When Cod Gone Wild comes to Quesnel for the first time next week, it will be a celebration of the band’s latest album, of its evolution and of its ability to blend various musical backgrounds to create a unique Celtic-inspired sound.
The Cods, as the band is also called, are recognized as one of Canada’s top Celtic acts, and they will be performing Thursday, Oct. 18 at the Occidental.
When lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Mercer moved from Newfoundland to B.C. in 2009, he brought with him a passion for Newfoundland, the rich culture and the deeply-rooted music he grew up with. Mercer’s East Coast roots blend with the other band members’ classical, folk, rock and jazz backgrounds to create “a dynamic and unique sound that instantly connects and resonates with audiences,” according to a press release.
Joining Mercer are musicians Susan Aylard (fiddle), a classically trained violinist who also currently performs with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra and has performed in venues all over the world; Sean Bray (electric guitar), a well-respected guitarist who studied at the Manhattan School of Music and was named one of Canada’s top 50 guitarists of all time by CBC Radio; Martyn Jones, an accomplished studio and live bassist who has over 60 album credits to his name and an Aboriginal Music Award-winning album with Art Napoleon; and David Mihal, a studio drummer for artists all over the world who has toured with the likes of Rita Chiarelli, Shawne Jackson (Domenic Troiano), Oliver Jones and Refugee forerunner Michael Fury.
“What’s great about the band is everyone comes from different genres,” Mercer said in a recent phone interview. “It all comes together for this, I call it ‘Celtic fusion.’ It’s definitely an East-meets-West sound. In a live show, we bring together all of our music with that East Coast humour, some stories from back home, and provide an energetic show for audiences.”
Mercer feels the way the band has evolved since he started it in 2011 to include musicians from such different backgrounds helps Cod Gone Wild bring a more modern edge to Celtic music.
“Like any organization, sometimes the personnel changes, and when I was looking for a few new guys a few years back, I did consciously want to look for people coming from different backgrounds because I wanted to expand my own musical language,” he says. “Certainly, it’s opened my eyes to different ideas, which I wouldn’t have thought of. That comes across in the studio, which I love.”
The Cods will be performing in Quesnel as part of a fall tour supporting the band’s fourth studio album, The Islander.
Mercer started Cod Gone Wild in 2011 and is the only original band member. Aylard has been with the band three years, but most of the players have been with the band about a year and a half.
“Evolution always happens when you start a band until you find the right mix of individuals, which is what this band is,” says Mercer. “This album’s definitely an evolution of the band. It was about creating a more modern sound with the new players I added a couple years ago to showcase the evolution of the band and the sound, and bringing together these different genres.”
Mercer moved to B.C. in 2009. After earning a business degree at Memorial University of Newfoundland, he worked for the university, but when his contract ended, he started looking for something new. He wrote a song for a friend’s wedding and travelled to Kelowna to perform the song at the wedding.
“The weather was a 360 from Newfoundland, and I thought, ‘Why am I not here?’” he says with a laugh. “The circumstances were right to pack up and move to B.C., and I’ve been here ever since. The transition from a desk job to me was I realized I couldn’t do that – I needed to play music. I guess if you want to do something bad enough, you will create the circumstances for it, and that’s what I did.”
Mercer’s cross-country move is the inspiration for the band’s name.
“I’m the only Newfoundlander in the group, and I’m quite a long ways from home, so I guess I’m the cod, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not,” he laughs. “Being in B.C., it’s a bit unusual to be playing that kind of music I guess, so I guess I’m the ‘cod gone wild.’ They call me The Codfather.”
As Cod Gone Wild gets ready to come to Quesnel, the band is busy in the studio, putting the finishing touches on a new Christmas album. Mercer says the album will feature some original songs and some East Coast Christmas tunes he grew up with that the band will be putting its own spin on.
Before releasing its Christmas album, Cod Gone Wild will turn its focus back to celebrating the release of The Islander and sharing that album with Quesnel music fans.
Tickets for the Oct. 18 show are available in advance at the Occidental or on the night of the performance, if available. The show starts at 8 p.m. For more information, visit codgonewild.com.