The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer are enjoying the fact they are attracting young listeners to the blues by not following every rule in the blues scene.
"Where we're different is we're not so much blues archivists," admitted Shawn Hall, The Harpoonist, who teams with Matthew Rogers to make up The Harpoonist and The Axe Murderer. "We know that there's a lot of people out there that are really, really good at archiving and upholding a lot of traditional blues standards. And that's great. But we kind of feel that when there's too much of a strangle hold on that, and people take it too seriously, then it kind of stunts the growth of the particular genre. And we want to be completely innovative. We don't want to be completely slave to the 12-bar format."
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer will be on the Stir Crazy Blues Festival stage on Friday night, where there will be a wide age group of blues lovers listening to their concert.
"We're becoming a gateway for some kids to discover the older styles of music making," Hall noted. "It's neat that we're able to help turn kids on to older things like Led Zeppelin. And then via these old, white rock blues bands, going back to the real deal and artists like Lead Belly and Howlin' Wolf, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, old records like that."
Hall and Rogers continue to make waves on the blues scene following the release of their third studio album, Checkered Past, which was released Oct. 2011. The recording has remained on the top 50 contemporary blues charts for 13 months after been released.
"The album is obviously holding a lot of merit on the Canadian contemporary blues scene. But when people see the live thing, they get it more.
While the duo boasts a listener friendly album sound, their live performances are the hallmark of their following.
"It's taken us a while to sound really full because we're only two people, but we sound like a band. Matt plays drums with his feet. He plays a kick drum with his right foot and he plays a snare drum with his left foot. And then he plays rhythm guitar with a Telecaster going through a guitar amp. But then the bass notes from his guitar are also going to a bass amp. And then I play harmonica, both acoustic and electric, and I play foot percussion....That's the full meal deal. You can't fake that stuff, which is really cool. It means there aren't dozens of us popping up left right and centre. But it's taken us five of the six years we've been together to develop that sound and to really sound good and authentic," Hall said.
"I think there's a certain energy seeing people playing, sounding like a whole band live in person, that you have to see it to believe it."
Hall added that there is a challenge to bring something new to such a traditional style of music.
"You hit it right on the head. It's an incredible challenge," he said. "Our biggest challenge is being two white Canadian boys in their mid-30s, what are we going to add to a musical genre that is so steeped in history? Most of the really, really great classic songs are approaching 60, 70, 80 years old. When you're coming in, you're not competing but when you're influenced by that kind of song writing, it's not an easy thing to just sit up and pen a classic song like 'My Babe' (the 1950s classic written by Willie Dixon and performed by Little Walter)."
"I don't think you can really song write like that in your 20s. I think you can play the blues in your 20s, but I think the song writing comes with age."
The Stir Crazy Blues Festival runs from Thursday to Saturday at the Lyric Theatre. The three day concert series also features a pair of 2013 Juno Award nominees in the Blues Album of the Year category. The Steve Strongman Band kicks off the festival Feb. 28, with the festival's grand finale on March 2 featuring Shakura S'Aida.