Victoria-based folk/rock ensemble The Archers officially formed in September 2010 when, after a few short months, co-founders Sandy Hughes and Ethan Caleb decided that their two-piece collaborative, which had primarily focused on an acoustic folk sound, could use a little more kick. So, while in their final year of study at Stelly’s Secondary School, the duo signed up classmates Liam McLaren (bass) and Liam Moes (percussion and piano).
The quartet soon saw the potential in utilizing McLaren’s vocal abilities and skills on guitar, mandolin and the ivories, and so recruited Bob McMullen to take over as bassist. McMullen incorporates yet another audio dynamic into The Archers’ sound: the trumpet.
“We all knew each other in high school. Four of us were already pretty good friends, and then we found Robert McMullen sitting in the library with his bass,” recalls Hughes. And then there were five.
To say The Archers are multi-talented musicians is an understatement. Caleb (ukulele and banjo) and Hughes (mandolin) also share in vocal, guitar and piano duties, as well as divvying up songwriting efforts with McLaren. Songs are arranged collectively to complete the compositions.
Their impressive creativity has not gone unnoticed. In April 2011, the band earned the Youthink magazine B.C.’s Best Teen Band of the Year award and then claimed the title honour of Victoria’s Garage Band Live award the following month. Since dropping their debut EP in August 2011 (Much More Than Merry Men is now receiving rotational airplay on several radio stations nationwide), they’ve been hitting nothing but bull’s eyes.
Victoria radio station The Zone FM sanctioned The Archers as June 2012’s Band of the Month. The group is currently in contention for the Young Performer of the Year Award as 2012 Canadian Folk Music Awards nominees.
The band’s live performance accomplishments include: Fringe Fest, the FolkWest Fundraiser, the TedX Youth Conference, Kulth Festival and Victoria’s 2012 Earth Day Celebrations. They entertained thousands of eager spectators on the Parliament Buildings’ main stage during Victoria’s 2012 Canada Day celebration, have participated in Rifflandia festivals and continue to play at high schools and benefit concerts.
The Archers recently returned home from their second western provincial tour and show little sign of letting up, with four shows scheduled on Vancouver Island over the next few weeks, starting with their UVic gig.
“We’ve played Felicita’s once before for a benefit show. It went really well. The crowd was great,” says Hughes. “We’re looking forward to being back.”
The growing demand for the band doesn’t seem to be tiring Hughes. “It’s pretty fantastic getting to do all this fun stuff . . . and we are all still so young,” he says.
One potential downside to their accomplishments, however, is the fact that, as a group of males in the twilight of their teen years (two members are currently 18, and the others are 19), the dreaded “boy band” label is bound to get bandied about.
“We had a show in Sidney, [B.C.], and a couple of girls came up to us before we played saying that we looked a lot like One Direction. But then, after we performed, they came back to apologize,” says Hughes.
One comparison that the band doesn’t mind is to Britain’s Mumford & Sons, whose album Babel (September 2012) debuted at number one in the U.K. and U.S. And although The Archers’ members are fans, Hughes states, “We’re heavily influenced by local artists the most.” Aidan Knight, Current Swell and Local Code are three such groups.
Surrey-based indie folksters Good for Grapes are slated to open the Felicita’s show.
“This will be our third time playing together, and we’re thrilled to work with them again. We’ve become kind of close,” says Hughes. “They’re great. And they know how to put on a show.”
With all of their accomplishments, The Archers are becoming one of Canada’s most rapidly ascending bands. Catch them while you can.
The Archers (with Good For Grapes)
Friday, Oct. 19 @ 9 p.m.
Felicita’s Pub (UVic Students’ Union Building)
$10 general or $8 with student ID
The Zone’s Band of the Month Showcase II
The Archers, Lindsay Bryan and Ball Gag ‘n’ Chain Gang
Thursday, Oct. 25 @ 9 p.m.
$7 in advance (available at Lyle’s Place or Ditch Records); $9 at the door