Band of the Month: Evening Hymns

evening hymns

Evening Hymns‘ front man and songwriter Jonas Bonnetta’s father passed away before his first album, Spirit Guides, was released three years ago. Now as the band releases Spectral Dusk, we are invited into what Bonnetta and his family have gone through since.

The hauntingly beautiful band that’s sometimes based in Toronto (but is signed to a label in Germany) also includes Sylvie Smith and on record and some tours, members of The Wooden Sky, among others. For Spectral Dusk, these musicians took to a cabin in snowy woods, where every bit of their unique take on folk music was vulnerable but ready. It’s an incredibly warm feeling to be welcomed into this circle of trust they’ve formed; you feel like you’re right there with them, sitting in a big leather chair, sipping whiskey and then going for a snowy walk outside as it gets darker. Plus, the album’s filled with carefully and not-so-carefully planned little sound gems, from an ice cube clinking in a cup to hearing yelps off a hill in a distance, enticing you to get your ears even closer to it.

It’s an incredibly emotional and lovely piece of work that showcases great musicianship, writing, and humanity. It will sit in your gut for as long as you let it, but see it as a big, warm blanket being wrapped around you and your loved ones rather than feeling alone in the woods.

Evening Hymns will debut Spectral Dusk on Friday as part of SummerWorks. Tickets are still being sold for the show at the Theatre Centre (at the Great Hall), 9:30 p.m. They’ll be joined by projection artist Sean Frey.

Read our interview with Bonnetta about the album, their sound, and what’s to come.

Dork Shelf: Can you tell us a little bit about the band in general?

JB: We’re a folk/pop band from Toronto. Sometimes we are one person. Sometimes we are a lot more people.

DS: Can you explain the story behind Spectral Dusk and the process of making it?

JB: I made this record to try and understand death. I lost my Dad over 3 years ago and have spent a lot of time thinking about him and our relationship and I explore these thoughts through Spectral Dusk. I wrote these songs and then took my friends up into the snowy woods to record them.

DS: The album has a lot of off-the-floor sounds and field recordings. Which are the most memorable to you, and/or what you think people should look out for?

JB: I like the ice cube popping in the glass of whiskey at the beginning of Spectral Dusk.

DS: How do you hope people will take in the meaning of this album, what they’ll get from it?

JB: I hope it encourages people to talk about loss or if it forces them to think about someone they’ve lost in their lives. Death is a beast. It’s impossible to understand but important to try and find some explanation for.

DS: We know it’s difficult to play these sad songs live. Do you have any tricks for keeping yourself focused and enjoying the experience?

JB: No. They are image-based songs so as soon as I play them I’m right there thinking about him or seeing him. It’s comforting yet sad. When I stop feeling sad playing them then I’ll stop.

DS: Can you explain how your SummerWorks show will go?

JB: There will be a lot of beautiful light and projections by Sean Frey. We will play as a 7-piece and try and play really quietly but really loudly at the same time. Quiet Energy (almost the album title)!

DS: How have you developed your sound? How would you classify it?

JB: I think it’s not too far removed from what I’ve always done. I’m just excited for things to evolve how they do. I feel like they are folk songs dressed up as pop songs. Or vice versa… But I do like experimenting with field recordings and drones to make them more interesting to me.

DS: How do you hope to develop your sound in the future?

JB: I’ll just keep playing. I’m sure that will change things. Hopefully I make a record that isn’t ridiculously depressing too.

DS: What’s it like being a musician in Toronto?

JB: I’m hardly ever here. But it’s nice that there are lots of great bands and musicians around. It’s also nice to be surrounded by a network of great players.

DS: Where do you like to play in Toronto?

JB: In my apartment. And the Music Gallery. I used to like playing on Gavin and Wyatt’s rooftop too but they don’t have that place anymore.

DS: What other local acts do you like?

JB: The Weather Station, Brian Borcherdt (Dusted) and Bry Webb all released records in the last year or two that I haven’t stopped listening to. Oh and I think Doug Paisley is the best. Straight up!

DS: What’s on your Dork Shelf (movies, books, music, games)?

JB: I have a lot of books. Not sure which ones are dorky though. The westerns? About to read Lonesome Dove. Pretty excited about that. I have a sombrero on my wall. That’s pretty tacky looking. And a baseball lamp. I don’t have devil sticks or pogs or anything like that though (anymore)…

DS: What’s next for Evening Hymns?

JB: We have a pretty rad tour lined up for Europe and the UK with The Wooden Sky, who played as our backing band on this record. We’re there for a month and a half running around playing shows. I’m pretty thrilled. They’ll be backing us up each night.

DS: What else should we know about Evening Hymns?

JB: The band is looking for an excellent Finnish sauna in Toronto. Please forward any information.