Jon McKiel – IDOW
An absolution in the form of thick and glossy harmonies spilling out of a cracked and crumbling wall of blissed-out, grungey guitar groans, Jon McKiel is constantly tight-rope-walking the line between serene and savage with a dry wit and a knowing smirk.
Having just returned from a successful string of dates in Western Canada that saw him sharing the stage with such treasured indie acts as Calgary’s prolific psych-folk fiend Chad Vangaalen and Ontario’s frantic pop foursome Hollerado, McKiel is ditching the sludge-coated guitars and wild, winding arrangements for a stripped down, sparse set at this years In the Dead of Winter festival.
“This is my third time playing Dead of Winter, I think” says McKiel. “You know, I do like quiet music too,” he laughs. Growing up on a steady diet of punk rock and dirty, nineties grunge, McKiel says it wasn’t until later that he developed a taste for folk. “I guess punk and grunge were just the types of music I liked the most, so I played them,” explains McKiel. “Eventually, I started getting really into folk, and when I started playing in Halifax, I found myself playing what I guess you’d call “folk-rock,” but pretty soon I realized I hated the direct combination of those two genres. Or maybe I just wasn’t doing it right, I don’t know,” says McKiel, with a glint of humorous self-deprication.
McKiel seems to be eagerly awaiting a quiet night of hushed guitar, following what seemed to be a perpetual tour in support of his melodically melancholy grimey opus Tonka War Cloud – which has just been pressed on beautiful translucent-brown vinyl—as well as countless other side projects ranging from backing his wife, Klarka Weinwurm, to being a Motown drummer.
“Well, of course I’m always playing in Klarka’s band,” says McKiel. “But lately I’ve been playing around in a couple of friends’ bands…It’s been really fun, but I’m just getting kind of burnt out. It’s different, but it’s pretty exhausting. It’ll be nice to unwind a bit.”
While McKiel may be dialing back the volume for his upcoming show, his mesmorizing, stripped down performances still retain the bold, lyrical poignancy and heart-stopping intensity he’s lauded for. “Acoustically is how I write the songs anyway,” says McKiel. “I sit down and play guitar or ukulele and just kick a kick drum along. Sometimes I bug Klarka to come in and sing or play a bass part.”
Nothing if not versatile, McKiel’s chameleon-like songs slide loosely around their structures, shrugging off a fixed form, choosing instead to constantly keep you on your toes. “It doesn’t necessairly always sound true to the record, but that would be boring and a technical and financial nightmare to do live,” he says. “I think the songs have enough space and life on their own to add or subtract any number of elements and still sound like they should.”
Although he probably won’t be rhythmically dropping giant chains like on his critically acclaimed LP, channeling the subversive and sparse glare of quieter album tracks like “Violent Hawaii” and “Holy Ghost” will certainly make for a spine-tingling time.
Following his Dead of Winter appearance, McKiel will be joining Weinwurm on a tour to support her forthcoming LP, embark on more dates in support of Tonka War Cloud and inevitably return to exhaustively dabbling in the art of drumming for a multitude of musicians. “Chad (VanGaalen) and I also talked about doing some sort of something on cassette,” he mentions. “But I have no idea when that’ll come through the pipeline. We’re focusing on Klarka’s thing a lot right now, getting it ready. It’s already shaping up to be a pretty exhausting year.”
To catch Jon McKiel before his impending onslaught of occupations gets the better of him, and to pick up his beautiful record, you can pop into 2035 Gottingen on Jan. 28 to get a glimpse of the multifaceted man in action.