Canada’s Yukon territory’s capital is Whitehorse, from which indie-rock outfit The Dark Fruits hails. The Dark Fruits recently dropped their second album, Warm Weather Starter Pack, revealing a sound described as ‘authentically northern with a quirky, universal appeal.’
Made up of Jeff Wolosewich (songwriter, vocals, keyboards), Tara Martin (drums, vocals), and Jordy Walker (guitars, bass, synth), The Dark Fruits are not your typical twenty-something indie-rock band. They’re a bit older – real people with real jobs and families. And their music is not only innovative but balanced and well-structured.
The band’s name – The Dark Fruits – alludes to the fact that people, and even rock bands, can get better with age – just like brown bananas are perfect for banana bread.
CelebMix spoke with vocalist/keyboardist Jeff Wolosewich to delve into the inspiration for Warm Weather Starter Pack.
What inspired your new album, Warm Weather Starter Pack?
Our first album was a real psychological breakout for me as a songwriter. After playing live and getting the feedback we got, I was inspired to see how our sound could evolve. Our live shows encouraged me to write songs for an album that is dynamic, lyrically engaging, and surprising, yet also ‘a vibe’ to listen to. We also wanted to reflect our reality of living in the far North while also appealing to a broader audience. A lot of the lyrics are inspired by Yukon people and places but in disguise. Our first single off the album, ‘Florida,’ for example, describes a trip to Florida, but is actually more about coming home.
How and when did The Dark Fruits get together?
It started with me meeting Jordy, our guitar player, and multi-instrumentalist, at a kid’s birthday party about 8 years ago. I had some old songs and found out Jordy was a total pro – playing with Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire among others – and had a record studio at his home down the street in Whitehorse. Since then, we’ve been through a bass player and a drummer, but now that Tara Martin has joined us on drums, we feel pretty stable with her.
My research into Whitehorse revealed its population is around 30,000. What’s the music scene like in Whitehorse?
Not only 30000 people live here, but we’re also surrounded by wilderness on all sides. The Yukon itself is about the size of France and has only 40,000 people total in it. As go the lyrics in the opening track, ‘California Beach,’ we live on ‘the margins of our civilization.’ That said, the music scene is surprisingly active and diverse. We have a few decent live venues in town and hosted Breakout West/Western Canadian Music Awards in 2019. It was a total party, and we got to play live for some great crowds. It’s over two hours to fly to Vancouver, so touring is tough on bands from the Yukon. You might be surprised how many undiscovered diamonds in the rough play up here.
Let’s talk gear for a moment. What kind of guitar, amps, and pedals are you using?
Most of the crunchy guitars were a 1973 Gibson SG Special, which is a cool guitar because usually SG specials have P90 pickups but the mid-70s ones had these amazing sounding mini humbuckers which give it a bit more brightness and edge. Amps: three different amps – all Roly Mitton custom hand-wired ‘60s Fender replicas. Roly is a local legend who hand-wires amps in town. One was a Vibrolux, one was a Twin, and one was a Champ.
Do you use any special recording techniques in the studio?
One of the inspirations for sound direction on this record was ‘Odessey and Oracle’ by The Zombies. They used mellotron for a lot of their interesting flute/string sounds. That record was recorded just a few weeks after The Beatles did ‘Strawberry Fields,’ and they used the same mellotron that you hear at the beginning of that song. The mellotron is interesting because it used actual taped recordings of instruments that could be played by a keyboard. Nowadays, a sampling pack and a MIDI keyboard will do the same trick, which is how we got some of the interesting non-guitar sounds on our record. The first track, ‘California Beach,’ is a good example of that, where the string/flute sounds are manipulated with pitch bend to create an otherworldly vibe.
How did you get started in music?
Probably a combination of singing in school plays as early as grade 3, playing tuba in high school, and learning guitar from my dad. Although I think we all get started much earlier than that. When my first son was still in the womb and showing to be breech late in the pregnancy, my partner played Bach under her belly with a small speaker. That night, he squirmed for hours until he got his head down, so he wasn’t breech anymore and could be delivered safely. It’s like he wanted to get closer to the Bach. So I think I probably got started in music that early, too, although my mom preferred Pat Boone over Elvis, which is worrisome.
If you had to explain your sound to the uninitiated, what would you say?
I would refer to The Flaming Lips, the Kinks, the Zombies, Tom Petty, the Cars, and even Paul McCartney, songwriting-wise. It’s my voice that is different. I’ve learned to sing softer and with more dynamic range and I think that impacted the record a lot. It’s heavier at times, but there’s always a chill vibe.
Did your sound evolve naturally, or did you deliberately push it in a certain direction?
Certainly, there’s a lot of natural evolution, but we were at a crossroads after the first album: do we go synth-focused more like The Cars or do we go guitar-focused like The Kinks? We ended up focusing on guitars, although Jordy always finds a way to add synth sounds to his guitar, and the mellotron sounds still gave us a sonic weirdness to access, while maintaining a ‘real sound’ feel.
What can you share about your writing process?
It’s basically putting in time on the guitar, taking risks with chord progressions and melody ideas, and listening intently. I’ll start playing and listening. Like I’m listening to the radio, except it’s me, and I’m making stuff up. It can take some time, but eventually you like what you hear, and you start piecing things together. The melody comes early, and the lyrics come late.
Which artists in your opinion are killing it right now?
Aside from Taylor Swift? One album that has recently blown me away was Nell Smith singing with The Flaming Lips on the trippy ‘Where the Viaduct Looms,’ an album made up of a bunch of Nick Cave songs. Her voice is simply amazing, and she was only 14 when she did that record. Some of the echo you hear in my voice on ‘Warm Weather Starter Pack’ was inspired by that record.
How do you define success?
Individually, it’s finding a way to be happy. More broadly, though, it’s about the quality of my relationships. With my family, my friends, new people I meet, and fans. I can write a song and keep it to myself, love it, and call that success. But when I bring it to the band, record it, release it, and that leads to new conversations and deeper relationships along the way, it’s a new kind of success. Our video for our first single, ‘Florida,’ is a good example of that. It’s made up of a bunch of archival footage from the ‘30s-‘60s in the Yukon, and sharing it has brought so many people out of the woodwork who are now connecting with the band. They recognize these people in the video – someone said, “I seen my mama!” when we shared it to different groups of Yukoners through our socials. Those connections are so rewarding for us and help us find new ways to define success.
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