McGowan band to jam at the Pawnshop
Doug Johnson/The Griff
The Griff Vol. 1, No. 16, Thurs Feb 9, 2012
Doug Johnson - arts editor
The brothers McGowan of The McGowan Family Band never doubted that they would be making music for 13 years — many bands only dream of making music for so long. The Edmontonian five-piece brings its psychedelic jams and flowing hippie beards to The Pawnshop on Feb. 10, celebrating the 13th anniversary of its first gig — an annual tradition.
“We always thought that we’d keep going as long as we’re able to play music. We’re brothers and that ties us together by blood,” says Paul McGowan, the band’s lead singer and guitarist.
Paul and his brothers Mark (drums) and Sean (guitar/ bass) come from a musical family. They grew up listening to the Grateful Dead (whom the brothers McGowan cite as a primary influence), seeing live shows and playing piano as children. In early junior high, they traded the piano for more traditional rock instruments.
The brothers played in several projects until 1998 when they first formed The McGowan Family Band and played their first live show on Feb. 12, 1999. Also in the band’s line up are Sean Brewer (bassist/ guitarist) and Kris Kerr (percussion).
In keeping with their jam band mandate, The McGowan Family Band’s dynamic allows for much improvisation. Often, says Mark McGowan, the band’s best songs come about as a collaborative effort — passing around a pad of paper and having each member write a lyric. When playing live they often feed off of each others’ energy and inspiration, paying close attention to what the other members are doing. “We’re making it as we go a lot of the time. We’re not sure where the jam will go, but we know it has to come back to a particular riff at some point,” says Mark.
“We really like the jam band music scene — writing songs where there’s a structure and then somewhere within the song there’s room for improvisation,” says Paul.
“Sometimes it doesn’t always work on paper, in the sense of how music should go,” says Mark, “but it works in its purpose of a live feel like you’re on an adventure with us with the music. We pride ourselves in really taking people on a journey with our music.”
Also, each time they jam a song, the brothers agree, it’s a unique experience for both them and the audience.
So entranced is the band with the idea of open musical structure that Mark named his son Jake Ash McGowan, born 2009 —whose initials spell out JAM.
Both albums the band has released, the eponymous McGowan Family Band (2008) and the Psychedelic Tales of the Lawn Gnomes Volume 1 (2009), are all recorded live off the floor, organically with their own microphones and studio setup.
The McGowan Family Band’s Feb. 10 show will be recorded and released on a later date.
In the future, the band hopes to see more of Canada and the United States with their music, says Paul. They also want to play some of the larger jam band festivals around the world.
McGowan Family Band
Bryan Birtles / Vue Weekly
Vue Weekly Music Notes July 30, 2009
McGowan Family Band
With Boogie Patrol, Mmmberta
Pawn Shop, $10
Sun, Aug 2 (8 pm)
Known nearly as much for the beards and curly hair as for their psychedelic folk-rock prowess, it should come as no surprise that the band fronted by the McGowan brothers, aptly named the McGowan Family Band, will be releasing the first EP in a planned trilogy this Sunday, entitled Psychedelic Tales of the Lawn Gnomes Vol. 1.
“It’s really fun, a concept album. We all got into character and we’re all gonna dress up as lawn gnomes,” laughs Mark McGowan of the band’s plan for the release party to celebrate not only the fact the group’s members happen to look like the garden-dwelling statues, but also the band’s trippy subject matter. “It’s really psychedelic- you know lawn gnomes, mushrooms, a lot of plant life, that’s a big part of our music so we thought we’d bring that out in a fun way.”
McGowan, who just became a father for the first time, is especially excited for the release because it will be dedicated to his newborn son. As he explains, becoming a father has been even more than he expected it would be.
“I always thought that when I had a kid I’d be happy, but I didn’t think I’d be this happy. He’s just amazing,” he says, refusing to guess which instrument his kid may one day play in his family’s band “He’ll learn whatever he wants to learn.”
The Family That Plays Together Stays Together
Bryan Saunders / Vue Weekly
Week of April 17, 2008, Issue #652
As cheerful droves of friends and relatives pour into the Backdraught Pub to celebrate Paul McGowan’s 30th birthday, his brother, Mark McGowan, explains how this same sense of family and community is behind everything the McGowan Family Band is and does, including taking part in Jupiter Grass’s Official 420 Celebration.
