Jon Middleton and Roy Vizer have enjoyed some high-profile exposure over the past few years, but there’s a case to be made that the Victoria-based musicians are still flying under the radar.
Reached in the British Columbia capital, where he’s paying the bills by helping out at his brother’s wine-making business, Middleton acknowledges that world domination has yet to happen for the group officially known as Jon and Roy. The same goes for a Polaris Prize nomination. That’s something of an injustice. If the band’s first three records don’t make the case that Jon and Roy are the best West Coast act you might quite possibly never heard, the just-released Let It Go definitely will. The duo have crafted something brilliant, the songs swinging from the crate-digging-in-Kingston excellence of the title track to the sun-baked Afro-pop of “Kesey”, to the midnight-in-a-Mexican-cantina instrumental “Tavern Song”.
So why haven’t Jon and Roy blown up in the same fashion as West Coast indie stars Mother Mother and Dan Mangan? There might be, Middleton suggests, a couple of reasons for that.
“In terms of the larger picture, we’ve definitely got a low profile,” the singer-guitarist acknowledges. “I wonder if it might have something to do with being labelled as being part of a certain genre, that lite, Jack Johnson-y kind of thing. We were definitely seen as part of that for a while, and I think that maybe turned some people off. You know how it is in the industry—you get labelled a certain way, and that affects how people look at you.
“Or maybe,” Middleton continues, “it’s because we’re from Victoria and we tend not to tour a hell of a lot. Two years ago we were out on the road a lot, but we’re not doing nearly as much of that recently.”
Too bad for those who don’t live near a B.C. Ferries terminal, because Let It Go is the kind of perfect-for-kicking-back record that makes you wish summer would not only hurry up and get here, but also refuse to ever leave. Among the record’s many charms is that Jon and Roy were more concerned with getting the feel right than with technical perfection, which explains why a couple of flubbed notes here and there do nothing to diminish the record’s appeal.
“We wanted to keep things loose,” Middleton says. “So if something screwed up, we would keep it as long as it didn’t affect the overall recording quality.”
What made it easy not to sweat the little things is that no one seems to mind if Jon and Roy aren’t perfect, as the mistakes only add to the band’s winningly chilled-out vibe. Yes, despite being a ways away from household names, Middleton and Vizer are doing all right for themselves. And not just because you can hear their songs in Volkswagen commercials and promos for television shows like PBS’s Road Trip.
“We’re doing well enough to keep pursuing what we like to do,” Middleton reveals. “Definitely, the placements help out a lot for money, but it’s not making us rich. We’re incorporated, so a lot of what we make goes back into the band for when we need it. But, yes, we are managing to keep the band going.”
And if they can just hang on until Apple comes calling for an iPod commercial, global domination is inevitable.