By Lauren Donnelly
It’s been a trial by fire for Vancouver based folk-rock group Echo Nebraska. Just under two years ago, the band lost bassist and founding member Gunn Park to cancer. They’ve held up to that painful change, and their upcoming sophomore release, Hold Up to the Fire, reflects the period of transformation for the band.
The band’s first ever LP afforded them an opportunity to try out a new sound. Vocalist and guitarist Devan Christodoulou co-wrote this album with producer Jeff Dawson (Daniel Powter, Holly McNarland).
“Jeff was really good about just cutting out some of the fat from the songs,” says guitarist and keyboardist Andy Schichter. “He helped get to the essential core of the songs, tightening up melodies and verses.”
Drawing from his experience working with more mainstream acts, Dawson provided invaluable insight for the band to help them reach new audiences.
“It was just about finding that balance of making a record that we as musicians like listening to, but that can also be maybe a little more commercially accessible,” says Schichter.
Schichter also credits the full-length album format with giving the band freedom to mix it up.
“Having 10 songs to work with, as opposed to an EP, you have a bit more leeway,” Schichter says. “If we were doing an EP, it’s possible it could have been a bit more focused in one direction.”
Much has changed since they released EP Send the Ships in 2015, and the impact of Park’s death reverberates throughout the album, but his presence is palpable on Hold up to the Fire. The first track, “New Disguise,” was one of Park’s favourite songs to play live, and Christodoulou wrote the title track a few weeks after Park passed away. For the band, this album was – and continues to be – an important part of the grieving process.
“I know a couple of the songs – some of the newer ones that were written after Gunn passed away – are kind of more upbeat,” says Schichter “Devan writes more sad, mellow songs, but for the first time he started to write songs that were a bit more positive and upbeat. And I know that had to do with Gunn.”
The message on this record is one of perseverance, love, and optimism grown out of incredible loss. It’s a message that Echo Nebraska will take to the road this month on the first of two summer tours. After a Canadian tour, they hope to take their album to the rest of the world – and given their determination and resilience, there’s no doubt they will.
Echo Nebraska play their album release show June 16 at the Roxy.andy schichter, daniel powter, devan christodoulou, echo nebraska, folk rock, gunn park, hold up to the fire, holly mcnarland, jeff dawson, send the ships