Hailing from the Great White North of Montreal, indie-folk duo Bride & Groom craft acoustic pop gems in the vein of traditional American folk and bluegrass. The band is a courtship of sorts, bringing together singer/guitarist Jesse Daniel Smith and cellist Kaitlyn Raitz as both musical and romantic pair. The couple bring a confident and intimate air to their pieces. Strummed guitar and fiddling cello intermingle to create a cohesive and natural whole. Jesse’s rough, traveled voice perfectly balanced by Kaitlyn’s sweet and assured cooing. In effect, their songs create a comfortable, lived-in space.
The pair are highly skilled in their instrumentation. The lively bluegrass tune “Born to Roam” features jaunty, roving guitar strumming from Jesse and a sprightly fiddle from Kaitlyn that serve as perfect complements to the lyrical themeÂ Other songs like “Of the Sea,” showcase Jesse’s gentle finger picking, lending an air of sorrow to the tune while Kaitlyn’s bowed strings swell to fill the spaces left between.
Their rendition of “My Only Sunshine” may show the greatest range of their instruments – both of which Jesse refers to as “Jacks-Of-All-Trades.” Combining all of the previous instrumentation, it also includes a lively blues solo on guitar, as well as bass plucking and percussion from the cello. In many ways the song is very representative of Bride & Groom. It is a traditional American standard interpreted through an array of genres (folk, blues, country, bluegrass). Yet, the pair manage to take the song out of the past and into the present, while introducing their own individual sense of romantic innocence to a song well known for its exuberant twee.
Bride & Groom’s recent, self-titled EP can be downloaded from iTunes, Amazon, or Bandcamp. You can catch them live at various dates in Canada and New York throughout October and November. Check out our interview with Jesses and Kaitlyn below:
How did the two of you meet?
Kaitlyn: The Montreal music scene is quite small. We ran in similar circles and discovered each other. I remember listening to one of his tunes on Soundcloud and thinking his music had something very special. I commented on how I thought it was great, and he thought of me when he wanted to do a collaborative project.
Jesse: Through mutual friends we became acquainted, never actually meeting until Kaitlyn needed a hand with a phone that was giving her problems. We got together, spoke about the big, existential questions while I worked and eventually went our separate ways. A few months later, Kaitlyn heard a tune I had written called ‘Heartsick and The Girl Who Loved Too Quick’ and really enjoyed it. We organized a playing session at her place and the rest is history.
When did you decided to start playing music together and why?
J: I had decided to play with Kaitlyn the first time we met! She needed a project that would take her where she wanted to go, and I knew that I could offer her that. It wasn’t until ‘Heartsick’ that she believed it as well. From there we started ‘Bride & Groom’, a project aiming to combine the approachability of pop music with the musicality and expression of old time, folk and country music.
K: After he contacted me to do this, we got together to jam and decided that we should start a band instead! I had just graduated with my Masters from McGill and was looking for as much music to fill my time as possible.
What are your backgrounds as musicians? Are you both classically trained?
K: I’m a classically trained cellist, but I’ve also spent the past few years really digging into folk music. I’ve gone to fiddle camps and have spent lots of time learning tunes and non-classical techniques.
J: I, on the other hand learned to play through countless gigs, jams and rehearsals in dive bars and various bands. We couldn’t be more opposite in our mental states and approaches, but ultimately it offers us the most amazing bridge to the strengths of the other person’s style.
K: We are polar opposites in that respect, and I think that plays a large role in why our music is so unique.
Cello is (unfortunately) not often used in popular music. What about the instrument appealed to you?
K: In fifth grade, after playing violin, piano, and trombone (for a week), I found the cello. I liked that it was big and impressive looking and that you didn’t have to hold it up with your arms! Oh and I guess I liked the sound of it.
J: I’ve always been a man interested in being the Jack-Of-All-Trades. For example, guitar is by no means the fullest or richest instrument in the world, but I would argue it is the best at doing everything pretty well. For me, Cello is the jack-of-all-trades of the all stringed instruments based on it’s huge range and sonic capability.
You’ve taken to using a suitcase as a bass drum during your performances. Where did that idea come from? What do you find attractive about the suitcase as opposed to a traditional drum?
