On April 21, Pugs and Crows landed the Juno for best Instrumental Album of the Year. Pushing the boundaries between folk rock, classical, and instrumental jazz, this award was the result of what each member brings to the ensemble.
Besides being a complete “pain in the ass” when it comes to booking rehearsals, guitarist Cole Schmidt loves that each member has individual projects in addition to Pugs and Crows. “It’s something I probably appreciate the most about the people in this group,” says Schmidt.
Cat Toren, pianist of Pugs and Crows, says this is integral to their band’s eclectic sound. “Being a creative musician, it’s important to follow your own personal path,” says Toren. “I love how five different players with different musical experiences work so well together.”
She adds that these freelancing gigs or side jobs are also what help the band make a living. “At this point if we weren’t freelancing, we would never pay the rent on time.”
Vancouver’s jazz scene has had a dwindling presence, but not without a lack of trying from local musicians, such as Pugs and Crows own Cole Schmidt. Recently, Toren has seen jazz have most success by breaking barriers and expanding into different genres, as Pugs and Crows has shown with the 2012 album Fantastic Pictures.
As for more “standard” jazz? With less funding for festivals and grants, Toren says it seems to be “hard times.” “Things are pretty intimate when the best jazz gig in town is at your local Mexican restaurant,” says guitarist (and spiritual leader) Tony Wilson.
The band has an ongoing joke with producer Chris Genstrin that they set out to win the Juno with Fantastic Pictures. However, this wasn’t the case at all. “We didn’t make any changes to try and make things fit into that box,” says Schmidt. “It’s wonderful to think that someone was listening and obviously very encouraging for us to keep doing whatever the hell we want with our music.”
Pugs and Crows perform at Performance Works on June 21 for the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival. They perform at Electric Owl on June 22.
By Ali OmelaniecBC, British Columbia