Illiteratty is a folk band on the traditional and unceded territories of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh peoples, also known as Vancouver, BC.
We play metafolk… meaning, original swing, European cabaret, ambient, celtic, rockabilly, a cappella, folk, world, pop, (did we mention folk?); with sharp lyrics and up to five-part vocals.
Our instrumentation is for three to six musicians, and our full complement includes guitar, mandolin, violin, keys/accordion, upright bass and small percussion. Our music is funny, angry, idiosyncratic, intelligent, and extremely varied.
(Guitar, Vocals, Songwriting)
“Everyone has the right to create beauty.”
A music lover in every sense, Earle dedicates his life to bringing this expressive art to folks from all walks of life. He teaches and plays many instruments, and remains a lifelong learner. He is also a longtime activist for the environment and human rights, gathering with people from all walks of life to lift up all voices in protest, and in joy.
He has been a fixture on the Vancouver folk music landscape for decades, playing with Songtree, Natural Elements, Ship of Fools, Flying Ship, Sudanda and countless others. He teaches a variety of music skills and creates music for film, video and theatre. Because Earle is such a prolific composer (he’s probably composing something right now), he does the lion’s share of the writing for Illiteratty.
Earl is also known as a non-yelling conductor who leads many Vancouver choirs, arranging music and singing all the parts from bass to soprano in the choral music he teaches. Earle’s broadly diverse selections hail from many parts of the world, and every imaginable era. His arrangement of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” is an Inchoiring Minds fan favourite.
Earle’s rampant musicophilia is perhaps what makes Illiteratty’s songs so great; his wide-ranging influences appear in the songs he writes and arranges, with the band members’ unique and harmonic voices in mind. Together, Illiteratty’s moving vocal harmonies are good medicine for perpetually-strange times.
As a youngster, Earle recalls loving Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, and Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid Suite. “Go Tell Old Bill” is the first song he learned to play and sing, but confesses with a wry smile and humble charm: “Dave Van Ronk does a better job than I did.”
Songs for New Fans
“All of my songs attract beautiful women
Over the years that’s what I’ve found
All of my songs attract beautiful women
If you don’t believe me just look around”
I Rest My Case
Albert Klaassen, performed with Illiteratty
Albert was there with Earle when Illiteratty began in 2008. He’s been known to play any instruments he can get his hands on, including violin, tuba, and guitar. The French horn was forced on him in high school, and he gives it a thumbs-down review. His favourite instrument, the bass, gets two thumbs up.
Growing up in a rural community on Vancouver Island, Albert drew inspiration from seeing the Milky Way in the night sky, and from racing along dirt roads with his friends. He began writing songs when he was about fifteen, and started his first band with two friends around age 17. They called themselves Iron River Road—named for a nearby logging road—and played their songs on bass, guitar and piano.
When asked how many bands he’s been in since then, Albert responds with a chuckle: “A couple hundred probably… too many to count.” In addition to playing with Illiteratty, Albert currently writes and plays with the Nohearums, as well as Blue Dirt Girl.
After borrowing a mandolin from a friend in 2000, Albert picked it up easily because of its similarities to the violin. These days Illiteratty fans know him for singing and for playing a mandolin he built himself.
Albert sees Earle’s songwriting and the band’s vocal harmonies Illiteratty’s signature strengths. He first played with Earle in a band called Natural Elements back in the 1980’s—an experience that left him wanting to play more of Earle’s compositions, and a wish that finally came through with Illiteratty.
“The main thing I like about playing mandolin in Iliiteratty is Earle writes specific parts for me that I wouldn’t normally play If he left it up to me to come up with my own parts,” Albert says. “This stretches my playing into places I wouldn’t otherwise go. But I also have freedom to improvise and play it my way much of time. It’s a good balance.”
