Sam Roberts Band heats up Pemberton Music Festival 

With a new EP, Counting the Days, the multi-Juno winners perform at Pemby and in Whistler

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Feel the heat Sam Roberts Band are performing at the Pemberton Festival on Thursday, July 16, and at a free concert at Whistler Olympic Plaza on Wednesday, July 15.
  • Photo submitted
  • Feel the heat Sam Roberts Band are performing at the Pemberton Festival on Thursday, July 16, and at a free concert at Whistler Olympic Plaza on Wednesday, July 15.

Sam Roberts has been experiencing a little Cuban heat, which ought to prepare him nicely for Pemberton.

The Montreal musician and his eponymous band were brought to Havana by the Canadian government as part of the celebration of 70 years of unbroken diplomatic ties and friendship between Canada and Cuba.

"Late June in Cuba is pretty warm," the six-time Juno Award winner says.

"They threw a big party in the middle of this historic square in Old Havana, and we got to play outdoors in this music festival. It was an amazing experience. Hopefully we've started a friendship with the people in Cuba and we can go back.

"There were a few stray Canadian travellers who stumbled upon the show. Afterwards, they asked us what we were doing there."

The Sam Roberts Band performs at the Pemberton Music Festival on Thursday, July 16.

The band is also performing at a free concert at Whistler Olympic Plaza on Wednesday, July 15, with The Glorious Sons, Basecamp and The Will Ross Band.

The concert starts at 4:30 p.m.

Roberts brought the band to the very first Pemberton Festival in 2008.

"I'm glad we get to go back out there," he says.

"I like to see bands coming from other parts of Canada, other parts of the world, coming out there and see the looks on their faces when they get on stage and play in a place that is that beautiful."

Alongside Roberts' singing and guitar playing are Dave Nugent (lead guitar), Eric Fares (keyboard, guitar), James Hall (bass), Josh Trager (drums), and Chet Doxas (horns).

His music remains popular as much for its progressive lyrics as it is for its rocking style.

In the run-up to Canada's federal election in October, the New Democratic Party is currently using his song "We're All in This Together."

"The song acknowledges some truths about the world we live in, some of the harsh realities we face. The real message of it is that the only way forward is to do together," Roberts says.

"We are incredibly good at creating buffers between us all. Less good at seeing that the way forward is as one force.

"That to me is not a protest but is a truth. We need to not just acknowledge it, but we need to implement it to live."

The band's latest work is the Counting the Days EP, which was released in April.

Roberts says the songs on it didn't find a place in their most recent full album, Lo-Fantasy, which came out in 2014.

"There were certain elements that we were really into, but we couldn't find a way to fit them into Lo-Fantasy. They seemed to have their own life and the EP was a way to give them some shape and context to those songs," Roberts says.

"There is a growing sense of freedom with every record that we make. Once you get through those first two or three albums, you feel you have some traction in your career, and you are willing to go through those ebbs and flows in terms of your relationships with your fans."

Counting the Days was described as an experimental EP by some reviewers, but Roberts doesn't agree.

"Not to say that we don't take risks or push ourselves creatively, but to call something experimental means that we sort of threw things into a petri dish and expected some weird new thing to grow out of it," he says.

"We've always been comfortable with changing directions and changing tacks. In some ways, the format of this EP maybe makes it feel more experimental because it's more condensed. There is a beginning, middle and end within five songs. In my mind, the parts that we left off Lo-Fantasy, we really wanted it to feel like a cohesive listening experience from front to back."

The EP was also an opportunity to get back into the studio sooner rather than later following the release of Lo-Fantasy.

"I think that there was a lot of the motivation behind the EP, to give these extra songs a place to live. It was great to get back in the studio so soon after releasing a record, rather than simply being on the road for a year and a half and putting the creative side of things into hypersleep, until you have the time and freedom to start working on new music," Roberts says.

"I was glad we could break that up. It reinvigorated our tour as well."

That tour will take in the Calgary Stampede, as well as performances in Ottawa this summer.

"It's basically a full summer of festivals and travelling. For any band in Canada that plays on the festival circuit, you know that you're on the East Coast one minute and the West Coast the next. It's like a pinball machine and that is the summer. There's a huge thunderstorm in one place and a drought in another," Roberts says.

"The deeper your career goes, the more you have access to these other places. They may have seemed far-flung but all of a sudden you go there three or four times. You build friendships and you recognize the sights and landmarks. They become familiar in a way that I never thought would happen."

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