Many songwriters follow the adage, "write about what you know."
Patrick Alexandre Leclerc doesn’t even write on what he can play the best.
The frontman of local old-time/Dixieland jazz/roots/party band the F-Holes composes his share of the band’s songs on the piano, despite not being proficient on the instrument.
"I’m a terrible piano player," he admits with a laugh. "But it’s easier to hear how the melody will intersect with the chords and if there’s lyrics it’s easy for me to hear. I come up with the skeleton of the song, bring it to the band, then everyone adds their parts and we arrange it together."
All of the members of the Winnipeg quintet — Leclerc, Eric Lemoine, James McKee, Evan Friesen and Blake Thomson — are multi-instrumentalists, so even though Leclerc’s skills on the keyboard might not be strong enough for an onstage solo, he’s got plenty of help in the jam space and studio.
The results from their latest studio adventures will be unveiled Saturday when the F-Holes hold its release party for its new album, Angel in the Corner, the band’s second album, at the West End Cultural Centre. Tickets are $12 at Music Trader, Into the Music, the Folk Festival Music Store and the WECC. Local singer-songwriter Ben Wytinck opens.
"This album is much more collaborative effort; when I was writing it I had the F-Holes in mind. On the first album, some of the songs were six years old when we put them down and the F-Holes didn’t exist then. These songs were all like, ‘I know Evan could add some cool drums here, the banjo will work here, a good trumpet line can go here,’" Leclerc says.
Over the past few years, the band — named after the holes in instruments, such as hollow-bodied guitars and violins — has earned a reputation around town as a can’t-miss live act that transcends a simple genre description thanks to a mixture of ragtime, Dixieland jazz, rock and roots that offers a little something for everybody. The old-timey sound firmly is rooted in music from the past but has a contemporary edge that helps the band appeal to a wide demographic.
There was never a plan about how the band of 20-somethings would ultimately sound; it worked itself out through years of playing together.
The group’s seeds were planted in the south-eastern Manitoba town of Ste. Anne more than a decade ago when Leclerc, Friesen and Lemoine began playing together as teenagers. After moving to Winnipeg they hooked up with Thomson before the addition of horn player McKee solidified the lineup five years ago.
The band’s stage show and ability to get crowds moving comes after weekly residencies at different bars in the city where they got the chance to work on their live set, tackling everything from classic rock to country to blues standards.
"We all like really diverse music and we don’t all like the same music, so I guess what we play is where we kind of meet," Leclerc says.
"As far as the F-Holes albums, I want to keep pushing to different stuff. I’d like to see the next album recorded live off the floor.
"To be honest, within the year after releasing the last one (in 2009) I wanted to make another one. I think that album represented where we were at the time, but we outgrew it really quickly. We had a growth spurt after that and I hope the same thing will happen with this. I really like it right now, but I’m already thinking about doing the next one."
Many of Leclerc’s songs are based on true stories, but as he has become more settled in a solid relationship and become a father, he has resorted more and more on his imagination for inspiration.
"The problem now is I’m pretty happy; that’s when you have to start writing the fake stories. Like the song Cool Winter Nights — I’ve never killed anybody, so that’s one example.
"I’ve always had an overactive imagination," he says.