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NOW HEAR THIS: Revamped Town Heroes finding new ways to reach and make fans

The Town Heroes’ new album (their fourth) launches Friday at the Seahorse Tavern.
The Town Heroes’ new album (their fourth) launches Friday at the Seahorse Tavern. - Contributed

The Town Heroes have every reason to be optimistic.

After the release of 2017’s tight and tuneful album Please, Everyone, the Inverness duo of Mike Ryan and Bruce Gillis doubled their number with the addition of Floodland’s Aaron Green on guitar and bassist Victoria Cameron, created a new batch of songs with added layers and harmonic possibilities, and have already taken their latest record overseas for a string of German dates.

But Ryan adds the qualifier “vaguely” to optimistic when discussing the title of the band’s fourth album, Everything (Will Be Fine When We Get to Where We Think We Are Going), which it launches on Friday at the Seahorse Tavern with guests David in the Dark and Kids Losing Sleep.

“It is, but it isn’t too,” he explains over coffee, still shaking off some post-Europe jetlag. “It’s Where We Think We Are Going. I wouldn’t call it a concept album, but there are some pretty consistent themes throughout it, and a lot of it is about trying to find your place in the modern world, and how hard that can be.

“Myself included. We’re all on social media platforms, trying to figure out if we should be spending so much time online, or more time outside. It’s a strange time, and people are looking for answers, but I don’t know that we’re necessarily looking in the right places.”

Ryan hopes some people will be looking for the Town Heroes’ music in unusual places around Halifax, and beyond. Since the album’s release, band members have been leaving drop cards in public places, asking those who find them to announce their finds on social media to get a free download of selected tracks.

The cards have been spread from around the campus at Saint Mary’s University to the local grocery store soft drinks aisle (or mixers as one lucky fan called it when he discovered one and posted it online). Ryan says it’s typical of the kinds of ideas the band comes up with “in this new Wild West of the music business, where there’s no clear, defined path of what you’re supposed to do, or what’s supposed to happen.”

At least it’s a clever idea that plays into the band’s mischievous sense of humor without requiring a ton of extra effort beyond being a bit of a Johnny Appleseed while out around town or on the road.

“Yes, I’ll be leaving one on this table here when we go, we’ve been putting them everywhere,” says Ryan. “We put them all through Germany too, I’m going to Sobeys after that to sneak a few in there too.

“It’s not a high turnover, and we’re getting a mix of messages from people who know who we are saying, ‘Hey guys, I found this, thanks so much!’ and ‘I’ve never heard of you before, but I found your card ...’ It’s still doing exactly what we wanted it to do either way. People who’ve never heard of us are finding out about us this way, and it’s probably pissing off a few people too, but I still keep a few cards in my pocket just in case.”

The Town Heroes hope to get more responses about discoveries of the cards in Germany, where they have distribution for Everything (Will Be Fine ...), and a growing fanbase after a few trips to Hamburg’s Reeperbahn Festival.

After previously touring in Scandinavia, Ryan says they’ve made contacts with enough bookers and venue owners in Hamburg to venture further down the Autobahn, and he’s enthusiastic about the results so far.

“It just seems like a good next step,” he says. “The States is expensive to get into to play, with more competition than any other place in the world. Germany is a good music market with a lot of great fans there, nice venues and great cities, so if there’s any place after Canada, that seems like the spot to try to export to. And other countries are so close.

“And most people speak English, which makes things easier while you feel kind of like an idiot that you can’t say anything in their language. But they don’t care, we went to a convenience store and asked the clerk if he spoke English, and he said, ‘This is Germany, not Mars.’”

PONDERCAST

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Broadcaster-turned-podcaster Laurie Brown looks like she’s ready to head to Mars in the promotional photos for her latest venture Pondercast, sporting a classic-looking astronaut outfit complete with space helmet.

But instead, she takes listeners on a journey to the centre of the mind in her regular audio dispatches, which she brings to Nova Scotia this week for shows at the Museum of Natural History in Halifax on Thursday, Wolfville’s Al Whittle Theatre on Friday and the Lunenburg Academy on Saturday.

Picking up where her CBC Radio show The Signal left off, Pondercast is now 21 episodes old, plus a pair of Ponderbeat music listening parties, available to stream on the website at pondercast.ca or via platforms like iTunes and Stitcher.

Brown’s meditations on life, death, nature and the universe are usually recorded wherever she happens to have her microphone and laptop, sometimes in a closet for intimate ambiance. But she’s also done live shows in Fredericton and Yellowknife, and finds attendees come to hear “just me doing my chilled-out thing. They were quite content to sit there, very relaxed, and listen to the music and listen to me.

“That was a surprise to me, but these shows have turned out to be quite relaxing, thoughtful live events. People really listen, which surprised me because it’s such a laid-back sort of energy, and I wondered if that would work live, and it does work live.”

Part of what sets Pondercast apart is its original music by Bridgewater native Joshua Van Tassel, which adds to the immersive feel of the program when most podcasts can’t be too music-heavy due to rights issues.

Van Tassel has worked with David Myles, Amelia Curran and Donovan Woods, and his own solo blend of electronic and acoustic sounds had been a fixture on Brown’s former CBC show The Signal.

“I wondered who I could collaborate with, so I called Joshua, and he said, ‘Oh my God, I heard you talking about starting a podcast, and I said to myself that I’d kill to work on that, and here you are calling me.’

“So it was a very happy moment for both of us, we just thought, ‘Right on, we can do this!’ ”

Brown’s warm, measured tones result in a program that’s thoughtful, comforting, and in a broader sense spiritual, with its captain and Van Tassel feeding off each other’s energy, “kind of like a singer and a piano player.”

Episodes range from 10 minutes to two hours, depending on Brown’s subject or frame of mind, and the ability to listen at any time, on any number of devices, allows the host to make the most of podcasting’s freeform possibilities.

“It take any time at all getting used to the freedom of it, this is really why I wanted to do this, so I could stretch out on things that I felt I had more to explore. It was like flying, it’s been great.”

For tickets to Brown’s Pondercast tapings in Halifax, Wolfville and Lunenburg, visit the website.

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