A VIU jazz grad is returning to Nanaimo for the first time in over two years to launch his band’s second album.
Singer and guitarist Wes Carroll studied at VIU from 2010 to 2014, but since graduating he mostly performed in Victoria before moving to Toronto to continue his jazz studies at the University of Toronto in August. In 2018 Carroll and his band the Confabulation – drummer and fellow VIU grad Cyril Loja, horn player Miguelito Valdes, keyboardist Dakota Hoeppner and bassist Trav Short – released their debut album, Off Empire, and on Jan. 2 they present their latest record, Elephant in the Sea, at the Vault.
“I got so much out of being in Nanaimo and met so many great people but wasn’t really in the stage of writing jazz music at that time,” Carroll said. “So it’s really exciting to go there now that I have written some music and perform it there and do an album release. I definitely hope to see familiar faces at the show.”
Carroll said the new record includes some songs that “weren’t quite ready” to be on the band’s first release. He said he was partly motivated to record Elephant in the Sea because he was about to move to Toronto.
“It was a great opportunity to actually get the material down,” he said. “And we felt like we were tight from all the playing we had done … it just felt like the right time.”
Like Off Empire, Elephant in the Sea is evenly split between instrumental compositions and songs featuring vocals. Carroll describes the album as having a “diverse but also cohesive sound,” which is what the band aims for when they try to perform at their best.
“There is some up-tempo music, there’s some slow music, there’s a solo guitar song, there’s songs that are almost more in like a singer-songwriter, soul, poppy style, but then with solos, and then songs that are more right in the modern jazz sound,” Carroll said.
A lot of the songs on the record have a political angle, Carroll said, with subjects including exploitative employers, coping with mental health challenges and being moved by activism. There’s even an instrumental piece that references George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.
“For a long time I have been interested in social justice issues and trying to stay up on those topics to a certain degree, so when I go to write I just feel inspired by the community organizing that I see,” he explained. “And it’s also a good outlet for frustration I have with the way things are going.”
WHAT’S ON … Wes Carroll Confabulation CD release show at the Vault, 499 Wallace St., on Jan. 2 at 9 p.m. $10 at the door.