Pharis and Jason Romero bring old-timey sound to North Vancouver

Pharis and Jason Romero perform @ BlueShore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts, Capilano University, 2055 Purcell Way on Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets:

A fire burnt their workshop to the ground, but from its embers rose an artistic statement.

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Musicians Pharis and Jason Romero had decided to take a one-year sabbatical from touring. In the quiet, natural splendour of their residence in Horsefly, B.C., the couple sought respite as they welcomed the arrival of their second child, spent time making custom banjos, and started building a new house. But a fire that came and went in the middle of the night burnt their workshop to a crisp, and took with it their main source of income.

“It probably took a couple years off our life due to stress, but the reason the last record got written, in a lot of ways, was because we had this crazy, stressful year,” says Pharis Romero.

Noting the outpouring of respect and gratitude that came from people all over the world in the wake of the fire, Romero says the couple was in awe of how the community came together to help – whether it was through their labour, pocketbooks, or best wishes – following the fateful event that destroyed the couple’s workshop where Jason is known to produce “some of the most highly sought-after custom high-end open back banjos in the world.”

“I would totally wish on every single person to have that feeling of having so many people saying, ‘We’ve got you,’” she says. “The whole record is about gratitude and love and connection with people. Just this overall feeling of being amazed by how incredible people are.”

That embrace of gratitude and love is what shines brightest on the record which came out of that tumultuous time, Sweet Old Religion, which earned the duo the 2019 Juno Award for Traditional Roots Record, their second Juno win overall.

Pharis and Jason met in 2007 and connected instantly over their adoration for old-timey songs with that special ability to cut straight to the heart.

“The first thing we ever did before we ever had a conversation was play music together,” she says.

They were married two and a half months later.

On their reverence for folk music with a rustic, rural charm, Romero says they’re smitten with early music, such as early-1920s jazz, blues, and country to the folk singer-songwriters of the ’50 and ’60s, because there’s a certain “pulse” that emanates through them.

“I am in a sense of awe a lot of the time by earlier music … where everything is played live – people playing music together and that is part of the cosmic experience of listening to that music,” she says. “The feeling of those songs is so powerful.”

With a new banjo-making workshop completed, two kids running through the fields of their idyllic Horsefly community, the duo is now back on the road and making new music again.

“We’ve got a whole bunch of new material to play for people,” says Romero, adding the pair is excited to be performing with a five-piece band when they perform amid handmade banjos and old guitars in North Vancouver later this month.

“This music that we’re playing it’s all about tapping into the pulse and the grove of playing together. It’s about the sum being greater than the parts.”

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