The Concordian spoke with Jonas Bonnetta, the folk singer-songwriter at the heart of Evening Hymns, ahead of his show at Le Cagibi on Saturday.
The Concordian: What does Evening Hymns mean?
Jonas: When I chose that band name it was meant to create a quiet place.
C: When did you start working with Sylvie Smith on Evening Hymns?
J: I knew her from her old band, Habitat. We met three or four years ago when I was recording the song “Western Roads” as a solo artist, and I asked her to sing on it because I knew she had a nice country voice. It sounded really good, and we realized we should write more music together.
C: Your father recently passed, what kind of relationship did you have with him?
J: It was great, he was an awesome dad, couldn’t ask for anything more. After I graduated high school he bought a trucking company and I worked with him there for 6 years. We were business partners. And then he bought a sawmill, and I worked there for years. I didn’t go away to university. I drove to work with him every day. I took care of him. We were really close.
C: What does your latest album, Spectral Dusk, mean to you?
J: First of all, it was for me, my mum, my two brothers and sister. We are all really pleased with it. It’s a snapshot of my dad. That’s really all that I was concerned with. But every show we play, someone comes up to me saying that they really connected to it because they’d lost somebody. It’s 50 minutes of something peaceful and gentle to think about; to cherish the people you’re close to that are still alive and think about the people you’ve lost. I don’t think of it as dark, it’s more light. It’s a 50 minute reflection, more so on life than death.
C: Evening Hymns has toured more in Europe than at home, in Canada. Why?
J: We released a record in France. This really great magazine there, Magic Magazine, reviewed our first album and a label heard it, liked it and asked us to re-release it there. We then toured in France, all through Europe. There’s a bit of a ‘thing’ for Canadian music over there. I think we got in at the right time there. The right people heard us, we got lucky. The more you tour physically, the more your audience grows. But now we’re focusing on Canada. This is only our second full tour across Canada.
C: What hole, if any, does music fill for you in life?
J: It’s my main creative outlet. I don’t necessarily want it to be my 100 per cent job. It would be nice if I could make enough money for me to take long chunks of time off to write and record, but I like working. I like having jobs to do. I probably will for the rest of my life, even if music does start paying a little bit more. I think working is important. I love working with wood. If I find work for a couple months doing that in between tours, it’s not a bad thing. It’s good; it helps me grow as a person aside from music.
C: What is it you like about working with wood?
J: I think it’s nice having something tangible to work with. I grew up in the woods and I have a nice connection to the woods. The smell of it and the way it works is amazing. It always makes me feel comfortable.
C: Why has Evening Hymns remained, at its core, a duo?
J: It just makes sense logistically to keep it stripped down. Can’t afford to bring a full seven piece band across Canada. We are touring as a four piece band when we come to Montreal. I don’t really have an interest in recreating the record live, as a full band, we already recorded it that way. I want to continue to change it and keep it interesting for us. If I have to perform for two thirds of the year, the last thing I want to do is play the same thing every night. Its nice for us to try and reinvent the songs. Its fun and challenging.
Trial track: “Arrows”
Evening Hymns play Le Cagibi on Saturday, Nov. 24.