Toronto band Citizen Jane comes to Nanaimo in return to Island roots

Duo recorded debut album ‘In the Storm’ last year in Gibsons, B.C.

In early spring 2017 Lea Kirstein and Reenie Perkovic of the Toronto-based chamber-folk duo Citizen Jane moved out to a tiny, seaside house in Gibsons, B.C. to write and record their debut album.

While some residents make housing choices based on number of bathrooms or square footage, this musical married couple was searching for a domicile with good acoustics.

“Actually, when we were deciding where to live we kind of stepped into this place and it had a nice, slanted ceiling and were like, ‘This sounds great, let’s live here,’” Perkovic said.

“The living room literally sounded great, so we signed the lease immediately after looking at that,” Kirstein added.

“We set up blanket forts as little sound isolation booth and went from there.”

After eight months at work the duo released In the Storm, a dozen tracks of strings and harmony, with a taste for texture that comes from their time studying classical music together at the University of Victoria.

Kirstein and Perkovic, who hail from Victoria and Toronto respectively, said relocating from the big city to the small coastal town made the album possible. Kirstein said there was less of a sense of anonymity in Gibsons and people took more ownership over their role in the community.

“With that transparency and with that sense of responsibility, you felt a greater sense of your own personal impact in your community. Like anything that you did or touched would affect the web of your community that much more around you, which was something really new for the both of us having grown up in big cities,” she said.

“And I noticed that young people especially had a really hard time sort of reinventing themselves or having the freedom to sort of develop their own identity and thoughts and feelings. A lot of that came out in the record, I think.”

The duo – both sing while Kirstein plays the viola, fiddle and cello and Perkovic favours the guitar and mandolin – say the “storm” the album refers to is the political and technological turmoil that they feel is pushing people apart.

“None of our songs are exclusively political, but we kind of wanted to make [the album] about the value of human connection,” Perkovic said.

“And with the whole magnetic, polar division of people and the media and the easiness with which we divide ourselves, we wanted to kind of emphasize the connection between people and acting with love.”

After playing CD release shows in Ontario this fall, Citizen Jane will be back on the West Coast and Vancouver Island for a number of dates, including a stop at the Vault in Nanaimo on Jan. 11. They say it will be meaningful to return to the place where In the Storm was conceived.

“It’s definitely special. We sort of feel like we have two home bases almost. We keep on going to Toronto because obviously it’s got an amazing music scene and this explosion of diverse perspectives,” Perkovic said.

“It’s a funny thing, we always feel this magnetic pull somehow drawing us back to the West Coast, whether that’s to find quiet time to write and create or to share music with likeminded people and communities,” Kirstein said.

“So [we’re] really looking forward to sharing this labour of love with the people of the West Coast for sure.”

WHAT’S ON … Citizen Jane performs at the Vault on Thursday, Jan. 11 at 9 p.m. Admission is $10.

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