The weather outside on Bloor Street West is cold and damp, but inside there’s warm talk of perogies by a gas fireplace in the Future Bakery.
Multi-nominated folk rock band the Strumbellas was days away from winning the Roots and Traditional Album of the Year – Group award at the Juno Awards March 30 in Winnipeg, for their work on We Still Move on Dance Floors.
They were nominated in the same category in 2013 for the album My Father and The Hunter.
They have plans to tour the U.S. this year, but through their discussion following an early-morning performance on Canada AM, there’s a spring shower of jocularity.
“We’re really taking the idea seriously of having a video of which of the Strumbellas competition of who can eat the most perogies,” vocalist-guitarist Simon Ward says, his eyes wild underneath shaggy hair that blends into a beard. “That’s where I’m
putting my artistic focus.
“It’s going to be showcased at the Juno gala. Robert Redford is going to be playing me.”
The group banters over guitarist Jon Hembrey’s bold claim that he can eat 40 chicken McNuggets, which stems from the talk of food.
“It all started out because the guy behind, all he does is on this tour,” Ward says, his hand miming a talking mouth. “He says, ‘Oh I can eat 40 chicken McNuggets, no problem’.
“Every time we go anywhere he talks a big game, and then he backs out. Now it’s on video.”
Hembrey retorts: “The 40 nuggets thing, I’ve never tried that in the U.S. But I promise you all, I will try to eat 40 nuggets.”
The rest of the band — drummer Jeremy Drury, violinist Isabel Ritchie, vocalist-keyboardist David Ritter and bassist Darryl
James — all join in on the debate.
Ward balks, turns and asks, “Did you get that on tape?”
More laughter follows, then a story emerges about how Hembrey attempted to eat a six-patty Baconator, and his subsequent cheating by stowing one of the patties in Ward’s minivan while on tour.
Ritchie smiles. Shrugs her shoulders.
“The Strumbellas are not so much about the music, but more about eating contests,” she says, with a wry grin.
The troupe made their way to Winnipeg’s MTS Centre for the 43rd annual Juno Awards event.
Ahead of time, they were admittedly nervous, but modest. They were nervous only because they would have to wait through most of the awards ceremony to hear if they had won.
“We’re only like the second last thing that they announce,” James says. “So there’s no point in thinking about it, even when you get there, because you have to wait the whole ceremony to get to ours.”
Ward exposes his sense of humour, again.
“[We’re] feeling really good about it. I don’t have anything to wear.”
Then, with a smirk hidden beneath his beard, he adds: “I can’t afford any clothes, so I’m going to wear what you see on me.”
Ritchie defines his wardrobe for him: “A Canadian tuxedo,” she says, pointing to his jeans and red flannel shirt.
Growing more serious, she says the band is “really excited” about the Juno Awards event, and mentions that they’ll also be playing a show.
“The whole experience of it last year was really fun, and we’re super excited to do it again,” she says.
To that, Ward responds with one final flourish.
“We’re going to go try and create as much of a raucous as we can — crashing parties, knocking stuff over wherever we go, picking fights,” he says. “Classic Strumbellas stuff.”