Members of the Toronto-based indie band The Maladies of Adam Stokes aren’t interested in selling a signature sound or even letting themselves get too comfortable with a particular instrument.
But that hasn’t gotten in the way of a growing fan base and a title as a spotlight artist at NXNE, Toronto’s annual 10-day music, film, art and comedy festival running June 13-22.
The Jewish half of this six-member outfit, Kohji Nagata, Brett Harris and Josh Awerbuck, spoke to The CJN about their unpeggable sound, how they’ve evolved, and where they’re going.
“It’s hard right now… to pin down exactly what type of music it is that we play,” Nagata said.
For anyone that’s listened to their 2012 full-length album City of Trees, it’s tempting to want to slot them into the folkmusic genre, but the fact that this five-year-old band is not afraid to venture out of its musical comfort zone means their fans don’t always know what to expect.
“On our first record, a lot of the songs, they might have a similar sound to them, but they’re all pretty different, so if someone didn’t like one song, they might like the next one,” Awerbuck said.
“With what we’re doing now, it’s interesting because it’s a little difficult at times to get on the same page because we don’t all listen to the same things, but that’s also a good thing because we’re challenging each other and bringing out new ideas and thoughts.”
Perhaps what sets the Maladies apart is the fact that each of the band members has picked up new instruments, learning as they go.
“We knew that our friends were musically knowledgeable but they didn’t necessarily have any practical ability with a given instrument,” Nagata said.
“For example, I play trumpet and xylophone and a few other instruments that I had never played before in my life. Ted had never played the drums before, Brett was a guitar player but had never played bass before, so we kind of just put us all together and decided that we’re going to make a band and figure out what we’ll play afterwards,” he said.
“It’s not like we’d studied this in school, so we’re kind of making it up as we go.”
Harris said that when it comes to playing instruments they have yet to master, he feels it brings a unique element to their sound.
“I know for me, I’m constantly learning and exploring different styles of playing, and different techniques, so that can change the sound of a song or record or whatever,” Harris said, suggesting that their next album, which they’ve started writing, might surprise their following.
“I think our next record is going to be a little more out there than our last record was. Maybe a little less folk-centric and a little more avant-garde,” Nagata said.
Moonlighting as musicians, they all have day jobs – the lead singer, Mikey Hill, is a doctor, Nagata and Harris work for different companies making software for lawyers, and Awerbuck works in online advertising – but that hasn’t held them back from selling out legendary Toronto venues including Horseshoe Tavern and Lee’s Palace.
For those wondering what to expect from the Maladies going forward, Nagata said they’re goal is to keep the music as interesting as possible.
“I think we’ll just keep trying new things, playing weird new instruments – I have a clarinet and flute at home that I barely know how to play, that I’ll maybe one day add that in there. We’ll just keep going crazy, keep things interesting and we’ll never get bored as musicians and I don’t think people will get bored of listening to it.
The Maldies of Adam Stokes plays the Tranzac Club on June 20 at 9 p.m. For more information visit www.nxne.com, and www.themaladiesofadamstokes.com.