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By Maryse Bernard

Cultural behemoth Montreal attracts bands by the boatload. Its bright lights and late nights are like tractor beams, especially to small town acts, who flock toward the busy scene. But for The Backhomes members Kees Dekker and Aimée Van Drimmelen, it wasn’t until they escaped the urban bustle to Victoria’s greener hub that their current psych-pop project took shape. “I can see why a lot of people go to the big city,” said Dekker over the phone, some twenty minutes after crossing into New Brunswick during the band’s summer tour. “There are a lot of opportunities to play and network and just experience life in Montreal…pretty amazing when you come from a small city.”

The two-piece can relate—Dekker hailed originally from Moncton, New Brunswick, and Drimmelen is from Regina, Saskatchewan. They met in Montreal and after dating for a decade and playing in respective bands they decided to start a joint effort. When the chance coincided to rent a family house in Victoria, the pair jumped on it. Thus began the quest for a new sound, in a new city. “We decided it was a great opportunity to kind of change things,” said Dekker. “We just liked the idea of going somewhere — you know — with lots of natural wonder. And a house that we could hunker down in and make some art.”

The Backhomes really developed during their cross-Canada journey. Although the band played one show before bidding the East farewell, they truly began to mould their sound after hitting the road. And the route from Point A to Point B took a bit of a detour. Delays in their West Coast housing situation shacked up the pair in Drimmelen’s parents’ cabin outside Regina. “We went from Montreal to Saskatchewan winter,” said Dekker. “We worked on and kind of came up with a lot of our sound and what we wanted to do…then did a bit of recording, just coming up with ideas, and when we got to Victoria we set it more into motion.” Dekker saw the move as a driving force for their songs. “I think just moving in general was a giant inspiration on what we wrote about,” he said. “In Montreal it’s awesome and we love it, but it would take like an hour and a half or whatever to get out of the city to a point where you feel like you’re not in urban surroundings. Whereas now we can kind of do that in no time.”

The Backhomes spent their first year in BC whittling down material for a debut album. The result was the space-rock LP Only Friend; eight dreamy tracks full of fuzz, haunting harmonies and uncomplicated but effective guitar riffs to sweep the listener into hazy hypnosis. Dekker said they were inspired by early, simple rock ’n’ roll, but that he and Drimmelen found most of their creative – incentive by watching other passionate bands. “It’s less us being super influenced by that band that we’re into,” he said. “It more just gets you really excited to create music when you see people doing awesome stuff.”

While Only Friend sounds a lot like a summer soundtrack, Dekker didn’t think it was a conscious effort. “I think it kind of came about that way,” he said. “When we decided to put it out and tour with it and stuff we were excited at the prospect of making it a summer record. I don’t think it was like intentionally summery when we made it, but then a lot of people since then have said it’s a good summer record so we’re pretty happy about that.”

The Backhomes got to take the album for a sunny season spin on their North American tour. Destinations included Toronto, Calgary, San Francisco, and Chicago. When Dekker checked in halfway through their musical journey, he said the reception had been positive so far and the geography awe-inspiring. He and Drimmelen had been writing some new tunes, one of which they recorded in his old Montreal studio. “We’ve definitely got quite a few songs that we didn’t really record for the first record that we’ve been playing in our live set for the last six months or more,” said Dekker. “So when we get back to Victoria, we’re gonna aim to record those and get them out in the new year.”

Future plans also include playing in Europe and more midwestern cities. But it doesn’t look like Victoria needs to worry about The Backhomes rebelling against their band name and staying out on the road. They’ve seen the big city, and found a slightly more secluded place to call home. With new friends and connections on Vancouver Island, Dekker said he appreciates the close-knit artistic community, and can’t see them taking off anytime soon, “…not unless some opportunity kind of drew us away. But we’re happy to be in Victoria and be on the West Coast for sure.”

By Maryse Bernard

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