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This article was published 20/4/2016 (1405 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
TORONTO - Talk to most Canadian folk bands and they're unlikely to exude appreciation for popular dance music, or proclaim that Miley Cyrus's mega-hit "Wrecking Ball" influenced their sound. But the Strumbellas manage to do both in a matter of minutes.
Then again, they're not exactly your typical Canadian folk band — the Strumbellas are playing on commercial radio stations and are increasingly featured on popular streaming music playlists.
Over the past few months, the six-piece act from Toronto has emerged as another in a long line of homegrown performers with a solid chance at a global hit.
Their pop-folk track "Spirits" recently climbed to the upper reaches of the Canadian and U.S. rock charts, and it's also making headway in Top 40 radio play. Across the pond, the song also debuted on the Italian charts for the first time last week.
It's somewhat of a surprise breakout for the band, which formed in 2008 and laboured away in the Canadian music scene, pocketing a Juno and critical praise in the process.
Lead singer Simon Ward says making it big beyond Canada was always part of the plan.
"We weren't comfortable just being a band that played locally or just toured a little bit, or got moderate success," he says, sitting alongside the band at a Toronto bar.
"We always wanted to try and get ourselves on a worldwide level."
Three years ago the Strumbellas had to make a choice.
It was around the time of their second album, and signs were pointing towards their fanbase growing. Yet all six members of the band still held career jobs — Ward was an elementary school teacher and violinist Izzy Ritchie was a cartographer.
Others in the band worked in journalism, ran their own business, or had recently graduated university.
Sitting in their jam space one day, the group agreed it was time to get serious about making commercial music.
"(That) was when we all started sort of filtering away from our other jobs," says Ritchie.
But success came with its own unique challenges, like trying to determine when your song is actually becoming a hit.
Ward is struggling with those metrics when it comes to "Spirits."
"I know it's really doing well and it's getting a lot of plays, but when does a song become ... a staple in the world?" he asks aloud to nobody in particular.
"I don't think we're there yet, and I don't know how to judge that ... I'm scared every day it's going to fizzle out tomorrow and it'll be gone."
He's keeping his goals somewhat contained in the meantime.
"I just want (to be able) to get to a restaurant and be like: 'I'm in the Strumbellas.' And they're like: 'Oh, we can seat you, sir,'" he says.
Perhaps the band's third full-length album, "Hope," available Friday, will help pull a few strings.
The release is packed with soaring, hand-clapping and foot-stomping anthems, each one urging listeners to get swept away by the peaks and valleys of energy.
Ward says the band designed each song to deliver that punch — a strategy of build-and-release known in electronic music circles as a "beat drop."
"Literally we were trying to get a club sound with folk music," he says, pointing to Cyrus's chart-topping "Wrecking Ball" as the ultimate example.
"That was kind of the whole goal of the record, just to try and match the 'Wrecking Ball' drop. I'm infatuated with how big of a drop a human being can make in a song."
Ward thinks the closest the Strumbellas came is on "We Don't Know," a likely candidate for the second single, and the song he considers the album's best track.
The Strumbellas will spend most of the summer playing music festivals, along with a run of North American tour dates including pit stops in Toronto and Oshawa, Ont., in May and Montreal in July.
After that, the band plans to continue pushing for even bigger things.
Ritchie says she already has a few goals she'd like to check off her bucket list.
"Playing arenas and winning Grammys," she deadpans.
"There's no ceiling to our aspirations."
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