Sipping herbal tea in a Granville Island coffeehouse, Andy Bishop and Colin Jones look exactly as you might expect given the dreamy, rustic melodies of Red Cedar, the local alt-folk band they play in. With Bishop in oversize black glasses and a worn wool cap, and Jones in a cozy knit sweater, the pair emit a down-to-earth quality that is altogether compelling. Even the way in which they interact reflects the intuitive exchange of ideas and chords inherent in their polished sound.
Born from the ashes of the psychedelic-tinged project Sister Ray, Red Cedar boasts some of Vancouver’s most dedicated musicians. While the group’s name is not yet a mainstay on the tattered show posters plastered around town, the quintet has been working at a feverish pace since forming last March.
“We pretty much locked ourselves away for six or seven months before we even played a show, to make sure we had everything dialled in,” explains guitarist-vocalist Bishop. “We really wanted to work on everything and establish a sound that was a little different—something that was, well, kind of us.”
Settling somewhere between the cascading harmonies of Fleet Foxes and the wistful songwriting of the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe, Red Cedar has done just that. Inspired by the majestic mountain ranges and picturesque old-growth forests of the West Coast, the melodic outfit creates songs filled with haunting vocals and textured soundscapes. Standout tracks like “I Can Feel It Coming Down”, a meandering ballad heavy with heartache and hesitation, and the trancelike “Carry On”, which creeps along with Middle Eastern influences, display a timeless elegance rarely found in such a young act.
“It has been a labour of love,” Bishop says of the process that will lead to the group’s debut album. “I’m actually glad we took so long to develop it.”
Jones, the quintet’s soft-spoken drummer, concurs. “We were able to take the time to find out what we could each bring to the sound.”
When the men of Red Cedar finally do settle into the Hive in May to record with Colin Stewart—the studio’s head engineer and cofounder, you can be sure they will pore over each note until it tumbles forth just so.
May might seem like a lifetime away—especially for a group so geared up to get into the studio—but Red Cedar is certain that the months will just breeze by. “We’re looking forward to playing more shows in the meantime,” says Bishop. “There’s a bit of a scene going on with bands like Adelaide, Featherwolf, and No Horses. It’s pretty cool.”
While Bishop and Jones agree that diversity is key to the vibrancy of any music community, the pair is admittedly a little relieved that Vancouverites are rediscovering their love of roots music and embracing the recent resurgence of ’70s-style rock in this city. “It’s nice not to just see tons of scream-y metal all the time,” Bishop says with a laugh. “Not that there’s anything wrong with scream-y metal.”
As for booking those future gigs, Red Cedar is optimistic, given the camaraderie it has found among the close-knit group of local bands that share the act’s rustic sensibilities. “There are so many scenes that don’t support each other,” says Bishop. “Typically, bands are really competitive and aggressive about getting shows. But it seems like, in this case, everyone is really cool about getting each other shows and trying to promote one another. It’s refreshing.”