Songs for New Fans
An Illiteratty fan himself, Albert says it’s hard to pick one and suggests a few choice favourites from Perfection at It’s Best, on shuffle play:
- I Don’t Want No Strangers (from Perfection At It’s Best)
- The Impossibility of Finding a Resting Place (from Perfection At It’s Best)
- Polksa Samba (from Perfection At It’s Best)
“I think the eclectic nature of my listening experience as a child is what attracts me to the music of Illiteratty.” Natalie Philp
If variety is the spice of life, then Natalie Philp’s musical upbringing was full of flavour. Growing up, there seemed to be an endless rotation of music on the turntable, courtesy of her dad’s love of Sam the Record Man in Toronto. Tunes varied from Oscar Peterson and Thelonious Monk, to Tom Jones’ “What’s New Pussycat”, along with the Beatles and Rolling Stones, folk singers Buffy Sainte-Marie, Ann Murray, Gordon Lightfoot and Pete Seeger, Petula Clark and back to Benny Goodman—and everything in between.
Natalie has a hard time choosing one song that reminds her of home. They all do, because music is home. So she asked her dad, and he chose Super Tramp’s “Give A Little Bit” because it sounded so great blasting out of his giant speakers. For a time, they lived two miles from any neighbour, and playing the stereo loud was a privilege they appreciated and took full advantage of.
Natalie also remembers her mom singing “You are My Sunshine” and “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” and her dad playing the four songs he knew on guitar at bedtime. “Yellow Bird” by Harry Belafonte, “Lemon Tree” by Peter Paul and Mary, “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals and “Go To Sleep My Weary Hobo” by Pete Seeger all passed for lullabies back home.
Natalie has been absorbed into the haven of music since drifting through obligatory childhood lessons, socializing her way through high school band, and more recently playing with a local drum group for about six years. Her memories of playing music really kicked in when she picked up the bass a few years ago, and the first song she learned by memory, and played publicly, was “Home Dear Home” with support and encouragement from her good friend John Lyon who wrote the lyrics to this song.
When asked what the world would be like without music, she replies: “Homeless. What is a movie like without a sound track? Tooo quiet. One might as well have neighbours. Music certainly helped with the isolation. Without it, what would there be to trigger our memories?”
Songs for New Fans
If Natalie had her way, new fans would listen to all of Illiteratty songs! To listen to only one would lead one in only one direction, and that wouldn’t be much fun from her perspective. But she does recommend: “Go For a Walk” (from It’s Getting Late) because it’s super catchy and proactive, and she thinks of it every time she goes for a walk outside.
“Who would think that in these graceless days
Of language upside down and words turned to horns
In the quiet there’s a place to be once more
Among the dryads and unicorns?”‘
Silent Beneath Trees (Through the Mirror)
Written by Earle Peach, performed by Illiteratty
Wesley grew up during the sixties in small town North Eastern Alberta. “On the vast, cold and snowy prairies, it must have been odd to hear the festive sounds of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass wafting from our rumpus room,” says Wes. Older brother Gary introduced these records into his world, and “as I danced,” he remembers, “the rhythms of the marimbas and maracas lifted the spirits and warmed my toes.”
Having studied classical piano since he was six years old, Wesley turned to drums, percussion and the rock scene during his teens. In 1983 he completed Jazz and Performance at VCC and his musical spectrum further broadened to orchestral performances with the Calgary Philharmonic and Vancouver Philharmonic. Wesley has since contributed to several original small ensemble, theatrical and experimental projects.
The music of Gordon Lightfoot always takes Wesley back home to the prairies with images of “slanted rays and coloured days, stark blue horizons, naked limbs and wheat bins, hazy afternoons.” He makes his present home in the watery wetlands of the South Fraser delta with a love of nature as varied as his love of music.
Songs for New Fans
To make a short list from a wealth of great music, Wes chooses one from each album (in no particular order):
- Cornflower (from Perfection at It’s Best)
- Silent Beneath Trees (from Through the Mirror)
- It’s Getting Late (from It’s Getting Late)
Barb was found floating in a cello case among the rushes of the Thompson River many years ago. She plays music as much as she can in as many styles as she can, and aspires to shred on an electric violin.
When she isn’t playing music Barb sees to the needs of a menagerie of dogs, cats, horses and people. Her house is not cleaned too often.
Photo credit: Jack’s Camera