FRESH STARTS: When we caught up with Jett Pace last week, he was slowly careening his way down the highways of the Pacific Northwest. “It’s an absolute torrential downpour right now,” the Vancouver native laughed. “I’m hoping we’ll find the sun in California.” For a number of reasons, the conditions seem apropos. As Old Man Canyon, Pace has carved a sound out of personal tumult, creative darkness, and that quest for the light at the end of the tunnel. Founded on the heels of what he describes as a “pretty traumatic” band breakup, Pace’s solo music plays out like a heady soundtrack to navigating that uncertain space between one major life marker and the next.
“I was really confused creatively with where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do musically, how I wanted to go about it,” Pace recalled of his post-band mind-set. “I wrote those [first] songs while I was trying to explore these questions in my mind about what it means to make music, what it means to be a musician, and what am I trying to help facilitate in the people listening. Those songs were all questions to myself about life and how we go about finding out what we need to do and who we need to be.”
Sonically, Old Man Canyon’s stock is rooted in a folksy, galloping, head-held-high kind of balladry, not far removed from genre grand champions like Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons, but pulled ever so slightly in the psychedelic direction. On the title track to his lone EP, Phantoms and Friends, Pace injects a sinister piano line and a heavy helping of vocal reverb into the mix, conjuring a landscape that’s a little grayer, a little weirder, and plenty indicative of the project’s origin story.
“After high school, I traveled through Central America, and I stumbled across this jungle town in Mexico and randomly met this shaman,” Pace explained. “It was a very weird thing. He came up to me and basically told me that he had to take me on this journey. He said that he’d had a dream about me 20 years ago, and he had to show me this thing, so I went. For about a week, I was in communication with some sort of — I don’t know what it was, but it was some sort of force or being. It kind of told me what I needed to help facilitate musically and what this project needed to be focused on and the direction I had to go with it and the mindset I had to have while going through with it. That was kind of where it started, and after that I continued having these very vivid dreams about this old wizard man that lived in the woods.”
Trippy starting points aside, Pace considers Old Man Canyon’s music to be a constantly evolving journey of discovery and one that he hopes will resonate with all walks of people. “I hope that people have a sense of remembering something they’ve forgotten or chosen to forget, or something that helps them realize their potential as human beings and creative people,” Pace said of his listeners. “Hopefully I can inspire them to make some shifts in themselves, make some art, create a community, or share with the world a little bit more.”
Old Man Canyon plays Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Friday, November 14, at 8 p.m. with The Peach Kings.
ALSO THIS WEEK: One night prior, Los Angeles’ Maudlin Strangers take to the stage at Velvet for a slightly different take on that whole moody indie-rock thing. The brainchild of Agoura Hills native Jake Hays, Strangers makes music that vacillates between spooky garage rock and evocative pop, calling to mind everyone from The Shins to The Black Keys to closest contemporary kin Other Lives. Hays and Co. plug in on Thursday, November 13, at 8 p.m. Call (805) 965-5676 or visit velvet-jones.com for tickets and information to both shows.