Gunner and Smith
It’s been an eventful past four years for Saskatoon’s Gunner & Smith. Starting in 2010 as a solo project by folk artist Geoff Smith, the band evolved into a multi-member indie country rock ensemble that traverses the rocky line between post-prairies balladeering and grit-covered rockers for those given to heavy highway drives and long, expansive thoughts. Initially emerging from Smith’s one-man vision, Gunner & Smith released their first EP, Letter of Marque, in 2011. Featuring the lithe, lonely swaying sounds of Saskatchewan folk, country and rock, Smith quickly followed up his sparse debut release with his second EP entitled Compromise is a Loaded Gun.
On Compromise, Gunner & Smith began to develop a sound that easily defied their original "alt-country" tag. Now carrying a fuller and harder-hitting sound, the group began to pay greater attention to pop flourishes in addition to taking on more diverse influences such as psychedelia.
Recorded by Jordan Smith at The Avenue Recording Studio, located above Saskatoon’s legendary music venue Amigos Cantina where Gunner & Smith began honing their live performance chops, the group eagerly began to take on a sound that was far more expansive and lush than their previous songs. On their debut single “Strength of My Fathers”, the quintet roll into a dramatic story of relationships and longing with appropriately soaring male/female vocal harmonies, while on “Bears” the guitars take on a lead role, with fully-realized solos and hooks.
Along the way, Gunner & Smith’s reputation as a live band began to grow as the group made appearances at festivals such as OMFEST, MoSo Fest, Lilac Festival and the prestigious Ness Creek Festival. The band also shared the stage with numerous Canadian artists in the last year such as Del Barber, Said the Whale, Petunia and the Vipers, Jordan Klassen, Mike Edel, Owls by Nature, Picture the Ocean, Boreal Sons, Close Talker, Scenic Route to Alaska, The Elwins, Nick Everett and Saskatoon up-and-coming roots legends The Deep Dark Woods.
Gunner & Smith began to tour relentlessly throughout Canada, playing extensively throughout Alberta and their home province of Saskatchewan, as well as a sojourn through the eastern half of the country, which saw front man Geoff Smith spreading his wings and returning to his solo roots.
On top of the momentum gained in 2013, Gunner & Smith are now gearing up for the release of their debut full-length album He Once Was a Good Man. Slated for an early 2014 release, the band once again returned to The Avenue with Jordan Smith and Scott Neufeld along with The Deep Dark Woods’ Ryan Boldt at them helm in the producer’s chair. In addition to producing the album, Boldt (who has previously worked with prairies folk act Kacy and Clayton) also makes several appearances playing on the album.
On He Once Was a Good Man, Gunner & Smith find themselves with their most realized sound to date despite taking several different directions. It wasn’t until the band hit the studio that things became apparent and cohesive – a concept that was unintentionally synonymous with the band’s own journey into maturity. While working with Boldt, the band kept the sessions spontaneous, using live off the floor takes in order to find their sound.
Despite the increased warmth and beauty of the record's arrangements and tones, Smith is still a master at producing dark and haunting songs that are informed by powerfully bleak lyrics – even his sunniest moments are still shadowed with drama and the lingering baritone of his vocals. While it has been a restless artistic road for Smith, Gunner & Smith have reached something of a creative peak with He Once Was a Good Man. There's no question that the journey has been an interesting one.