The Traveling Mabels: Canadian Folk/Country Band Profile
Lana Floen took some time to talk to me about The Traveling Mabels. She told me about how they create together, where she gets ideas as a song writer and the supportive nature of the folk/roots music scene in Canada.
The band members have all known each other for many years. They've all been part of the Canadian music industry and spent time listening to each other make music before they became a band. Lana explains, "Eva and Sue are mother and daughter. Keith and I are husband and wife. We each had our own groups. We were always on the same circuit, so if we had a night off we'd go see them or they'd come and see us. We each admired one another as musicians and as people.
Nine years ago, Sue was nominated for Canadian bass player of the year at the Canadian country music awards, so I went down with her to Winnipeg to support her and so did Eva. Long story short, we went to a Royalty records party and we were asked to sing together. We'd never sung together before. By the time we got off stage, we had several cards. We just felt that something really special had happened, so when we got home we started working on an album."
The musical passions of each band member are quite varied. Lana points out, "Eva is a little bit older than the rest of us. There's pretty much a thirteen year gap between each of us. Eva is the rocker and the storyteller. Sue can sing a mean rock song. She has great vocals. I'm a bit more country/folk influenced. Most of the time when we create, we start with something on our own and then bring it to the group. That's when the other influences come in, but generally we take an idea from one person and then we collaborate."
In terms of the song writing process, Lana feels as if she enters an almost trance-like state of mind when she's writing. She says, "It's almost like it comes from somewhere else. It's kind of how I write. I get into a mode and sometimes songs come really quickly or it can take three or four days. Sometimes I go into that mode but nothing comes out of it. I'm heavily influenced by what's around me at the time. I find that I'm less creative when it's super busy."
Once a song comes to fruition, the idea behind is has become quite strong. Lana elaborates, "By the time the song comes to the table the idea is strong. After that, we all have input on the song. Mostly, to date, we've done a lot of our own single writing. There's a few songs that we've done as The Mabels. It's really a neat process because we all think so differently. It's amazing to see how it all comes out in the end."
After many years as artists working at a more corporate level, Lana says the band finds working independently to be refreshing. She says, "The independent process is something we've enjoyed. It allows us a lot of freedom. It allows us to take dates that we like and not take dates we don't want to take. You don't have someone breathing down your neck all of the time. There's also the creativity that goes into being independent. When you create an album, it isn't just the songs. There are four really creative minds involved in it, so it's been a really wonderful process. It seems to flow with ease for all of us, we all get along really well. There's no turmoil in the group."
The Mabels' experiences with the folk/roots music scene have been overwhelmingly positive. Lana explains, "We have had nothing but wonderful support from the scene. The artists are incredible creatively but also as human beings. We feel that this is where we fit. You can go to different events in other scenes and sometimes you aren't sure about them, but the folk and roots scene is amazing. Every time we go to an event, we come away inspired. To us, folk and roots music is about the people, so it comes in many different forms and genres. You get a variety and it's real. People are allowed to be themselves which is so important!"
The band has recorded all of their albums in Lana and Keith's basement. Lana says, "My husband Keith has recorded and produced all of our albums. He sets up a studio in the basement and we go down and record. It's nice because it's low pressure. We're not on time limits, we're not in the studio having to pay big bucks. We kind of get into a zone here and it's very comfortable. We can go over takes as many times as we need to and we like the ease and the flow of it."
Lana says that the band is currently working on a Christmas album and getting ready for more touring. She adds, "We're gearing up to get back into the scene. We've taken a month off and we're performing again. We have a B.C tour coming up, we have a few Alberta dates and some dates in Saskatchewan. It is starting to pick up now."
Each member of the band finds inspiration in different parts of the music making experience. Lana says, "My biggest inspiration is going to see other people. I've always done that even before I started singing because I started late. I love listening to live music. It inspires me, it gives me creative ideas and I love it. My surroundings also inspire me. How does the vibe of the world feel? Eva has a way different writing process than I do. She's very witty and very funny, so humour is a big inspiration for her. Sue is a quiet, gentle soul so she probably digs deeper inside to find her inspiration. Keith is our instrumental guy. He's a musical genius. He's the mastermind behind our music."