The third member of road-tripping Americana/soul duo Winnie Brave has fallen ill.
But that’s not stopping Amy and Brad McIsaac from bringing their well-travelled tunes plus music from their upcoming sophomore album to the MAC on Friday, Sept. 29.
After several years and thousands of miles, the ’70s-era Winnebago that the band is named after broke down just outside of Brandon, Man., on Sept. 14, as the McIsaac’s made their way to the next gig on their Cheap Gin Tour.
More than a place to sleep or get them between concerts, the Winnie is the pair’s real home, and has ferried them on a life on the road that’s felt more true to them than any other they’ve had, they said.
“Ironically we did about 15,000 miles last year and we did about 90 dates in the U.S. and Canada,” said Brad. “Covered all the corners of the United States, you know, tons and tons of driving last year in the RV with absolutely no problem, so I guess our luck ran out just outside Brandon.”
“It was very weird to drive away from the motorhome that’s been such a big part of our life,” Amy said of leaving the Winnebago in Brandon. “I was like, ‘That’s our home; we’re driving away from our home.’”
But the duo doesn’t plan to leave the Winnie behind. In a few weeks’ time they hope to return with it fixed up and ready to tour again.
In the meantime, they’re bringing their music to Parksville, with new music that they said reflects their touring far and wide, and seeing so much of North America.
It was in late 2012 that Amy and Brad decided they needed to do something else with their lives. Working full time and not seeing much of each other, “life in general was not how we wanted it to be, so we were like, ‘Well, let’s put the house up for sale and see what happens,’” said Amy. “The house sold within 24 hours.”
Evidently the time was right, so they bought a truck and a trailer and hit the road, going 7,000 kilometres in three months, mostly in the U.S.
After another attempt at settling down by opening a guitar shop, they soon found they were hooked on their musical life on the road.
“It was a couple years in the making,” said Amy. “We bought the old Winnebago, we really worked hard to get her into running shape and we re-did all the inside to make it comfortable … then the date came and we pulled up anchor and away we went. So that’s what we were doing up until Brandon.”
With a debut album released in 2013 full of references to the U.S. and Canada, the pair say they don’t notice a whole lot of difference crossing the border.
“It almost feels like the opposite of building a wall,” said Brad. “Other than the legal logistics of travelling across the border, it really doesn’t make a marked difference between what we see in parts of Canada and what we see in the United States in terms of people and places.”
“Every town is a little bit different,” added Amy.
Their perspective from the road has also contributed to the evolution in their music for their second album, coming out in October.
Though they say they don’t often aim to hit certain genres, they’ve moved from a singer/songwriter, Bob Dylan vibe to music that’s easier to dance and bop your head to, they said.
While keeping an alt-rock, Toronto sound, they’ve added ’50s pop influences, and turn-of-the-century gospel, said Brad.
The effort to produce some more dance-friendly, easy-listening music comes from wanting to get a wider audience energized with their music, while particular inspiration has often come from what they’ve seen on the road.
One song from their new record depicts the deserts of New Mexico, West Texas and Arizona — an area they’d never seen, said Brad.
“While there may not have been a genre to inspire, there was certainly a landscape that inspired sort of a sonic feeling. If you listen to that song, it’s this windy, liquidy, constantly moving sound. There’s no stops and starts. It’s just sunrise to sunset, a day in the desert type of sound.”
While Brad said the optimal way to hear their upcoming album may be while driving, they are nonetheless excited to return to Vancouver Island and bring their sound to the MAC on Friday, Sept. 29, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Tickets are $18, or $15 for OCAC members.