Vancouver Folk Music Fest 2019: Sam Roberts aims to hold up a mirror to his times

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      We have good news and bad news for fans of the Sam Roberts Band. The Montreal indie rockers will soon complete their long-awaited follow-up to 2016’s TerraForm—but you won’t hear any of it on Saturday (July 20), when Roberts and company will close the second night of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.

      On the line from his home in la belle province, Roberts reports that he’s been “toying” with the idea of debuting some of the new songs at Jericho Beach Park, but has chosen to keep them secret for now. “I think I want to wait until the record is done, and then start playing it,” he reasons. “We’ll be playing it enough for the rest of eternity, so we’ll give it its full gestational length.”

      He’s not above dropping a few clues to the as-yet-untitled record’s contents, however.

      “Lyrically speaking, the world is all over the map right now, and it’s hard not to want to talk about it. It’s hard not to want to… if not offer an opinion, at least hold up a mirror to the times that we’re living in,” Roberts says. “That’s part of the responsibility of a songwriter or an artist, and at the same time sometimes you have to focus on relief, and on celebrating the good things in life. So I’m trying to find a balance between those two things on this record.

      “Like, one song is called ‘Take Me Away’, just for example,” he continues. “It’s a call to be pulled out—to be dragged away, if needs be—from the repetitiveness of daily life. And I don’t mean going to your job; it could be anything, just the bad news hammering us between the eyes all the time, and the way we almost seem to get off on bad news, until it comes to your own front door. I find it very tiring, but it seems to be part of the human experience, to have to deal with the mundaneness of routine and the repetitiveness of information. And one of the ways for me to break out of that is to write about it—and in this case to write about being rescued from it.

      “That’s one of the beautiful offshoots of being able to write music—being able to write yourself out of your own troubles,” he adds with a laugh.

      The singer-guitarist also notes that one of the perks of his job is being able to lift others out of theirs, and with that in mind he’s willing to reveal some of what he has in mind for Saturday night.

      “Every show that we play, I try to in some ways sculpt a bit of a journey: different kinds of energies, different places, different modes of reflection, and just wild abandon,” he explains. “I have a tendency to lean heavily on the wild abandon, ’cause I like seeing people lose that sense of themselves in the midst of a crowd and just join into the energy and turn off that self-conscious, inward-looking eye that governs so much of how we feel and how we interact with the world.

      “A concert,” he continues, “is one of the best ways of turning that off and just letting yourself go and letting yourself be part of a greater whole. We see the best of the human spirit at concerts, I think—with the odd mishap here or there. But, for the most part, we get to see people at their best, in the throes of communion.”

      And if predictions for a warm and mostly sunny weekend hold true, Roberts is just fine with that. “People need to sweat,” he observes, “when they’re listening to rock ’n’ roll music.”

      The Sam Roberts Band plays the Vancouver Folk Music Festival’s main stage at 10 p.m. on Saturday (July 20). For more information, visit