Not too long ago, Daniel Citynski saw a sign, and the sign said “Furriers”, and beneath it he also saw the staring eyes of a great white wolf. The eyes were glass, the wolf was dead, its pelt was for sale, and now the East Vancouver accordionist and singer has the perfect stage attire for his gig fronting Wolfbrood, the Viking-obsessed sextet playing the Accordion Noir Festival this weekend.
It was a weirdly appropriate discovery. The band is named for the first song Citynski ever wrote, which details the roving and ravenous ways of a pack of canine predators—led, of course, by a great white wolf.
“I have a fondness for wolves,” Citynski tells the Straight in a telephone interview from his home. “For a certain period of time I was studying them really exhaustively, and reading everything I could about them, and that’s how the lyrical content for that one came about.”
Citynski also has a passion for Norse mythology, aspects of which inform Wolfbrood songs such as “The Raid”, “The Ballad of Devil’s Dale”, and “Holmgang”.
“My family comes from all over the place, Norway being one of those places. I kind of adopted that part of my ancestry for this band, I guess,” he explains. “I wrote these songs over a decade ago, like when I was in my teens, when I was first starting to get into my ancestry. I remember learning that my family used to be Vikings back in the day—and until then I didn’t know that Vikings really existed. I just thought that they were a fictional thing, but the more I learned, the more I felt ‘Oh, I have a claim to this.’ So I started writing songs about it, and now, however many years later—15, I guess—I’ve actually started the band, so here we are.”
Wolfbrood is an acoustic act, with cello, violin, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, and hand percussion, in addition to Citynski’s accordion. But the singer’s full-throated roar, coupled with fiddler Ari Mansell’s foot-high Mohawk and writhing stage presence, distinguishes it from more sedate purveyors of the Scandinavian tradition—like the excellent but considerably more delicate Finnish duo VILDÁ, which will also play Accordion Noir this year.
If Citynski’s going to write a song called “Berserkergangr”, he’s going to back it up with the kind of physical intensity that once powered Viking longships across the Atlantic, along with much online research and memories of his own wintertime stay on a Norwegian sheep farm.
He’s also going to make sure that his expansive take on his Viking heritage isn’t going to be confused with that peddled by the so-called Soldiers of Odin.
“It’s funny you should mention them,” Citynski says. “I actually raised a nidstang against them. You know what that is?”
We don’t, but we’re eager to learn.
“It’s a curse pole,” he explains. “It’s from [the Icelandic epic poem] Egil’s Saga, where Egil wanted to curse the king and queen of Norway, so he put a horse’s head on a runed pole. I made a runed pole and got a horse’s skull and I raised it on-stage, specifically against the Soldiers of Odin, because I really am opposed to everything they stand for.
“I really can’t stand the stigma that all this Norse stuff is just white culture for white nationalists to hang on to,” he adds. “It’s not that at all, and I say that all the time. It’s history, and it belongs to all of us.”
Wolfbrood plays the WISE Hall on Friday (November 15) as part of the 2019 Accordion Noir Festival. For more information, visit the website.