Phillip Marchand (left) and Jonathan Hinds make up the duo Fiftieth Parallel which is holding a CD release concert at Serious Coffee on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m.

Fiftieth Parallel: acoustic music with an edge

Abandoned electric music for the subtleties of the acoustic guitar

The chances of hearing Fiftieth Parallel perform live are pretty good.

It’s not just because the acoustic guitar duo is creating a stir in the local music scene. It’s because you could run into the pair on a beach or in the woods somewhere near town, guitars in hand composing songs.

“We wrote a lot of our songs outside,” says Jonathan Hinds, 18.

Hind and his musical partner Phillip Marchand, 18, often follow their muse to the outdoors, whether it’s a beach near Tofino or on a trail in the Beaver Lodge Lands.

The pair of Campbell River guitar players frequently get out of their practice studio and gain some inspiration from the fresh air.

“One of my favourite songs we wrote on the beach in Tofino,” Marchand says.

The portable style of music making suits the two young musicians. They have been making a name for themselves in the Campbell River-Comox Valley area recently with their dynamic original compositions on acoustic guitars.

The pair have their roots in heavy metal but abandoned electric music for the subtleties of the acoustic guitar.

“There’s a lot of stuff on the electric (guitar) but I guess, for us, there’s almost more on the acoustic,” he says.

The acoustic guitar has “crazy harmonics,” he says but, significantly for a former drummer like Hind, “you also have the whole body of the guitar and you have a little drum kit,” he says as he slaps a rhythmic riff on the body of his guitar.

Fiftieth Parallel’s music is more than just jangly guitar strings. There’s harmonics, lightning-fast riffs and thumping and slapping of the guitar body. Marchand demonstrates that as he attacks the strings with his right hand, he can generate a bass-drum note with the heel of his hand as it comes down on the top of the guitar by the bridge.

Acoustic guitar does not mean less energy, though.

“I would say for an acoustic (band), we have more of an edge than you would expect,” Marchand says. “The energy is still there, that drive is still there.”

And truth be told, it’s not completely acoustic either. The sound begins with an acoustic guitar (known in the business as an acoustic-electric) with a pickup (or microphone). The pickup sound is processed through effects pedals more commonly used with electric guitars.

But the electronics are just another tool and the duo can pick up their acoustics and get out of the studio when the mood grabs them. The outdoors inspires the two because different locations create a different mood or vibe and vibe is very important to the way Marchand and Hinds create music.

“It’s more about the feel than what we are playing,” Marchand says. “The dynamic is a big thing, building it up and bringing it down.”

The two talk a lot about the feel of a song and when you see them perform, their music making is definitely an all-encompassing thing.

The duo came together thanks to the now-departed Sound Advice music store which held a School of Rock  in 2009. After the demise of the group they formed – playing the likes of Metallica and Judas Priest – Marchand and Hinds formed Fiftieth Parallel. The name, of course, comes from Campbell River’s location on the 50th Parallel.

Marchand began playing around with the acoustic style in early 2010 and after awhile, approached Hinds and said “you gotta try this stuff.” The two sat down to play and within 10-15 minutes they were creating their own sounds. The sound has caught on and has secured the duo a significant number of gigs over the last year including opening for Shane Philip and Delhi 2 Dublin and performances at The Big Time Out and Rhythm On The Rock, amongst others.

They describe their music as a combination of the likes of Australian acoustic guitarists John Butler and Kim Churchill with the hypnotic sounds of Pink Floyd and Tool.The new album is dedicated to Justin Webb who passed away from a rare form of brain cancer in September.

For more on Fiftieth Parallel…visit youtube.com/fiftiethparallel.

CD RELEASE CONCERT

Fiftieth Parallel has just completed a 13-track CD album of original music entitled Weapon of the Future and will be holding a CD-release concert at Serious Coffee on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. Tickets for the two-hour concert are on sale at Serious Coffee for $10 and the new album will be available for sale for $15.