I met up with Afie Jurvanen before his show in Brooklyn. While the venue was still empty, save the crew and people from the record label dropping by, we walked out onto the stage. It was flooded with light entirely in pale golds, khaki, tan, and white.
“I think it’s natural for artists to evolve,” later admitted Jurvanen. The stylistic changes were represented in every small detail. It was album release day and Jurvanen and his music under the pseudonym Bahamas had evolved.
“That’s the fun part about being a musician. You get to do whatever you want. There are no rules. We all think of ourselves as capable of doing anything,” Jurvanen shared.
A self-proclaimed un-nostalgic person by nature, the Canadian artist has spent the last few years since his 2014 album finding a way to sing about what is relevant and pertaining to his life right now. “That has the power to connect to people more than if I was singing about hobo-ing on a freight train. That has nothing to do with me.”
What plagues Jurvanen’s mind is a something that has been pushed to the forefront of the greater cultural dialogue – the past couple years especially. Earthtones, in part, addresses the social issues we have all been asked to take sides on.
“Everyday there are seemingly explosive new things we all have to figure out where we stand on,” he elaborated after we made ourselves comfortable in the green room above the stage.
Describing the current social and political climates as charged, Jurvanen thinks it is inevitable that it would seep into his music. Rather than make an overtly political record, Jurvanen has chosen his side. He wants his unique blend of melodically hypnotic music to be a release and an escape from the everyday deluge of divisiveness.
“It’s trying to put positive things out into the world through music. There’s enough of the other thing going on. All the people coming here tonight want to feel good. They want to see something that makes them feel good. It’s nice to be a small part of that.”
His latest single, ‘Bad Boys Need Love Too’ centres around a subject the new father has spent recent time reflecting upon.
“My Dad left before I was born. I never knew him. I, probably like a lot of young boys, just was fucking angry and I got into smoking weed and doing kick flips. Just trying to deal with that anger in a real, but sort of cliche way,”
Jurvanen revealed before praising his mother, who would later be in the audience that night, for being the reason why he never knew he was without anything. “Then I started having kids of my own. One of the great things that happens is you get a second chance to have some insight into your own life,” he explained.
This milestone in his life spurred on a revelation that changed the way he thought about his father. “This idea of ‘bad boys need love too’ came to me. He was a bad boy and he needs the most love of all because he didn’t get it when he was a kid.”
Using those feelings as a jumping off point, Jurvanen realised that these complexities extend further into humanity as a whole. “They may be the heads of companies, some of them get elected to high office in your country. The thing that we can do is just kill them with kindness because you can’t hate the hate out of a hater,” he offered as a solution suggesting that you can both express empathy and compassion without agreeing with a person.
“We’re constantly being pushed to pick sides, either you’re here or you’re there. The reality is, we can call all these people out on their shit which is good, but we can’t just push them aside and pretend they’re on some island. We’re all here together so why not try and do things with compassion.”
While the subject matter was a work of long contemplation and consideration, Earthtones itself came together at a meteoric speed. In fact, most of the album came together in just three days.
“I came away from that feeling super inspired,” Jurvanen recalled. He partnered with two musicians he had long-admired, Pino Pino Palladino and James Gadson. “They’re just really musicians on such a high level. It doesn’t matter the genre or style. They’re not concerned with any of that. It’s all about quality,” he credited the fellow musicians. According to Jurvanen, much of the process was acting and reacting to each other while in the studio in Los Angeles, California.
The rest of the album was finished while on the road with his touring band. On a day off in Prague, they booked a studio and completed the rest of the album. “They fit in very nicely. You can’t even tell how played on what. That’s a testament to them. You’d never know that it was made all over the place. It feels like one, cohesive work.”
That was a little over a year ago. In the meantime, he has been spending his time trying to not listen to it. “I like to work on things when I’m super inspired. The further you get away from that initial inspiration, then it starts to become work. If you just do it in that moment, it feels effortless.”
Now that the album is out, Jurvanen is keen to be back on the road doing what he loves. “I like when I can play and travel with my band,” he mused. He and his fellow band members have grown close over the years. “I feel very lucky to be able to do that. I look forward to it.”
Words by Sarah Midkiff