The Burning Hell and frontman Mathias Kom will visit the province for several shows and while he's here, also wants to research some real estate options. Submitted photo
The Burning Hell loves Newfoundland.
Mathias Kom, lead singer of the Ontario-based indie folk-rock experimental outfit, is on his way here with nine bandmates to continue building the group's recent legacy of packing one of St. John's most popular dingy musical digs.
"There's no comparison at all, St. John's is the best by far - absolutely," he tells The Telegram during a recent phone interview while travelling in New Brunswick. "In terms of Canadian cities for us, I think everyone in the band would agree, St. John's is where we're all most excited to be."
At first, Kom's enthusiasm sounds generic, like one of those premeditated comments musicians slip in between songs at a show to flatter the audience.
But when he elaborates on his affection for St. John's and tells me he plans to look at real estate outside the city during the band's three-night stint at CBTG's, April 17-19, I realize he's serious.
"The first time we came, we just had such a great time. It was a combination of things, the shows were really great, people seemed to really like it, so that was nice," he explains. "But also, right away we felt kind of at home. We made friends quickly and got to know the town. It also helps that both times we've been there before, and this time as well, we stay for four or five days in St. John's, so we get to know people, hang out, play a bunch of shows, go on trips during the day, see some of the coast, and just be there."
One of the friends The Burning Hell made is St. John's, violinist Alison Corbett, is currently on tour with the band.
The band is supporting its third full-length album, "Baby," released earlier this year.
Filled with instruments galore, catchy hooks, an unmatched unique danceability, and lyrics funny enough they earned me looks from other drivers when I rode around St. John's on a recent sunny day, listening and laughing to the album for the first time.
With a baritone voice that has been compared to a young Leonard Cohen, quirky but insightful lyrics, and the accompaniment of ukulele, guitar, piano, glockenspiel, bass, accordion, banjo, trumpet, cello, drums, banjolele, lap steel, violin and Jill Staveley's ambrosial voice, there's reason to admit you've never heard anything like The Burning Hell before.
"Old World", the new album's lead-off track, is written from the perspective of a fetus who imagines being born into a utopian world of earthly colours where everyone plays the saxophone ("never soprano saxophones, just tenors and baritone"), and where it can "grow teeth and a little bit of hair". The song concludes with the implied post-birth syndrome Kom might say we all experience. "We don't want this ugly new world! We were much happier back then, and we want back in. Take us back to the old world!
A horns and xylophone intro on "Things That People Make, Pt. 2", the sequel to its counterpart from their 2006 debut record "Tick Tock", segue into an upbeat duet which showcases Staveley's vocal talents. The song addresses material culture and its impact on the antagonist's perception of his needs and wants, "I met you and you taught me a thing or two about things. Things like love and buildings, things like death and happy birthday cake. Things like how to give and never take. Things like the things that people make."
Critical praise and rising popularity aside, Kom says the band's recent success is due at least in part to the "collapse" of the traditional music industry and the opportunity for more exposure because of the lack of dependency on major record labels to get the music out.
"The music market in Canada has become more accessible to people, so that means that a lot more people are getting out there and (making music)," he says. "Simultaneously, there seems to be a trend - there's more bands out there who aren't going out there and taking themselves too seriously, and I really appreciate that. That's one of the most important things to me - I don't ever want to be one of those people or bands that takes themselves too seriously."
He's also encouraging anyone who ever dreamed of being in a band, making a record, and touring, to do it.
"Ten years ago it was very uncommon for a band who hadn't even released an album yet to be touring across the country, or that kind of thing. But that's happening more and more now. Even if it's just one time, everyone should try being in a band and touring across the country at least once."
With an attitude like that and an already-established fan base on the Island, if Kom makes Newfoundland his new home, The Burning Hell's local popularity is likely to continue rising until one of two things happen, their capacity to entertain crowds ceases, or hell freezes over.
Fortunately, the latter is a greater likelihood.
The Burning Hell and Nova Scotia's Construction and Deconstruction play Corner Brook's Blackthorn Stick Cafe April 15, and with a handful of local special guests at CBTG's on West George Street April 17-19