Last January, I stumbled across Bo Welland while out for some drinks at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. Being a legendary venue, I instantly knew these boys must have had something that got them a gig there. After their performance, I understood. They rocked out, they had fun and they looked cool doing it.
Since then, Bo Welland has been a band on everyone’s radar playing shows right here in Kingston, while also lighting up the Montreal and Toronto scenes with their stellar live performances.
To formally introduce the group, Bo Welland is a Toronto born rock n’ roll band made up of Jack Reddon, vocalist and guitar pro; Harry Reddon, the band’s killer drummer; Jack Bulgar, another guitarist who turns up the heat; and John Wales, a boy who brings the bass. They’ve been featured in the Queen’s Journal, but I thought it was high time MUSE got to pick their brains a little bit too. Given that the group is all university students, MUSE wanted to learn a little bit more about who they were, how they balance shows and studying and what advice they might have for other student bands looking for a little slice of the limelight. Below is the inside scoop sure to inspire and entertain.
Alex: So- Tell MUSE a little bit about you guys. How would you describe yourselves individually and ‘Bo Welland’ as a collective?
BW: John Wales is our backbone. His rhythms always ground us and pull the songs together even if we’re out of practice. A bit of a perfectionist, Wales helps us cross our T’s and dot our I’s. Jack Bulger is the secret weapon. Whether it be summoning Satan’s axe to melt faces or conjuring up a harmonica to melt hearts, Bulger adds a stylistic flare to every song. Jack Reddon is the songwriter, guitarist, pianist and singer. Much of the creative vision is established and facilitated by him. The guitar playing of Reddon and Bulger complement each other well, with both often changing between lead and rhythm. Harry Reddon is the drummer and backup vocalist. Harry writes his own material and helps with the development of songs, offering ideas to make the song more cohesive. Our songs have a heavy focus on cues and rhythmic changes, requiring a strong drummer to understand the in’s and out’s.
As a collective, we cultivate a mixture of professionality and relaxed confidence. The songs and lyrics are original, unique, and complex, but they are still accessible and fun. We take the music very seriously and try to incorporate all of our individual strengths to make the music as meaningful and skillful as possible. We exude a facade of an important and experienced band. Though, at the same time, there is an honest emotional depth to the songs in which we lay our youthful insecurity bare.
Alex: How did you come together as a group? I’d love to know the origins of your name ‘Bo Welland’.
Jack R: Harry and I have been brothers since my birth 21 years ago. We existed independently for 2 years, but those years are generally considered by Bo Welland historians to be of little consequence towards the eventual formation of the band. Following these idyllic and blissful years, I attended elementary school with Bulger and Wales. Later on, in high school, the three of us began to practice in group settings along with our friends Luke Sarabia, Joe Ross, John Otis Moore, Alex Spears, and the legendary Moogs Burrack. The official formation of the band occurred in 2016. Earlier in 2016, I drunkenly sent a text to band manager Avery Perri, which despite its incomprehensibility, featured the words “Bo Welland.” We thought it was a funny word.
Alex: You mention that some of your biggest musical influencers are The Strokes, Oasis, Simon and Garfunkel, The Clash – there’s plenty. So- how would you say these influences present themselves in your music?
BW: Our many influences present themselves in different aspects of the band. In terms of chord progressions, many songs are influenced by the later Beatles and Radiohead. Some of the lyrical topics parallel those in Father John Misty, Simon and Garfunkel or Arctic Monkeys. Our sound and style are sometimes akin to The Strokes. Our onstage presence is influenced by all performers- we love watching live music! Though in the recent past, we’ve grown more theatrical on stage.
Alex: I’m always interested in a band’s unique pre-show rituals- what does your backstage routine look like?
BW: We like to hang around the crowd and watch the other acts in preparation for our set. Getting a feel for the crowd can really help with the performance. The free drinks can help too so long as we don’t get carried away with them.
Alex: I know you guys are big on playing shows in Montreal and Toronto, but what’s the best part about playing shows here in Kingston?
Jack B: The best part about playing shows in Kingston is the familiarity. We’re very used to playing at the various Kingston venues – we’ve developed relationships with the organizers, sound engineers, and other bands. It’s always nice to look out at the crowd and see people rocking out to your music.
Alex: What would be your favorite venue you’ve ever played- what part of your experience there made it so memorable for you?
Jack B: For me, the best venue we’ve ever played was the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. It’s a legendary venue and some of my favourite bands have played there, like the Strokes and The Rolling Stones. We’ve had a few shows there and they’ve all gone well. My most memorable moment, however, was playing at this really small dive bar in Montreal called Barfly. We played there during the early days of the band and it was the first time I really felt at home on stage. The band was tight, the crowd was into it and I remember thinking “Woah, so this is how you be a rock band.”
Jack R: We’ve also had a lot of fun nights at The Cameron House, Supermarket, and the Smiling Buddha in Toronto. Engineers always let loose, so our shows and Clark Hall in Kingston are always really fun.
Alex: Where is Bo Welland headed next? Any new songs coming our way- any exciting shows planned?
BW: In 2018 we recorded 4 songs that will be featured on our forthcoming album. We’ve been awarded some free studio time and some grant money that we are going to use to finish the album. We’re aiming to have 7 new songs released early in 2019. We also have a lot of shows coming up in the new year. Some will be headlining slots, and some will be opening slots for bigger bands. We’re really excited and everyone will have a chance to see us in Kingston, Toronto, or Montreal throughout the year.
Alex: Finally- do you have any advice for young musicians out there wanting to get their foot in the door?
Jack R: First and foremost, honing your craft is the most important. I used to be practically tone deaf and could only write songs with 3 or 4 chords. It’s effort and work that brings out your best work just as much as talent and skill. Once you’re confident with the material, you have to be reach out to people. Almost all of our opportunities have come through relationships that we’ve established within the music scene. You have to go to other bands shows, email venues and promoters, and do everything to get people to see your show or listen to your music. You have to get your foot in the door. Once people start to notice what you’re doing, they will come to you.
All photos courtesy of Bo Welland on Instagram & bowelland.com