K: Jesse can probably answer this better than I. We just wanted some kind of percussion to give the music more drive and pop appeal.
J: The suitcase stemmed from me looking to add some percussion to our set without sacrificing the ease and intimacy of the duo. After endless searching for alternatives, I eventually spoke to a drummer who suggested the suitcase bass drum. It met all of my sonic demands and was able to open easily and close securely, allowing for the various elements of the bass drum pedal to fit inside of it! With that, we were able to have some thump without having to buy a car or rely on a drummer to play gigs.
How do the two of you collaborate? How do the songs take shape?
K: Jesse will usually come to me with a song that is either complete or mostly complete, and we will work from there. I contribute by writing fiddle riffs, offering arrangement ideas, and figuring out vocal harmonies.
J: Our first EP ‘Bride & Groom’ was primarily songs I had written before meeting Kaitlyn and she was kind enough to grace them her wonderful playing and thoughtful input. Our latest works have been more collaborative, coming together to blend our strengths together on each tune from the ground up.
Does being a couple affect your songwriting together? Is it a more intimate process than writing with others?Â
K: I think it definitely affects it. It’s important for us to separate the business (music) from the relationship, but it can sometimes be difficult. I think that the writing process is definitely more intimate and is certainly a very special thing.
J: Yes and no. We do try to make a point of separating our relationship from our band but our chemistry and dynamic as a couple can’t help but affect our writing process. I give Kaitlyn’s input a lot more credit and respect then I have with previous bandmates because of her veteran experience with the genre and music as a whole.
Where do you gather your lyrical inspiration from?
J: As the groups primary lyricist I have to admit that I (very cheesily) take inspiration from life. Ninety-nine percent of what I write is literal and stemming from very particular feelings, experiences and periods of my life.
K: He’s begun writing things less based on his experiences in order to tell different stories. He’s the brains behind all our words; when I try to write lyrics, it sounds like a cheesy show tune!
Your visual aesthetic comes across as very innocent and childlike, was that intentional?
K: From the beginning, we certainly had an idea about what we wanted to present ourselves as. We thought that the cute-couple image could certainly be polarizing but something that many people would sign-on to. We are writing some tunes now that might take the edge off of that innocent and childlike aesthetic, but we still intend to keep that young, authentic folky image as well.
J: The intention was certainly to inspire fun and an air of cuteness, definitely! We figured it would strongest if we came out of the gate with a very apparent niche. Something that people can grasp onto and a way to quickly separate us from the sea of bands establishing themselves in the industry. As we work on our sophomore effort, the themes and branding will reflect the maturity of the act itself and we will likely end up shedding some of that appeal in exchange for being a more ’adult’ band. But we will remain cute, we cannot stress that enough, haha.
Music tends to be a constant and influential presence during childhood. Are there any memories from your own childhoods that have stuck with you over the years?
K: When I was a kid, I thought my dad was Garth Brooks. I grew up with country music in my home and it’s been something that has always been near and dear to my heart. Even alongside classical music, folk and traditional music have stuck with me. To be able to play that rootsy, fiddley type stuff with Bride & Groom feels like I’m living out a childhood dream. I also remember wanting to quit cello once right after I started because it was annoying to take out of the case. My mom wouldn’t let me. Thanks mom.
J: There are many musical memories I’ve kept with me. My family was constantly sitting around a room playing instruments or listening to country/bluegrass music while chatting, playing cards, etc.. Ironically, I didn’t enjoy the music whatsoever, and I only started playing music when I was 16 completely randomly and by my own curiosity. Even then it was punk and classic rock followed by blues, folk and eventually back to country and bluegrass in the last year! My family couldn’t be happier about it.
As a band, you’ve only been together for a very short period of time. What does the future hold for Bride & Groom?
J: The future should expect more folk infused pop music with the same very progressive approach to the music industry that has helped our project quickly gain so much momentum! The dream would be to travel, play music with our heroes and inspire a new generation of people to get interested in acoustic music.
K: The future! In the near future, we are planning a tour to Ontario, New York, and a city near you (on ConcertWindow.com)! We have plans to make a second EP or album and have a Christmas surprise in the works. We are busier than ever and couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds.