Examining our Past: Funk-pop Diatonics return

This article originally ran on Aug. 9, 2013.

Jason and the Diatonics return to Spruce Grove, playing two shows at the Mad Platter Bistro on Aug. 12. File photo

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Editor’s Note: This article originally ran on Aug. 9, 2013. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are tapping into our archives more, particularly for arts and sports. This special section will return to its regular schedule when the crisis concludes. 

By Caitlin Kehoe

Reporter/Examiner Staff

Acoustic pop band Jason and the Diatonics, which describes themselves as a “group of displaced Albertans,” will be playing two shows at the Mad Platter Bistro in Spruce Grove on Aug. 12.

The group is made up of five members who are all originally from Alberta and met in Vancouver three and a half years ago and began playing together for fun.

“It’s kind of just grown from jamming to a serious real band, which is awesome,” said lead vocalist and songwriter Jason Poulsen.

Poulsen describes the group’s music as acoustic pop full of three-part harmonies, clapping and fun choruses – but with a twist.

“It’s pop tunes that hopefully are hooky and fun to listen to played on acoustic instruments but with kind of a Motown and funk influence,” he explained.

Each member has different musical influences – for Poulsen and Jim McLaren (bass and vocals), it’s Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye; for Joe Mohr (drums), it’s country; Stephanie Olson (vocals, ukulele) loves folk and Erik Olson (keyboards) is into classical – but Poulsen says the group uses the diversity to their advantage.

“I’ll write a song, but it will just be me on guitar, and then you’ve got to throw a band in there and that’s when all the arranging will change, depending on what people want to play,” he explained.

The band’s debut album, million miles of trouble, was released in July 2011, shortly after they began playing together.

Their second album, Grain of Sand, will be officially released on Aug. 24, but their Spruce Grove audience will be able to snag their own copy ahead of time at the Mad Platter.

The album features 10 tracks and, according to Poulsen, some are similar to those on million miles of trouble but some are very different.

“I kind of feel like we’ve taken the spectrum of what we did last time, which went from blue to purple, to this one, which is like a full rainbow,” he explained.

“We have much heavier, faster, upbeat, intense songs and we also go all the way down to just me on the guitar in a very simple singer/songwriter song with almost no production on it.”

Poulsen explained that many of his ideas for songs are born from events or moments that were very meaningful to him, which is true in the case in the first track on Grains of Sand called Hope.

Last Christmas, Poulsen travelled to his hometown of Lethbridge to watch the local high school’s dance troupe rehearse a show, which had been choreographed to Jason and the Diatonics music. Poulsen was moved by what he saw.

“To come into the school and see these kids who are supposed to be these young, goofy teenagers who don’t give a (care) about anything … really being inspired … really working hard and digging into the lyrics and the subtleties of the music was really humbling,” he explained.

“It was maybe the first time that I’d seen people take our music that seriously and really dig into it the way that I do, the way that I see it, the way I hear it. It gave me hope.”

In April, the band travelled to Lethbridge to perform with the dance troupe.

The experience was the push they needed to return to the studio and record Grains of Sand, which was recorded in just six weeks.

The group played the Mad Platter last year and loved it so much they decided to start their tour with two shows at the bistro on Aug. 12 – one at 4 p.m. and a second at 7 p.m.

According to Poulsen, the show is high-energy and fun but it has a special quality that makes it more than that. “It’s kind of a positive energy,” he explained.

“We just try to enjoy ourselves, have fun with people, connect with the audience and connect with each other. We just love playing music and we try to share that with people.”

Each show costs $10 at the door.

To find out more about Jason and the Diatonics visit www.jasonandthediatonics.com.

If you know of any arts news or events happening in the area, email epretzer@postmedia.com