Paris Seymour, better known by her stage name Paris Vagabond Gypsy, is one of a kind. In the year-and-ahalf since the pirate-costumed, bass-playing, ukulele-strumming, singer-songwriter (and one-time burlesque dancer) arrived in the Yukon, she’s formed the Ukes of Hazard and is releasing her first full-length album, Mine to Creep.
Born in Vancouver but raised in Port Hardy, BC, Seymour picked up the ukulele, her signature instrument, at her then-boyfriend’s suggestion. “I was working at a café and my boyfriend at the time brought it in and said, ‘I think you should learn how to play this.’ So I tried it out and instantly I picked up two or three chords, and from there we decided we should go busking in Victoria. I needed an instrument small enough to go busking with.”
After hitchhiking across Canada in 2013, Seymour and her ukulele settled in Whitehorse, where she stands out, both in her voice and dress.
Seymour frequently plays shows in a punk style, with clashing colours and patterns. “My mom probably triggered it,” she says. “She dresses pretty weird herself, she’s British, so there’s probably that weird British punk thing from her I must have picked up. She’s from Camden Town which was like Punk Central.” Other times, her fashion sense tends to the nautical, with tricorn hat and breeches. “When I first moved to Whitehorse, I saw Off the Menu perform, and their drummer Phinnigan dressed as a pirate,” she says. “For some reason that on its own made me think, ‘This is a good place for pirates.’ I already had a pirate costume at the time, one I got from Kitchener, Ontario. Paris the Pirate.”
Despite her look, Seymour’s vocals are a classic combination of vaudeville and 1960s jazz. On her new album, her vocals on the Peggy Lee classic “Fever” stands out, showing the full power and uniqueness of her voice. “In Nanaimo, I was very intrigued by the burlesque performers there and one of the most popular songs the burlesque dancers were dancing with — which I was doing at the time — was “Fever”. It was really easy to play it on the ukulele and I realized fairly quick it was my favourite song to sing, cover-wise.”
It suits her voice as well, the familiar lyrics showing off the power and passion of her singing. For more in this vein, request Etta James’ “At Last”. She sings it amazingly well, but hasn’t recorded it yet.
In the Ukes of Hazard, Seymour is joined by Adam Cripps on bass, Patrick Docherty of The Midnight Sons Band on drums, Jerome Belanger on guitar, and Cain Rogan on saxophone. The songs are playful and light, built on Seymour’s ukulele and lyrics and augmented lightly by Belanger and Rogan’s solos.
The lyrics are playful as well, from the stalker-love title track to the not-safe-for-print jealous anger of “I’m Fine”, to the odes on her first winter in the North, “Stuck in the Snow” and “Here in the Cold”. The album shows that Seymour is an artist to watch as she grows and develops.
The Ukes of Hazard will be holding their album release party, Friday, June 19, at 10 p.m. at the Jarvis Street Saloon, with a $5 cover charge. CDs will be available for sale inside.
Outstanding tracks: “Mine to Creep” and “Fever”.