Presenting Jubilee Riots: Penny Black

Greetings gals and guys! I have been wanting to introduce you to my favorite musicians for quite sometime and being that they are fresh off a name change and have a new album coming out (NOV 4th), I thought now is as good a time as any.

I met these guys almost ten years ago and they played right to my soul (as they continue to do). Here is a little bit about them…


Northern Roots act Jubilee Riots is a band that is very much centered around telling stories that resonate with truth and authenticity, as is evidenced by their latest outing, Penny Black. Inspired by years of touring, meeting people and sharing stories over late night drinks at the bar with fans, the band put out the call for people around the world to submit their stories as inspiration for their upcoming album.

Letters came from across the globe – from the band’s native Canada to locales as far away as Japan and Australia – each carrying the weight of one fan’s emotional tale.

“There were all sorts of letters,” shares bass player, Mark Abraham. “Some were dark and anonymous and difficult to read but many were funny or embarrassing; the kind of life events that happen to all of us.”

Bandmate Brian Buchanan adds, “It’s really humbling, but it’s also amazing to remember that all of those anonymous faces in the crowd- every single one of them – has a battle that they’re fighting and their own secret histories. All it takes sometimes is being an ear for people to talk to.”

“There were a lot of common themes,” vocalist and songwriter Trevor Lewington shares. “You start to see that not only does everyone have their own stories but there are some common themes that run through all of our lives and sometimes those similarities can actually connect people who wouldn’t have guessed they had anything in common.”

Beyond the challenge of taking 500 pages of letters and turning them into an album of songs, the band had another vision: to create a collection of tracks that they could perform start to finish on a late night dance tent stage at festivals; an album with an energetic pulse that would be impossible to sit still and listen to. It was that juxtaposition of upbeat party grooves with meaningful lyrics based on very personal stories that became the focus of the project.

Hard To Watch pic

In May, 2014, the band headed to a rustic studio in Portland, Maine, to record with producer Jonathan Wyman. Renting a cottage nearby afforded the band the opportunity to relax nightly and watch the hockey playoffs, sample local beer, and tweak arrangements around an old upright piano. “Man, that thing was out of tune” laughs drummer, Bruce McCarthy, “but I think sometimes a song needs that kind of character to come to life.”

After a month at the studio, the band had recorded a set of ten new songs. Some drew specifically from the submitted stories: “Astray” was based on a letter about a Russian Jew who escaped the Death March and thought his family had been killed, only to find out 50 years later they had survived and lived full lives. Others drew on the common threads winding through the stories: meeting a significant other (“Cut the Lights”); challenging relationships (“Unsteady,” “Trying Times”); and the potential risk and reward of making bold life choices (“Two Bare Hands,” “Traveler”).

Making bold choices is something the band can relate to as they recently made the decision to change
their name. “We toured and recorded as Enter The Haggis for a long time but that name no longer represented the music that we’re making” says the band’s multi-instrumentalist, Craig Downie, who plays everything from trumpet to bagpipes. Over the years the band has meticulously crafted their sound, transforming their original Celtic-jam into something diverse and multifaceted; something uniquely their own. The name Jubilee Riots was chosen, paying homage to their hometown, Toronto.
“We’re lucky enough to have had the luxury of growing up as a band,” Buchanan offers. “We were given the time to make mistakes and to develop, which a lot of artists don’t get anymore – but at the same time it meant that we developed a lot of personal relationships. I think there were 400 backers in that first crowd-funded project and when we were addressing the envelopes, it was amazing to us that we could put a face to just about every name that came in; people we’d met over the years. They’ve stuck with us through all the bumps and bruises.”

Cut The Lights is just the tip of the iceberg when it come to the Penny Black album. As a supporter of the album, I received my digital copy a few weeks ago and was immediately blown away. The talent and creativity these guys have is something that captured me from the first song I heard. Each song on Penny Black is brilliantly different. On my first listen through I danced, laughed, cried and found myself holding my breath. I’ve always marveled at the way their lyrics are written but knowing that these songs were inspired by hand written letters made each song personal.

If you aren’t sold yet, go to their website and take a listen for yourself. You can even pre-order/order from there! Otherwise it will be available world wide NOV 4th!

Brian, Bruce, Craig, Mark and Trevor have, musically, been the best thing that ever happened to me and I know several thousands of people who agree. Check the Jubilee Riots tour schedule (, see them LIVE and tell them their friend Candice sent you. You won’t regret it 🙂 🙂

Riot ON!

***Bio and promo photos courtesy of Jubilee Riots***


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