This South-western Ontario trio uses the banjo and harmonica, in addition to your typical guitar and drum set to bring you a gospel-blues-rock-punk-roots electric experience bound to get you pumped! Formed by the aspirations of lead singer, Matt Bahen, The Schomberg Fair came to life upon the trails of an unfortunate accident. Bahen almost lost all his fingers from his left hand in a work accident, but was lucky enough to be able to get them reattached. Joining forces with high school friend Nathan Sidon and eventually drummer Pete Garthside, an appreciation for pre-war blues was the catalyst for their gospel rock music. In 2009, their album ‘Gospel’ was released, reaching top chart positions on college radio and landing the band spots on several Canadian tours and shows, including closing the year off with a bang, as they shared a stage with The Sadies and Ron Sexsmith on New Year’s Eve in Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern. Their lyrics are inspired by true stories that Bahen has encountered as an outreach worker and share the hardships endured and hope found by those affected by unfair realities. In our interview, Matt shares how he dealt with almost losing the use of his left fingers and a very insightful description of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Your band is named after the agricultural fair in Schomberg Ontario, which I take is a sign of your love and appreciation for the event. What else does the name symbolize for you as a band?
When we started the band coming up with a band name is always tough. We figured that by naming ourselves “the Schomberg Fair” we would be honest to ourselves of where we come from, and that this microcosm of a town is mirrored in almost every small town which many people can identify with. The actual fair itself was quite a party too that went for a few days starting with a demolition derby on the Friday night. We wanted to capture that same sense of excitement and destruction in our music and live performance that the fair represented for us.
Your facebook page reads: At 24, Bahen cut off all of the fingers from his left hand in a work accident, and had them reattached. While recuperating, he reconnected with high school friend Nathan Sidon, and the two bonded over their mutual appreciation of pre-war blues. Could you elaborate on what you call the “pre-war blues?”
Pre-war blues is acoustic based, primarily black rural music produced by the likes of Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Blind Willie Johnson, Bukka White, Skip James and so on. What this music has, which almost impossible to replicate is a crackling honesty and tension to it. It sounds immediate and otherworldly, and is incredibly bad-ass. It’s an inspiration to us and I think that is evident in our music.
Matt, obviously losing your fingers and having them reattached would be a life altering event for you. What has that experience taught you about yourself? What has it taught you about life?
That life is hard, and bad things happen, and that there is very little you can do about some of it. What you can do is control your response to it and that is how you will be judged. Also I was very lucky to have a wonderful support network that was very helpful, and I am grateful.
Why the banjo? When did you first pick it up?
After my accident I had to basically relearn everything since my hands did not work as before. I also wanted to be able to fingerpick, which my gorilla paws weren’t very adept at. A new instrument is helpful because you have no bad habits which to fall back on. Also I love the sound of the banjo, its faster than heavy metal and can sound dark and creepy.
Also on your facebook page you mention post-traumatic stress disorder being one of your influences. What advice would you share with someone experiencing PTSD who wants to channel their pain into something artistic like you?
PTSD is an ailment where it feels that the trauma that one went through feels like it is happening all the time. Not a memory of it but as though it were occurring again and again. What I would suggest to someone going through it who wants to channel their pain into something artistic is to tell their story all the way through over and over again right up until the moment that they were safe.
Matt is an outreach worker with the homeless and cites his work as inspiring “Gospel.” How important is sharing the stories of those less fortunate than ourselves?
Working with the homeless for the better part of a decade it is pretty tough for that not to leave an impression on you. It has on me.
What’s your secret for your onstage energy?
A balance between fear and excitement.
Do you have any words to live by?
Do your best all the time -Matt Break minds - Nate