A bonfire duet that grew to become a full-time obsession, Owls by Nature is the wide-eyed brainchild of vocalist-guitarist Ian McIntosh and vocalist-bassist Sean Hamilton. Originally hailing from British Columbia, they found their niche in Edmonton in 2010. Within a year, the acoustically inclined pair with a penchant for spinning wild western jams had drawn a drummer and banjo player into their late-night escapades. Bonding over a mutual love of intimate folk ballads and hard-driving rock melodies, the quartet released its debut album, Backwater, in the spring of 2011. The recording quickly sold out, thanks in part to the band’s reputation for putting on barn-burning live shows. Hamilton took the successful launch as a good omen that Owls by Nature had the potential to bring their homespun root-cellar version of garage rock to light.
“I wanted to do a coffee shop-type solo set and Ian wanted to work on home studio projects,” says Hamilton. “Gradually we built up to writing together and decided we needed a name. We were both working day jobs and would get together at 6 p.m. to play music until 4 a.m. We came up with Owls by Nature over a smoke and it stuck.”
Having gained altitude and exposure thanks to multiple Canadian tours studded with festival and showcase dates, the 20-somethings were ready to quill Owls’ next lyrical triumph. Little did they suspect that their bucolic hustle and flow would attract three new fledglings: Moncton-native banjo/guitar player Cory Dee was followed by lap/peddle steel specialist Doc deGroot and benevolent studio-owner/percussionist Fred, who joined Owls by Nature as the second album began to evolve. Due for release in mid-September, the rambunctious Everything is Hunted is a refreshingly unabashed and surprisingly sophisticated album that hits like a punch to the liver.
“We were excited to have our favourite hired gun, Cory, join us as a regular member just after Backwater came out,” says Hamilton. “Doc deGroot is one hell of a melodic, lap steel player, peddle steel player and guitarist; his colourful harmonies really fill out our sound. We snagged him into doing some recordings with us and eventually talked him into coming on full-time. Likewise, Fred, who is part owner of the studio we were working at, wanted to be part of it. He’s a crazy good drummer and we hope his arrival means an end to the constant turnover of drummers. The scene in Edmonton is incredibly supportive; the bands help each other out and there’s a lot of positive momentum.”
Grabbing on to the perennial themes of hang-ups and hangovers, Everything is Hunted is a bonafide floorboard-stomper that encompasses golden country ditties and catchy Canuck rock anthems; all carried forth by brilliant string picking and the brazen soulfulness of McIntosh’s volume.
“This album has a lot more layers to it; we took our time and made the record we wanted. I’d say the biggest surprise was how twang it came out sounding. I guess we went a little country on this one,” he says. “We were a lot more structured in our approach this time around, but it felt like an organic process. The songs are still about heartbreak and hard nights; substances and some hurtful girls. We always want to make sure we don’t get away from our balance of being upbeat and slightly dark at the same time.”