From left: Mack Shields, Keith Rodger, Kurt Loewen, Ian Griffiths and Paul Wolda from Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra are headed to Errington hall on April 6 with an ecclectic, Eastern-European dance music stylings. — Amy Braun photo

Five-man band to bring east euro stylings to Errington

Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra to perform April 6

A Victoria-born band will bring dance, gypsy and flamenco-inspired stylings from Europe to Errington War Memorial Hall on Friday, April 6.

Five-man band Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra (TMO) is made up of singer-guitarist Kurt Loewen, singer-accordionist Ian Griffiths, singer-percussionist Paul Wolda, fiddler Mack Shields and bassist Keith Rodger. Together, they bring a variety of sound, from the slow and haunting, to the soft and beautiful, to energetic and even frenetic klezmer-style tunes.

Begun around 2006, the band was more of a collective when it started out, said Loewen.

“Ian and Paul had met in university, and then a bunch of other friends joined the band, I think as many as seven of us at some point, and we basically wanted to have a lot of fun and play dance party music in the, I guess, Eastern European motif. Kind of by the end of that year, we were a solid five,” Loewen said.

Those influences came partially from Griffiths, who had learned flamenco music in Spain, a style that has some gypsy roots. A former singer contributed the music from his Russian-Jewish background.

Though the result might be an unconventional form of dance music in North America, it’s nonetheless become the band’s style. They’re bringing that style to Errington for the first time, although the group has long toured the Island, Alberta and elsewhere.

The band’s recent efforts have been especially true to their art, said Loewen, in part due to a change they made five years into the band’s life — going from throwing themselves into the music business machine to spending more time on the music and less time trying to do what’s expected of them to “make it.”

Four band members live in different parts of the West Coast, and one is in Edmonton, but they get together to jam and to go on tour anywhere from three to 10 months out of the year, said Loewen.

“People have other lives and other occupations, both within and outside of music,” he said.

“Although you get other opportunities by being a strict part of the music industry, you also have to sacrifice a lot of things to hit those marks. I think what I have learned from taking a step away from it — though you can’t be completely outside of it — I think it’s really allowed us to be more focused on our music and our art rather than the business side of it.

“I think that, as a result, the last three years specifically, our music has really flourished.”

Another part of that is arriving at a solid, creatively open group of five that gets along well.

“The new band, with Keith and Mack in it, the last four or five years… everybody is really nice to each other, everybody communicates really clearly, everybody is in a really good head space,” Loewen said.

That has meant a variety of styles comes out of the band’s work, with members bringing new and different ideas. If they work for the band, they do the song, Loewen said. The band’s latest offering, a five-song EP, shows that variety.

Asked what the band hopes to inspire in their audiences, Loewen said TMO seeks to create a safe space where people can be themselves and have a good time. “We always do; every time we play, we have a great time,” he said.

“We bring a lot of ourselves to the stage and we bring a lot of our hearts and a lot of our experiences into all the music that we play.”

Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra performs at 8 p.m. at Errington hall (1390 Errington Rd.) on Friday, April 6. Tickets are $20 from Cranky Dog Music in Parksville, Heaven on Earth Natural Foods in Qualicum Beach or at the Errington General Store.

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