It would certainly be easier to hire a full band instead of doing it all themselves as a duo, but Shawn Hall and Matthew Rogers say they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The two make up The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, and they’re garnering attention around the country with their raw, captivating blues.
“The idea was, lets get back to simpler music and see if we can strengthen ourselves as songwriters and be able to engage people just with two people,” said Hall, who lives in Nanaimo.
The duo has recently been nominated as Entertainer of the Year for the Maple Blues Awards, Canada’s national blues awards program. Hall has also been nominated as Harmonica Player of the Year.
The band is playing at the Errington Hall this Saturday, Nov. 30 at 8 p.m.
Hall grew up in the Toronto area and has spent the last decade in Vancouver. A year and a half ago he moved to Nanaimo. He said he’s been into the blues since he was about 13 or 14, around the time he got a harmonica for Christmas from his Grandma. Shortly after he started sneaking out to “greasy blues joints” in Toronto to watch great harmonica players perform. In high school he played the instrument in a band and played the big clubs and universities around town. In his 20s he decided to give the harp a rest for a while, he said.
“I didn’t think I could cut it on harp,” he said. “I didn’t think it was enough to make a living on.”
After going to school for audio recording and engineering, Hall decided to do a free jingle for a Jamaican pizza joint in East Vancouver and brought Rogers in to play the guitar. The jingle got radio play as Hall had intended, but that career idea ended there, Hall said. Luckily the project enabled Hall to meet Rogers and the two became fast friends, beginning a number of projects together. The two formed The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer nearly seven years ago.
The harpoon gets its name from a line out of Kris Kristofferson’s song Bobby Mcgee — “I took my harpoon out of my dirty red bandana” — and the guitar is also known as an axe in the musical world. Hall said they love the name but thought of changing it a few years back as some people thought it was a bit much. But Hall said he likes it because “it’s not a fluffy hipster ironic name.”
“A lot of bands that have these ridiculous ironic names with nothing behind them, no weight behind it,” he said.
Hall is the lead singer and plays the harp and foot percussion in the duo, while Rogers sings back up, plays both bass and rhythm guitar on one guitar, and plays kick drum with his right foot and the snare drum with his left foot.
Hall said the duo has a full band sound and they don’t do any looping.
“What you see is what you get,” he said.
The band has had a busy year travelling to Australia to represent the Canadian Independent Musician’s Association and playing 17 festivals across the country, with one stop in the United States. Even though that schedule was a bit gruelling it was worth it, Hall said.
“When you finally get your stride and people start catching on to what you’re doing you have to answer the call,” he said.
The duo is currently working on its fourth album and next year the two plan to tour Australia, and Europe.
To duo needs online votes to win their categories in the Maple Blues Awards. Visit www.mapleblues.ca to cast a vote.
Tickets for the show at the Errington Hall are $20, find them at Cranky Dog Music in Parksville, at the Errington Hall, and Heaven on Earth in Qualicum Beach. Tickets are $5 for 12 and under at the door, and those under five years of age are free.
For more on the Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer and to watch videos and hear music samples visit: www.harpoonistaxemurderer.com.