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Hillsburn on fire 

Folk-pop Hillsburn just care about the music, man.

click to enlarge “We’re certainly not folk purists,” say the experimental folks in Hillsburn. - CLAYTON BURRILL
  • “We’re certainly not folk purists,” say the experimental folks in Hillsburn.
  • Clayton Burrill

Still riding high in the wake of a well-received self-titled EP released last October, folk-pop group Hillsburn is, like many of us, looking forward to a spring and summer of festivals. Plus a full-length album in the fall.

Made up of brother and sister Clayton and Rosanna Burrill, Jackson Fairfax-Perry and main songwriter Paul Aarntzen, the band started playing together after a health scare of Aarntzen's. A prolific songwriter, he ended up writing a selection of songs for a yet-unformed band at his house in Hillsburn, NS after a hospital stay. Recruiting some friends, the evolution of the band was easy. "It was something that felt really natural, and we all had a lot of fun with it," says Clayton. "All four of us were sort of in transitional periods, evaluating what we wanted to spend our time doing, and Hillsburn really just presented itself to us."

Hillsburn's thoughtful, melodic songs come from Aartzen's literary background. "Lyrically, [Paul] makes up a lot of first-person stories. He's also writes fiction, so a lot of our songs end up sounding a little like short stories set to music."

Though rooted in folk, the band prefers to dodge genres in favour of just doing what sounds best. "We don't necessarily think of ourselves as working within the folk tradition. I think we adopted the folk-pop label because we play mostly acoustic instruments, many of which are staples of folk and bluegrass—acoustic guitar, mandolin, fiddle, banjo," says Clayton. "But really these were just the instruments we had kicking around when we started trying to arrange some of Paul's songs. We also use saxophone, keyboard and ukulele. We're certainly not folk purists. We have one song that's just a Rhodes keyboard and three-part harmony. So we tend to use whatever instrumentation sounds best, regardless of what genre the song sounds like as a result."

Hillsburn w/Stephanie Anderson
Saturday, April 11, 10pm
Rockbottom Brewpub
5686 Spring Garden Road


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