The powerhouse folk duo Ash and Bloom, is bringing a musical storm to Ottawa. Echoing thunderous harmonies and striking bolts of brilliant songwriting, these two are a must-see act this spring.
Hamilton-based Matt McKenna and James Bloemendal have been playing music together for almost a decade, originally meeting in the baritone section of a classical choir. They bounced around performing in various bands before establishing the duo in 2013.
“We are a great musical match,” says McKenna. “We are just always on the same page.”
Both of the artists grew up in musical households, coming by their talent honestly.
“It was sort of an everyday experience for me, but as I started getting older I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to play music as my job?’” McKenna explains. “I thought it would just be more of a hobby, but the more I did it the more it seemed possible—and here I am.”
Ash and Bloom made its first big step in the music scene two years ago when touring North America with Canadian singer-songwriter Justin Hines. Performing in more than 80 cities, all of the ticket sale money was donated to local charities in each location.
Shortly following the tour, McKenna and Bloemendal released their first full-length album Let the Storm Come on Toronto’s Orange Lounge record label. It features a dozen lyrically and harmoniously heart-warming tracks which have been praised across North America, New Zealand and Australia.
“We wrote maybe 400 songs for this album and boiled it down to 12,” says McKenna. “I like so many of the songs we wrote, but I think my favourite would be Let the Storm Come which became the centrepiece of the record.”
You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4GEQXKo1ZcM&spfreload=10
The making of the album was a team effort according to McKenna.
“James and I do all of our writing together on some level,” he says. “There are also a bunch of tunes where we conscripted the help of musical friends in and around the GTA.”
Some of the record’s co-writers include Juno Award-nominee Peter Katz, Caroline Brooks from folk-trio The Good Lovelies, along with singer-songwriters Julie Crochetiere and Rob Szabo.
Simon and Garfunkel have had a large influence on the distinct sound of Ash and Bloom.
“We are huge fans of Paul’s song writing,” says McKenna. “James and I are both drawn to great lyrics and songs that play with harmonies.”
The duo is now on tour and stopped by St. Paul’s University Amphitheatre in Ottawa on April 11. If you missed out, have no fear. They will be returning May 2 on their way back to Hamilton for a show in Wakefield at the Black Sheep Inn.
“It looks like Ottawa is going to be the bread to the tour sandwich,” jokes McKenna.
Their first concert is being put on by the AIDS Committee of Ottawa, with all funds raised going directly to those living and affected by HIV and AIDS in the city.
“(ACO) is doing some amazing work for people who are struggling with AIDS and the people around them,” says McKenna. “AIDS is not one of those causes that gets really trumpeted so it is great that we can step in and call a little bit of attention to the stuff that the people at ACO are doing.”
Ash and Bloom believe the concert will be a moving experience for anyone who appreciates fine tuned harmonies and lyric based songs.
“If people are coming to sit, relax and experience the music then I think they are really going to dig our show,” McKenna explains.
The duo has a few places in mind they want to visit up while in the capital city.
“One of our favourite spots not only in Ottawa but in the world is the Art Is In Bakery,” laughs McKenna. “I feel like I want four stomachs when I go there.”
For more information about the folk duo or to purchase concert tickets visit the Ash and Bloom website.