Alex Maher starts the party 

Vancouver live-looping musician plays several dates at the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub in August

click to enlarge Multi-instrumentalist Alex Maher will be playing a few dates at the Dubh Linn Gate in August, ahead of releasing his new EP. Photo submitted
  • Multi-instrumentalist Alex Maher will be playing a few dates at the Dubh Linn Gate in August, ahead of releasing his new EP. Photo submitted

There is one clear way to determine if your music has struck a chord with Whistler audiences—or, at least Whistler tourists who are very much enjoying their après.

"The Dubh Linn Gate is the only place I've ever had a conga line," says Vancouver multi-instrumentalist Alex Maher.

At first glance, he seems an unlikely candidate to provoke a line dance. For one, at both his past and upcoming Dubh Linn Gate gigs, he's opted to perform solo with his extensive, live-looping set up that incorporates drums, keyboard, guitar, vocals and saxophone.

"A lot of people don't really know what looping is," he says. "People come up and they're like, 'What is this called?' They're called loop artists and they're everywhere now. They range in skill from beginner to professional, like anything else."

Maher first started out playing the alto sax—primarily jazz music—in various bands. But eventually he discovered the Line 6 loop pedal and began to work on solo music, combining funk, soul, hip hop, and jazz. (You can also often find him performing with a version of this set up and a live band.)

His last EP, 2017's Aether, delved deep into tough topics, like depression, loss, and addiction, but still remained upbeat enough to draw people to the dancefloor.

Next up, he's just put the finishing touches on a new album, called Dream Final, that's set for release in February next year.

"Lyrically, it's arguably heavier than the last one," Maher says. "The last one was heavy because it was dealing with personal issues such as depression and things like that. But this has more to do with world issues ... Our crazy political world and our crazy environmental world and all these issues that are basically all happening at the same time."

As an added challenge, Maher received a grant from Creative BC to write, record and produce the record—with the caveat of a deadline.

"I was watching the deadline creep up on me and I only had two songs finished," he says. "I had tons of old songs, but I didn't want to use old songs for this album. I wanted new ones with the lyrical content I was going for. But I didn't want to make it a negative-sounding thing. I wanted it to be a good album to pump even in a party situation."

To that end, he wound up using a method he later learned heavyweights like David Bowie and Radiohead used when writing songs.

"I didn't invent this, but I tapped into this method for making lyrics," Maher says. "It's kind of inspired by refrigerator magnet poetry. I had a stream of lyrics and I literally used a cut-out method to cement my composition for the last three songs of this album ... It totally worked and I cranked out three songs when I had writer's block."

Whistlerites—and conga line-loving tourists—will get a chance to hear some of that new music when Maher settles in for a residency of sorts at the Dubh Linn Gate next month. He's set to play on Aug. 2, 3, 17, 27, and 28.

"It's always a great time," he says. "Whistler is always full of fun-loving listeners."

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