Bombargo bandmates eager to headline inaugural Chester Fest Battle of the Bands

Brandon White/Submitted

It’s not always easy coming home, but for Nathan and Anthony Thoen the decision was a no-brainer.

The two brothers were back in Prince Albert on Monday to help prepare for the upcoming Chester Fest Battle of the Bands. Their band Bombargo will headline the inaugural event, which is designed to showcase up and coming Prince Albert musicians.

It’s a perfect fit for Bombargo, who have made it their mission to help listeners pursue their dreams.

“We just loved the whole concept of it,” Nathan said during an interview on Monday. “We’ve been wanting to do a show in PA for a long time … and this just seemed like a great idea, to partner with these local bands and hopefully help draw more people out to this budding music scene.

“We’re hoping that people will come out and experience Bombargo, but maybe they’ll come a little early and check out the battle of the bands as well, and get some exposure for some of these young artists.”

The Thoen brothers aren’t just relying on their music to inspire Prince Albert musicians. On Monday, they spent the day visiting students at PACI and Carlton high schools, giving tips and advice to students looking to make music more than a hobby.

They say musicians need to support each other, and Prince Albert is the best place to start.

“Some of the kids there are actually in the bands that will be taking part in this battle of the bands thing, and that’s something that I think is so important to have be a part of the Prince Albert community,” Anthony said. “If it’s the battle of the bands or there’s an open mic or even the Chester Fest Music Festival that happened, it starts to create that music scene and sense of community in Prince Albert.”

While both brothers thrived going up in Prince Albert, events like the Chester Fest Battle of the Bands were few and far between. They looked to musicians who moved away from Prince Albert for inspiration, like Leot Hanson, the former guitarist for The Sheepdogs.

These days, they’re excited to see people like Chester Fest co-organizer Joel Rohs stepping up to create more opportunities for young artists. Whether it’s a new music festival, or just a regular open mic night at a coffee house, all these little opportunities add up. They’re also glad to see schools like PACI offering more creative programs, like an entire class devote to garage bands.

“I think in life we’re always quick to put a ceiling on ourselves, and our dreams, and with Bombargo, we really try in all aspects to remind people that they can achieve what they want to do,” Nathan explained. “We try to be a living permission slip for others (to say), ‘hey, it’s okay to take a swing at trying to start a band or make a movie or write a book or whatever that crazy idea is. We just want to show people that it is possible.”

That positivity has helped Bombargo rise through the ranks of the Canadian music scene, but there have been a few unexpected windfalls along the way.

The brothers say they’ve been fortunate to have solid mentors, like Michael Franti and Spearhead, who invited Bombargo to be a part of their upcoming Work Hard and Be Nice Tour. They’ve also benefited from popstar Taylor Swift, who shared Bombargo’s single “Mr. No Good” on her Spotify playlist.

By playing at the Chester Fest Battle of the Bands, they’re hoping to give a little bit of that luck to local musicians.

“It went with our whole mission of inspiring people to chase their dreams,” Nathan said. “We have these up and coming bands from PA going to this battle (and) if we can somehow be a part of it and somehow draw more attention to the event, that’s awesome.”

“I think we really believe the harder you work the luckier you get as well,” Anthony added. “They don’t call it breaking into the music business for nothing. There’s lot of things at play that can come all together to make something happen and put your career on a certain path.”

Bombargo featuring the Chester Fest Battle of the Bands will start at 8 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 21 at the Union Centre in Prince Albert. Ray of Sunshine, The Upside – Band, The Hightailers and LJ Tyson will all be competing.

Physical tickets can be purchased at Fresh Air Experience or Propaganda Shop. Online tickets are available at chesterfest.ca/tickets.

In addition to the Feb. 21 concert in Prince Albert and the Work Hard and Be Nice Tour, Bombargo is scheduled to play at the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival in Florida on Mar. 5, as well as the Electric Forest Festival in Michigan. The group will also release their second album, which was recorded at Emma Lake, later this year.

*This is a corrected story. The original story stated that Bombargo’s debut album is due out this year, as opposed to their second album. The Herald regrets the error.