“There’s a big myth around [the day Apr 20], but I’m not going to get all deep on you,” McGowan says. “I just feel that it’s something that brings people together, no matter if they smoke or drink or not. It brings people together.”
Keeping people together, however, is something bands often struggle with. Band members often have solo projects that they want to pursue, and the band breaks up as a result. This was especially true of the McGowan Family Band’s greatest influence, the Grateful Dead, after the death of lead guitarist Jerry Garcia. Staying together hasn’t been a problem for the McGowans though, who’ve been a band since 1999.
“We’ve all had opportunities to move away to BC or something—a lot of our friends have moved to Montréal—but we didn’t jump on that wagon,” McGowan points out. “We wanted to stay together. The connection we feel when we’re together on stage, it can’t be beat. That’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my entire life: being on stage with my family.”
Despite the band’s name, though, not all of the group’s members are blood relatives, per se. McGowan explains that besides older brother Paul and younger brother Sean, the family band has also “adopted” some of its members. These adoptees are James Stuart and Sean Brewer, the latter of whom also plays for the Uncas.
On top of it all, the McGowan brothers are still trying to get the McGowan sisters to join the band.
“We’ve had Anne up a couple times on the drums,” he explains. “She’s just the greatest spirit and energy, and the best sister ever. And we’ve had her up for a lot of the spacey kind of jams—she loves that kind of stuff.
“And then there’s our little sister Ruth,” he adds. “We’re actually trying to convince her to sing with us, and she says maybe if we make her an ugly stick, she might get into the band.”
For anyone who isn’t sure what an ugly stick is, McGowan is happy to explain.
“It’s a traditional Newfoundland instrument,” he chuckles, “You put a shoe on the end of a stick and any kind of jingling instrument [on the other end of the stick], and you stomp it.”
Sat, Apr 19 (7:30 pm)
The McGowan Family Band
With Sally’s Krackers, the Uncas, Unkle Sam, DJ Fuuze, 99St Sound System
Riverdale Hall (9231 - 100 Ave)
$10 (advance), $15 (door)
McGowans set to unleash good, happy vibes
Peter North, Freelance
Published: Saturday, December 22 2007
After a decade of gigging and jamming, rounding up three sets worth of material is not a concern for the McGowan Family Band.
The three McGowan brothers -- lead guitarist Paul, drummer Mark and guitarist Sean -- and friends James Stuart and Sean Brewer have been steeped in the musical odysseys of the Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers Band.
"We're basically a jam-rock band and we've stayed with the sounds we started with," says the bass- and guitar-playing Stuart, who hits the stage with the band tonight in Strathcona's Wunderbar Hofbrauhaus.
""We're about creating a good, happy vibe and we write and play to that kind of energy," Stuart says.
Like his bandmates, he's involved in several projects at a time. A teacher, he splits his out-of-classroom hours between McGowan and a band called Elephant, which digs into meaty arrangements of such artists as jazz violinist Jean-Luc Ponty and the recently disbanded String Cheese Incident.
"Paul and Mark were members of the Fabulous Bee Feeders and are now in a group called Mad Volcano, and Paul still works with Big River. Sean (Brewer) is a longtime member of The Uncas, so with all the juggling, this band is able to work in two or three shows a month."
With a demo that needs a few finishing touches and a number of taped shows, it's time the band released a disc.
The first of the McGowan Family Band's three sets begins at 9 p.m. and the cover is $6. The Wunderbar Hofbrauhaus is at 8120 101st St.
Music Sat, Apr 22 / McGowan Family Band / Riverdale Hall
Conor Tavis McNAally / Vue Weekly
The problem with summer is that it goes by far too fast, and this past Saturday at Riverdale Hall all assembled were reminded to enjoy and cherish the good times while they last. And, as it happened to coincide with the ubiquitous “four twenty,” there were more than enough “good times” being had at this party extraordinaire, which is held every year as a celebration of the coming summer and, well, some other things, too. As usual, The McGowan Family band lit things up with their smokin’ grooves and slow-burnin’ jams, and there was even a draw held for a Volcano (an extremely high tech device used for smoking, um, stuff). My only complaint is that I couldn't stop eating these lovely pastries being sold by a kind fellow in a tie-dyed hoodie—boy, those were delicious. —CONOR TAVIS McNALLY / email@example.com