At the turn of the millennium, if you stumbled into a pub in Ottawa on St. Patrick’s Day or most any Friday night, you may have seen and heard the Riverthieves. At that time they were an “Ottawa Valley and East Coast style party band, sort of a Great Big Sea Sound” said Finley Mullally, one of the band’s founding members. The band has always been a part time enterprise for the members, who have had other careers, and after a few years, they began writing together, and slipping original songs into their performances.
One of the band, Devon Matsalla, is a full time member of the Canadian Armed Forces, and Mullally is in the reserves. They both went to Afghanistan in 2009 for a tour of duty, and Matsalla later went there a second time. Other members of the band have military experience as well.
The band has become more committed, over the last couple of years, to writing, recording and performing original material. When they decided to record their first studio album, enough time had passed after Afghanistan for Mullally and Matsalla to be ready to reflect on their experiences in music. The themes made their way into Soldiers, the album they released this year.
They will be performing on Saturday Night (November 24) at the Circle Theatre in Perth (26 Craig Street – the road to Smiths Falls) at 7:30pm.
The show is the final one in the band’s Remembrance Day/Album Release Tour in support of Soldiers. “Our setlist for these shows will draw heavily on our original songs that we released earlier this year”, says Devon, who plays pipes, whistles, keyboards and EWI. “These were written and composed after Finn and I got back from tour and had a chance to think about what we did and make some sense of it all.”
The band released Soldier in May. Its ten tracks are all original.
“Folks coming out won’t find things too sombre, though,” cautions Devon. “We’ll do a few reflective pieces for sure, but Finn and I have been soldiering our whole lives and most of it spent in the company of good friends, working hard and having good times. A military career is tough but satisfying with lots to celebrate.”
One of the songs on the album provides a glimpse into the heightened reality that was the life for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.
It is called Mats Sundin’s Tears. It describes a night when soldiers at the base were watching a Maple Leafs game at the base on the night when Mats Sundin scored his 500th goal. Later that same night two soldiers, Darcy Tedford and Blake Williamson, were killed in the field. Other songs talk about the impact of war and still others about camaraderie.
After this week’s concert, Riverthieves are planning to begin another writing cycle, towards the release of a new album.
“I like the idea that we work in themes. The next one will likely be about family. We’ve all had experiences to draw upon, of course, so we should have something to reflect on.
Tickets to the Riverthieves show will be available at the door and are available online at Riverthieves.com/shows