The Bombadils

MAKING THE SUN RISE IN THE EAST

Despite their band name, the Bombadils aren’t as big Lord of the Rings fans as you’d think. Having the name in common with one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s least loved characters actually stems from a song, called “House of Tom Bombadil,” by Chris Thile, one of their major influences.

Sarah Frank is a fiddler and vocalist for the band and she explains how that song “mimics the speech pattern of the character in Lord of the Rings. Supposedly, he spoke in 7/4 time and, so, that tune was written in 7/4 time.” Also comprised of Evan Stewart (bass), Anh Phung (flute) and Luke Fraser (guitar/mandolin/vocals), the members met in Montreal, via Edmonton, Chilliwack and Halifax, before joining forces in 2009 at McGill’s Schulich School of Music. An even more local connection can be traced from when Phung played in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra while studying for two years at the University of Calgary. “While I was there, I made some connections and I did this protégé program,” she says. “It was kind of like training for an orchestra, but I guess they liked me. So, they actually hired me to come and sub, and I played a solo with them once, as well.”

Although the Bombadils all come from Anglophone parts of the country, one track off their latest album, Fill Your Boots!, “Le soleil se lève à l’Ouest,” is sung partially in French, made especially relevant given that language is a particularly hot topic in Quebec right now. But, it comes from their desire to be able to make art in French and from having embraced Montreal’s culture. “I really want to start learning Quebec fiddle tunes as well,” Phung adds. “There’s a living tradition of music here that we can’t ignore, even though we’re not from here.”

Their sound tends to be described as Celtic and bluegrass, but they’re not limited. “That was really a jumping off point for the group,” says Fraser. “We like country, bluegrass, jazz, classical… Wherever good music or art is happening, we’re taking stuff from that,” while Frank mentions that “the idea of how bluegrass came to be was mixing genres,” and credits the Punch Brothers as another inspiration. “They’re always talking about how you can learn a genre, but you don’t need to be limited to that, and you can hear it in our music too.”

(This article originally appeared in BeatRoute Magazine.)

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