With the Calgary Folk Music Festival’s annual Block Heater event getting you grooving online this year, theSCENE — while drooling over international artists like Washington State’s Damien Jurado, Mexico’s Maria Mezcal and Irish acts Lisa Hannigan and Saint Sister — decided keep with the theme by shopping local.
We spoke with three Alberta artists who will be appearing at Block Heater, which runs from Feb. 16 to 20 this year.
First up is Calgary act The Lovebullies.
For tickets and more information, including the complete schedule, please go to calgaryfolkfest.com.
Calgary bandmates The Lovebullies offer songs for a fallen friend
While they haven’t gigged since Feb. 29 last year, Calgary’s The Lovebullies met around the campfire at singer/songwriter Caroline Connolly’s rented 70-acre property to rehearse until provincial health orders came crashing down, when the innovative band considered running the PA through their individual car radios so they could stay in their bubbles and hear each other through the speakers.
But staying in bubbles isn’t the forte of this fun, funny, talented group, whose gigs are marked by their teasing cross-talk onstage and their ’60s sense of musicality that matches their homage to miniskirts. Watching the band play is seeing a close-knit group of friends hang out in the way others might get together to watch NHL in the basement.
The Lovebullies’s third album, Friend, in honour of their fallen bandmate Kevin Herring, who died in 2018, will be released this year.
Before their upcoming Block Heater appearance, theSCENE caught up with Connolly and songwriter/guitar player Chantal Vitalis.
Q: What has the last year looked like for you and the band?
Connolly: I was able to occupy the void (normally filled with gigging, rehearsing writing and recording etc.) with my newest creative passion which is painting. I started about six years ago and it has kept me occupied and feeling useful. However, this year has mostly been about hunkering down with my family and getting reacquainted with country living. As strictly a gig worker, most of my revenue streams have been debilitated by COVID. My oldest son came home from the Arctic at the beginning of the pandemic … It’s a silver lining situation. We increased my layer chicken flock in the spring, dug a garden and opened up my property to private camping for folks who couldn’t get into the provincial parks … I’ve used this “slow” time to hold space, ponder (to quote Douglas Adams) life, the universe and everything.
Q: How did you and the band manage to write the songs on Friend after such a stunning loss?
Connolly: Fortuitously, all the material on Friend, which was Kevin Herring’s middle name (Kevin Friend Herring), was written by Chantal and I and mostly recorded before his untimely and tragic passing in 2018, which completely shattered us. Amazing and fortuitously, he had recorded all his guitar parts in the two years before his death so finishing the album mostly meant recording vocals, mixing, mastering etc. Most of the songs on the album were already being played live at our gigs with all five original Bullies. For me, the most challenging part is listening to the tracks and being reminded of what an exceptionally gifted player and beautiful human he was. We still stare at each other gobsmacked when we talk about him. He is insanely missed by us, his community and family. His legacy is indelible, pressed in vinyl but beyond bittersweet.
Vitalis: Finishing the album after Kevin’s passing was so hard but also very therapeutic — we got to spend time with him every time we listened to his parts. He worked so lovingly, so tirelessly on his craft and he loved being in the studio (and) really anywhere he had an excuse to hold a guitar.
Q: The Lovebullies have been around for about a decade now. What does that feel like?
Connolly: After several incarnations and lineups starting in the early 2000s (The Jane West Band, Devil Dolls) The Lovebullies took shape and we played our first public gig, Juno Fest ’08. The band consists of my closest friends and trusted creative partners. At the risk of sounding maudlin, we’ve seen each other through many of life’s tribulations. I’m continually surprised by our longevity, that our audience continues to expand and (by) the fact that my bandmates value me creatively. I am constantly humbled by the calibre of venues, studios and musicians we’ve worked and kept company with over the years. Oh yeah, and all these years later we’re still rocking the miniskirts!
Vitalis: The thing that surprises me the most about this band is that we still don’t have a sponsorship for pantyhose. Do you know how expensive those are?