INTERVIEW: Lake of Stew brings Canada's best band name and perhaps most unique sound to Rossland Sunday night

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
July 30th, 2010

If ever there was a Canadian band that defied traditional pop sensibilities and set out purely to have fun making music with their friends, it is Lake of Stew. With three albums under their belt, the Montreal band’s music is now being played on CBC radio. Having recently been voted as possessing one of the top ten band names in Canada, The Stew, as they are affectionately known, are keeping the Great White North dancing with a sound truly all their own.

Quite literally the definition of a genre-less band (or perhaps a band that crosses bits of all genres) Lake of Stew produce an acoustic blend of musical flavours they like to refer to as not old-timey, not new-timey but just plain good-timey.

This Sunday evening, the band stops in Rossland on its West to East tour for a backyard show at 2464 Third Avenue. Take a walk down the street and listen for the hoots and hollers of people having a good time and you’ll surely find Lake of Stew doing what they do best: inspiring audiences of all ages to sing, clap, and wiggle along. Admission is by donation. Bring your own lawnchair and/or beverages.

I caught up with the band over the phone before their show in Kamloops to chat about all things Stew.

Tell us a little bit about Lake of Stew. How did you get started? Describe your unique sound?

We got started around 2002 just jamming at Ricky’s place. Rick, his brother Mike, and me used to play in rock bands and there were a few other people hanging around. We lived in an apartment so we started playing acoustic music rather than electric and it just kind of evolved into this country-ish , folky, bluegrass-ish , hodge-podge of styles. Mostly it was just about getting together, singing, and plucking away on whatever strings we could find.

You’ve got a pretty big sound. What’s the current make-up of the band?

Right now there are six of us. It has mutated over time. There were nine or ten at some points, but some people left and some new people came. We’ve had this lineup for three or four years now–the solid six. It’s going really well. We have a one-string gut tube bass, banjo, slide guitar, guitars and whatever else we can find to make noise with.

Three of us, Rick , his brother, and me are from Chateguay, which is a suburb just south of Montreal. Daniel is from even more south than that in a really rural area outside of Montreal. Dina and Julia, the two ladies, are both from Ontario.

CBC ranked you guys as having one of the coolest band names in the country.Where did the name Lake of Stew come from?

Well, the name is kind of fun but really a bit disgusting if you think about it. It’s from an old folk song by Harry Mclintock. His song “Big Rock Candy Mountain” has a verse that says “There’s a lake of stew and of whiskey too/You can paddle all around it in a big canoe/On the Big Rock Candy Mountain.” It seemed like a good idea at the time [laughs]. The name Lake of Stew was Rick’s fault really.

So you’re playing a backyard gig in Rossland this weekend. What’s you connection to Rossland? How did that show come about?

Dina knows those folks. It’s Jesson the bass player from Mark Berube and the Patriotic few that lives in Rossland. She was playing accordion in that band for a while and she’s spent a lot of time in Rossland. When we were coming through she asked if there was a place we could play and they said sure, you can play in our backyard. This is our first backyard garden show. We’ve done a number of house shows before in people’s living room. I suspect it’ll be similar but just outside [laughs].
What are you working on now?
Our third album, Sweet as Pie, came out last November. We’ve been touring on that album and have written a bunch of new songs lately. We’ve got a bunch of old songs we’ve just recorded a few months ago as well. We’ve got enough to make a new album but we’re going to wait on that and see what else we come up with to get the best songs on the new album. We’re hoping to that out for next Spring. We’re going to play some of those new songs this weekend and see what the reaction is and whether we should put them on the record or not. 
Where do you draw your inspiration from for writing new songs?
I find myself being inspired a lot by 1920s jug band music, old weird jazz, cartoon music and stuff like that. Also rock and roll, older rock and roll, and some modern stuff works its way in. 
What have been some of the highlights so far in the eight years as Lake of Stew?
We just played a bunch of shows with Uncle Monk ,which features Tommy Ramone on mandolin. He’s the last surviving member of the original Ramones. That’d be the most recent highlight. Really, the funnest bit of being in the band is just getting to sing with people every day and every night.
You’re on a big West to East tour at the moment. When you’re not playing shows what do you do for fun?
Write and sing some more [laughs]. I usually just write a lot of music and listen to a lot of music. We also play a lot of Magic the Gathering. I don’t know if people know that game. It’s a role playing card game. I have a really nice green monster deck I just started playing with [laughs].

So what can people expect at the show this weekend?

A bunch of weirdos singing some weird songs! They can boogie if they feel like it and sing as much as they want and party with The Stew!
You can see and hear more of the band at www.lakeofstew.ca

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