Winter Warmth from Bahamas

In the cold of February, Whitehorse is due for some well-deserved warmth from Bahamas.

Not from a misdirected trade wind, but from the musical act of that name that’s blowing into town for this weekend’s Frostbite Music Festival.

Bahamas is the brainchild of Toronto guitarist and singer Afie Jurvanen, who comes with solid credentials playing back-up for a host of well-known artists.

“I’ve played in lots of bands,” he explains modestly. “For six or seven years, I’ve played in other people’s bands and I’m comfortable doing that.”

Those bands include some of the top acts in Canadian music today. He’s lent his distinctive style to the likes of Jason Collett, Sarah Harmer, Amy Millan, Zeus and Leslie Feist. It’s his guitar line that makes up the bridge on Feist’s song Sea Lion.

“When I’m playing in other people’s bands, I have little artistic control,” he says by phone from his Toronto home. “But when I’m singing in my own bands I do have. I’m singing the lyrics I’ve written, which is quite meaningful for me. It’s something I take really seriously. It’s worked out nicely.”

Nicely is an understatement.

His 2009 solo album, Pink Strat, on which he plays most of the instruments, with Feist providing some guest vocals, made the Polaris Long List for 2010, and earned a Juno nomination for Roots Album of the Year (Solo).

Jurvenan brushes off such honours.

“I’m kind of oblivious to all that. It’s not my own creation, so it’s not what I’m thinking about,” the 29-year-old Barrie, Ontario native says.

“I’m grateful to be in the company of some really great albums. But what’s important is to keep your stick on the ice, keep doing what you’re doing and stay cool.”

It was while recording the Pink Strat album in a cabin in North Ontario, that Jurvenan came up with the name Bahamas.

“It was a very relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. I have a weird name and didn’t want to keep shouting it so people would say it right,” he says.

“I had a couple of ideas on band names, and there were plenty of moments recording we really felt like a band. It conjures up nice images.”

The name Bahamas also conjures up his distinctive cover of Wreckless Eric’s Whole Wide World, which he plays with a vaguely calypso feel. “Maybe she’s in the Bahamas, where the Caribbean seas are blue…”

Bahamas’ performance at Frostbite will mark his first time in the Yukon.

“I’m willing to go places other bands don’t. There aren’t many opportunities to go to places like Whitehorse. I’m going to take in ice fishing and get an experience of the city.”

Playing with Jurvenan is Jason Tait, who also plays drums with Winnipeg’s The Weakerthans.

“His band has been taking it easy lately, so he’s been able to tour with me,” Jurvanen says. “It’ll be just guitar and drums, but we’ll make as much noise as ever.”

Frostbite runs from Friday, February 18 to Sunday, February 20.

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