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Canada's Great Lake Swimmers keep music light and suds strong

Not everyone realizes ravens are also excellent swimmers.
  • Not everyone realizes ravens are also excellent swimmers.

If Canadian band Great Lake Swimmers ever calls it a day, singer-songwriter-band-visionary Tony Dekker can always get a job promoting Fort Collins' New Belgium Brewing Company.

"That's our favorite American beer," says Dekker, laughing during a recent phone call to his Ontario home. "The way they run the brewery is all on wind power, and it's very ecologically sound. Also in the end, it's delicious-tasting beer."

Fortunately for the band's fans, Dekker and Co. shouldn't have to go the PR route anytime soon. The Swimmers' folk-inspired 2007 album, Ongiara, landed them a profile on National Public Radio, as well as an opening slot in a Robert Plant and Alison Krauss show in July.

Originally conceived five years ago as an acoustic solo project for Dekker, the outfit released its first two albums 2003's Great Lake Swimmers and 2005's Bodies and Minds to considerable critical acclaim. But the band didn't really find its own groove until Ongiara, which successfully weaves indie folk and roots music with an alt-country pop vibe.

Dekker hopes to renew this sound on the group's next album, which he plans to record this fall.

"On the last record, it felt like it was a move towards more instrumentation without being too weighty," Dekker says. "We're still being relatively light, but I think [the next album] will probably be even more stripped-down. I'm not sure yet. We're still in the writing kind of stage, so we'll see where it goes. But I'd like to keep it with a fuller-sounding band, for sure."

While the Great Lake Swimmers have been compared to artists like Nick Drake, Iron and Wine, Red House Painters and After the Gold Rush-era Neil Young (to whom Dekker bears a vocal resemblance), opening for Plant and Krauss gave Dekker a certain perspective on not only where Great Lake Swimmers came from, but where they're headed.

"I feel like I'm coming in a bit more from an angle that's equal parts of indie rock and indie folk," says Dekker. "It's using those old tools the bluegrass mindset or the traditional folk mindset but kind of doing something new when using those old tools. So I think we're approaching it in a very knowledgeable way, I guess with a respect for that tradition, but not necessarily being strictly traditional or old time-y. I feel like I'm not really conscious of trying to fit in anywhere or into a certain expectation or label."

Meanwhile, Dekker is looking forward to the upcoming mini-tour, including the band's return to the Colorado Springs area. He suggests that a Great Lake Swimmers show goes best with anything on tap from New Belgium.


Great Lake Swimmers, with the Changing Colors
Sunday, Aug. 17, 6 p.m.
Kinfolks Mountain Shop, 950 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs
Tickets: $10, all ages; 685-4433.
  • All else aside, the band really likes New Belgium's brews.


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