There’s just no replacing that feeling of commiseration and unity that comes from a group of friends gathered around at the stage, soaking up the night together and raising a glass to good times.
It’s exactly that kind of feeling that Stone Iris taps into on their newly recorded EP, Illuminations. Like a lost night in a smoky bar, its songs feel easy to slip into and even easier to get lost in, using laid-back but propulsive grooves to create a mood that feels at once nostalgic and promising, familiar enough to get your guard down but restless enough to let you know that the best times are on their way. It builds off their previous releases, 2011 twin-EPs The Boo Box and Serene Machine, the 2010 Silhouettes EP and 2008 debut Ezperanza, by revealing a band that is at once more assured and more expansive than it’s ever been.
Recorded with Stew Kirkwood at Sound Extractor Studio, Illuminations captures Stone Iris as they’re starting to truly come into their own. It all began as Monzmeg, a basement project in the Calgary home of brothers, songwriters and guitarists Garret and El Niven. Stone Iris didn’t fully begin to take shape until they recruited drummer Jeff Burwash, who had been banging the skins with blues outfit Straight Jacket before he was even legally allowed in bars. It was the move to Edmonton to attend Grant MacEwan’s music program that solidified the group, though, first with the addition of Regina-born and Grant Mac-trained bassist Ryan Ast (ex-Without an End), and then adding Trail, BC-bred percussionist Juice Jensen in early 2010. in 2011, keyboard player Stephen Robinson and vocalist Kari James joined the ranks of the band, completing what is the current roster of Stone Iris.
Blending their disparate musical backgrounds–everything from hooky pop music to sun-bleached reggae to hip-hop and rap–the influence of seven minds has created a mature sound that isn’t easy to pin down, but is very easy to love.
“Everyone wants some kind of tag line, but I don’t think we’ve found an easy answer for that,” explains Juice. “We’re blues-rock, reggae, — there are a lot of things in it, if you want to throw a lot of hyphens into it, but that’s what we are.”
What ties them all together, though, is that unerring mood, the unmistakable, easy atmosphere that seems to emanate from this talented young band whether they’re at the jam space, in the studio or playing one of the shows that have taken them from their home base of Edmonton and Calgary to Vancouver and Toronto. The summer of 2012 will see Stone Iris setting out on their first US tour. This tour expands on their 2011 Canadian tour, and will showcase the strength of the Stone Iris live show.
“When we play, people are watching and soaking it in without thinking they’ve got to be jumping up and down,” says Elliot, a picture perfect example of the band’s preternatural cool. “We’ve got a few tunes that could be played at a party, but I think for us it’s more about people really sitting back and grooving, really getting into it.”
With that as their mission, the boys of Stone Iris are succeeding with flying colours.