The Strumbellas’ Isabel Ritchie Talks New Album and Return to the US (4/4 at WCL)

Last week Canadian indie folk rockers released “Hold Me (Diamond Remix),” a remix of the lead single of their fifth studio album, Part Time Believer, which dropped this February...

Last week Canadian indie folk rockers released “Hold Me (Diamond Remix),” a remix of the lead single of their fifth studio album, Part Time Believer, which dropped this February on Underneath a Mountain Records/The Orchard/Glassnote Records.  The rootsy anthem was remixed in collaboration with Canadian Billboard top 10 artist Kayla Diamond, who helped lend a pop sensibility and extra shot of adrenaline to the thunderously inspirational track about standing up to the trials and tribulations of life, the theme of much of the album.

Part Time Believer is very much The Strumbellas’ “pandemic album,” whose songs came about when the live music industry shut down and artists were given more than a little bit of extra time to indulge in songwriting.  The Strumbellas’ sessions produced nearly 50 tracks, including the first to feature Jimmy Chauveau as the band’s lead vocalist (replacing original frontman Simon Ward, who decided to take on a more behind-the-scenes role in 2022).  The album’s primary producer was Ben Allen, known for his work with Animal Collective, Kaiser Chiefs, and Gnarles Barkley, while Keith Varon (The Aces, Chloe Moriondo, Lauren Sanderson), Stevie Aiello (Thirty Seconds to Mars), and Dave Schiffman (System of a Down, The Mars Volta, Cass McCombs) produced additional tracks.

“With COVID, we were writing for a longer time than usual, and we were working with new musicians… and choosing the songs was a much longer process this time,” says Strumbellas violinist Isabel Ritchie during a recent phone chat.  And the band took the songs to the road across Canada immediately, which Ritchie tells me went incredibly well.

“It was really great, overall.  We started in Vancouver and it was an awesome, sold-out show and it only got better from there.  We started the day the album came out, so they knew like the first few singles, but by like the fourth show a lot of them knew a lot of the album.  It’s been awesome to see people sing along.  That’s the most gratifying thing as an artist and musician.”

While The Strumbellas got back on the road in summer of 2022, playing back and forth across Canada, they had very few shows outside of their homeland.  However, this Thursday, April 4th, they’ll be kicking off their first US tour since 2019 right here in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.  “It’s been a long time coming, so it’ll be really awesome to kick them off in Philadelphia!” Isabel tells.  But when I press her about any other cities the band is especially excited to revisit, she coyly asks, “Can I say all of them?”

“We try to have a really fun, high-energy show, and get people dancing even during some of the more depressing songs about mental health and things like that,” Ritchie half-jokingly says about the kind of live environment The Strumbellas like to provide for their fans.  She also tells me that they’re bringing along a stage production that includes some exceptionally cool stained-glass and lighting.  And while the set will have a focus on the new album, she says that they’re certainly always happy to churn out the classics: “There are five or six songs that are must-plays, the hits or fan favorites… but we also took this opportunity to bring out some we haven’t played in a while.”

Isabel tells me that the band has fun playing every type of venue, from cramped and rowdy clubs to sit-down theatres, which seems to make them the perfect fit for World Café Live, which is an amalgam equal parts listening room and black box rock room: “We’ll find any way we can get the crowd into it and adjust our energy to match the crowd, whether it be a sweaty, late-night barroom or a seated room or a festival where they maybe just know the hits.”

And, as for what the immediate future holds for The Strumbellas, Isabel tells me that they plan to continue to play as many cities and settings as they can throughout the remainder of 2024: “We have some festivals we’re announcing, and we’re hoping to get over to Europe in the fall — we have amazing fans in Europe – and getting back to places we haven’t been in a while…  Fall is filling up…”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.