The Austin Chronicle

Weekend Two Friday ACL Fest Interview: Strumbellas

Toronto bluegrass stompers stream 100 million

By Jim Caligiuri, October 7, 2016, Music

Although this stomp-and-holler-at-the-top-of-your-lungs act formed in 2008, it took the release of April's third album, Hope, for the Toronto sextet to break out beyond the Great White North. A banner year for the proverbial overnight sensation began in March at South by Southwest.

"I think we played 13 shows in 11 days," recalls songwriter-vocalist Simon Ward. "We'd played in Austin before in a very small pub, the Saxon Pub, and there were only a few people there. But this year we really experienced the excitement of South by Southwest. It was a whirlwind, one of those things that afterwards you go, 'Holy shit, did that really just happen?'"

Hope's lead track, "Spirits," became an earworm of epic proportions with online streams totaling more than 100 million. It's one of those songs you've probably heard this summer, even if you didn't know the band.

"One-hundred million streams, can you believe that?" exclaims the 33-year-old Ward. "I can't even express what it's like to have your song streamed that many times. When we set out to make this record, the band wanted to make a big pop record. It didn't necessarily come out that way, but when we were making 'Spirits' and 'We Don't Know,' we definitely had that in mind.

"That being said, we didn't expect anything near the success that 'Spirits' has given us."

The Strumbellas' goal to break out beyond Canada has come true.

"From the start, this band wanted to be worldwide. We really wanted that. We all had the same goal in mind: 'Let's see how far we can go.'"


3pm, Miller Lite stage

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