Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer have been rolling with the punches since they met in 2006. The blues duo have stripped it down to the essentials: Shawn Hall sings the blues, while shredding on the harp as the “The Harpoonist,” while Matthew Rogers tears it up on the axe all the while keeping the stomping beat as “The Axe Murderer.” In 2011, they released Checkered Past, which has proven to listeners that blues is far from dead.
Since the release of Checkered Past, this duo have been on a steady climb to the top.
The 2012 BreakOut West conference proved to be a turning point in the boys’ career, according to Hall and Rogers. Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer played their first show during the conference at the Hells Angels bar in Regina. “We met our booking agent at a Hells Angels Bar on the first night during BreakOut West. It was interesting because it was filled with Angels and there were all these industry people there, too — that show really opened up a lot of doors for us.” reveals Hall.
“It was the first time we had ever been the buzz band. People were talking about us,” adds Rogers.
Since the conference, the duo have celebrated many career moments, such as being in the top 20 finalists in the PEAK Performance Project, being nominated for Blues Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards, the 2013 SiriusXM Indie Awards and the Maple Blues Awards, where they were also nominated for New Artist of the Year. They have played showcases as far as the Toronto Blues Summit, Folk Alliance and SXSW.
Attention from these awards have brought some other unique experiences to their door. Playground caught onto the duo during the PEAK Performance Project and invited them to be a part of their video experience. Playground take venues and turn them into makeshift recording studios, bringing in bands and audiences. As Hall describes the process, “We had an hour to teach 100 people a song, then it was filmed in one take, beginning to end, with no overdubs.”
“It was actually a tiny bit nerve racking, but I think we kind of thrive off it,” adds Rogers.
This year, they will be jetting from coast to coast all summer, playing over 15 music festivals, including Calgary Folk Festival, Montreal Jazz Festival and The Kitchener Blues Festival, where they will be playing alongside artists such as Booker T and the MGs. “It’s really humbling, this is the kind of summer that artists wait for their whole lives. So, we are really really excited for it all,” says Hall.
“The festival I am most excited for is Calgary Folk Festival. I have been there before and I know how awesome they treat their artists,” expresses Rogers.
Hall agrees. “Everyone says its the Cadillac of music festivals.”
Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer will take the stage as part of the Calgary Folk Fest from July 25 to 28.
By Colleen Krueger
Photo: Darko Sikman