Vancouver artist Steve Kozak keeps reeling ’em in with his West Coast approach to the blues

Steve Kozak sounds completely relaxed on this Monday morning.

He really should be. The Vancouver-based bluesman just returned from a late summer fishing vacation to Loon Lake in the B.C. interior.

It was, apparently, incredibly successful, with the trout biting big time, thanks to the forest fires which kept anglers away for much of the summer and also killed off many of the bugs that the finned ones feast upon.

“They seemed pretty hungry,” the fishin’ musician says of the many he reeled in.

Now, though, it’s back to reality for Kozak.

It’s back to Lotusland where the bites are a great deal less frequent for many in the blues community, the number of venues hosting the music having dwindled in recent years, only now getting slightly better.

“There’s a few new venues opening up around here, which is great to see because things were really not looking that good for awhile in this area,” he says pointing to the famed Yale Hotel blues club which shut down six years ago, only to reopen a couple of years back as a country and BBQ bar.

“But I think it’s kind of like that everywhere.”

Well, good thing he’s but a 12-hour drive to a city that has several thriving blues-friendly venues. The latest to open, Mikey’s on 12th, is set to host Kozak and his band for a two-night stand, Friday and Saturday.

The Maple Blues Award-winning, recent Western Canadian Music Award-nominated artist and his crew, which features Dave Webb on piano and Hammond organ, bassist Roger Brant and drummer Chris “The Wrist” Nordquist, will be bringing to town their latest release It’s Time.

The album, released earlier this year, is a superb calling card for the spectrum of the band’s West Coast reading of electric blues, including, covers and originals such as one Kozak composition called, of course, Goin’ Fishin’.

“That’s what we wanted to try and do, to make it sound like the band sounds … just make it a good representation of what we do,” he says of the record and its range.

For that, they headed into Vancouver’s Afterlife Studios, which was once home to famous Mushroom Studios where albums were birthed by everyone from Heart, Sarah McLachlan and Tegan and Sara to SNFU and 54-40.

They did so with Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer member Matthew Rogers as producer and his partner Shawn Hall adding some instrumentation and some suggestions on lyrical content and form.

Kozak says he saw it as “great opportunity” to work with some younger artists to help him bring “a fresher approach” to the record and his sound.

“I’ve known them for a long time when they were first coming up,” he says of the duo, who have now warped from their original blues approach to something a little more alt rock.

“I ran into them again last summer and I got the idea, ‘Man it would be great to work with them,’ so we put a plan into effect (for) when they had time do it … so we waited until the time was right.”

Now it’s time to get It’s Time out to more ears, which Kozak and his band are planning on doing for much of the rest of the year.

That also includes “fairly steady regular bunch of gigs” that he’s set up for himself in Vancouver at some non-traditional venues, making his own opportunities to expand the pool of would-be blues-lovers through such events as his weekly Wednesday Night Blues and Brews at Pat’s Pub and BrewHouse.

Despite the current climate for the music in Vancouver, he’s still able to reel them in.

“I’ve been fortunate. I’ve worked hard at it and I’m fairly persistent,” he says with a chuckle.

A good fisherman always is.

Steve Kozak Band performs Friday, Sept. 22 and Saturday, Sept. 23 at Mikey’s on 12th (918 12 Ave. S.W.).