An Insider’s Point of View….
Louis Armstrong was once asked what his favorite kind of music was, and his response was simple; "Good music". Petunia & the Vipers' sound may not sit comfortably in one certain genre, but "Good Music" describes it well. Hank Williams on acid… Tom Waits meets Elvis at Woody Guthrie's Hobo junction… Avant-Country night club scene music… One of the best bands in the world today, of any kind… hillbilly-flavoured-swing inflected-ragtime-goodtime-thunderously rolling-one-of-a-kind-you-don’t-want-to-miss-this-sort-of-a-show… A new music that springboards off of music of the past and jumps into the present day, left with only echoes of the past… Something in between 1920's and steam punk. It's good for your mind… These are just a few of the words uttered by folks around the globe trying to pin down a description of all that is Petunia & The Vipers.
If one wished to talk about the birth of the blues, one would need to dig into the influences that preceded it’s birth. The same is true about Petunia & the Vipers. If they followed a recipe and added musical styles as ingredients, it would start by simply adding country and blues, and we'd have your basic dry ingredients right there, but lacking the true essence of their sound. Mix in a dose of ragtime, some Dixieland jazz, a hint of bebop, some western swing and old time cowboy music, a bit of jug band & string band music. Flavor with a significant dose of Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams, and a bit of Blind Willie McTell, Blind Lemon Jefferson and a few more "Blind" spices. Now you’ve got the batter for a cake. Bake on high with the dotted rhythms of Cuban, Mexican, Peruvian, Romanian and African folk music. Ice the whole cake with some punk rock, alternative and Bowie (who also spins off a host of influences of the UK music past), and you’ve got a delectable musical concoction…part old-tyme, part new times, part no time at all, part all-of-the-time…
Sun Ra said, "the key to freedom is discipline". You cannot break the rules if you do not understand the rules. Petunia and the Vipers' sound is a familiar and yet wholly new music for that reason: they intimately understand the rules of classic Americana music(s) and where the edges of that painting lie…and they refuse to paint inside of the lines at any time. This is a new and modern band playing unadulterated, unclassified, unleashed sounds that rhyme with older sounds of the past, and are furiously driving the future wave of a new idiom.
PETUNIA, The man:
Petunia is more than just an entertainer, he's a modern musical enigma. Imagine that David Lynch and Nick Cave had a hillbilly baby, that yodeled… or Tom Waits meets Elvis at Woody Guthrie's hobo junction. This is just one way of describing the man known simply as Petunia. He’s an adventure seeker, a poker player, and a mysterious stranger. He’s been referred to as “The Savior of Country Music”, and a man who exists in a different era, bringing the past forth as something new to be celebrated and not forgotten.
Petunia grew up in rural Quebec, in exactly the sort of surroundings that a country musician would find idyllic, with old dilapidated barns, secret forts, and acres of unspoiled land. As an adult, the wandering spirit took a firm hold on his life, so he set out on the road, playing every major street corner across Canada and throughout the NYC subway system, before graduating to full fledged touring musician. When he’s not on the road playing shows, Petunia is also involved in the theatre world; building side projects, writing scores, acting, or collaborating with theatre artists. He currently resides in Vancouver BC, and works with several sets of sidemen across Canada, the US and Europe in addition to his own Vancouver based band, The Vipers. A restless wanderer, a musical historian, and a quirky yet amazing talent, Petunia is simply a Canadian treasure joining the greats from north of the 49th.
PETUNIA & THE VIPERS, The band:
Petunia & The Vipers formed in 2007, starting out as a sometimes-band, playing locally on the west coast. Things really got going for the group in 2009 when they began touring the US west coast, and recorded the bed tracks for their first album at the Sound Factory in Hollywood. Little by little, the album was added to and perfected, and in 2012 they released the self-titled album “Petunia & The Vipers” officially, to rave reviews and frenzied fans. Since it’s release the band has gone on to tour across parts of Canada, playing summer festivals and sold out shows, as well as several tours throughout the UK, and a regular circuit from Vancouver to Los Angeles, playing cities and towns down the west coast. In 2014, Petunia released a new album titled “Inside of You”, which features three backing bands, including the Vipers, a Roma-Swing ensemble, and an alt-country group of prominent Vancouver musicians. The album’s release was commemorated with a Petunia & The Vipers release show in Vancouver, a tour across western Canada and the US west coast, and a summer of playing shows at festivals across the country.
Petunia & The Vipers play several tours a year while Petunia is not touring on solo or duo missions. The full band is a typically a five piece, however a violinist is added when required, or when other accompanists are unable to play. The Vipers play in various other projects and are well known through their efforts. Guitarist Stephen Nikleva and Lap Steel player Jimmy Roy are former Ricochets, of Ray Condo and the Ricochets, while Patrick Metzger plays bass with several projects, including a bluegrass band led by some-time violinist Kathleen Nisbet.