee and Jacquie B. (they prefer to use their stage names) teamed up with a new drummer, Matt Blackie, they decided to change both the name and their style of music.

When a campaign inviting fans to come up a new name fizzled, someone recommended they look through their lyrics. They found what they wanted in an unreleased song called “Being Me,” written last summer while they were on tour in Tofino. B.C.

“This tour coming up there is the first time we’re using this new name and transitioning into this new thing.”

The group’s sound, with Jesse on guitar and Jacquie on keyboards, accordion and “a mean tambourine” and all three members singing, was already in transition.

“The music has been changing slowly over the last year and a half. I would say that we’re starting to be not as much of a quotes “roots/folk band” as we have been.

“It ranges through so many different styles that it just got thrown into the roots category,” Jesse explains

“Now it’s got very little to do with roots. It’s electric guitar with a lot of organ and piano, and drums.Not really anything too rootsy about it.”

It was at a music festival near Fort St. James in B.C. last year that they met and became “instant friends” with Tentrees.

When he offered to put together a Yukon tour for them, including a jaunt into Alaska, they were quick to accept.

“We just got our visas approved a couple of days ago, so we will be going into Alaska,” the guitarist and lyric-writer says.

“He [Tentrees] did everything. We’re so lucky.”

The three musicians are also in transition in another sense.

“We’re all actually officially homeless.”

So, what does that look like?

“It looks like a silver 2005 Grand Caravan, packed full of gear. Yeah, we travel all the time. None of us have actually had a place to live since the end of September,” he explains.

“Even when we did have places to call home, we were never really home, so that was why we uprooted ourselves. It wasn’t really too hard.”

Life in the van lane can yield some interesting surprises, such as a last-minute invitation to add a show in the remote Yalakom Valley to their B.C. tour.

The directions, scrawled on a napkin, consisted of “just a set of assurances that we were going the right way,” Jesse relates.

“We’re pulling a trailer with the minivan on a gravel road on the side of a mountain. It was just totally treacherous.”

When they finally arrived at “basically an old hippie commune” in the middle of nowhere, they were greeted by a Cuban named Kimilche.

“He immediately took us into his pantry and gave us Cuban cigars and welcomed us into his home.”

The show, with 150 people packed into a backyard, turned out to be the best of their three-month tour, Jesse says.

“We’ve played a lot of great shows and been treated really well by a lot of people, but this was pretty over the top.”

Besides a number of house concerts, Picture the Ocean will perform at the Gold Pan Saloon in Whitehorse on March 9 and 10 before appearing in Dawson City on March 11.

They will also do two shows with Tentrees on March 21 and 23, the first at an undetermined Whitehorse venue, the second at the Bakery in Crag Lake.

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