I M U R packs for Haida Gwaii with new-school rhythm and blues

(I M U R/ www.imurmusic.com)

Birdsong, flowers, R&B — spring is off to a fresh start on Haida Gwaii.

This Friday and Saturday night, East Vancouver trio I M U R (“I am you are”) will play new-school, electronic R & B in Skidegate and Masset.

Like SZA, Frank Ocean, Toronto’s own Daniel Caesar and other new R&B stars, they like to experiment, bouncing out of music-genre bounds.

But the way their tunes keep showing up on TV — their song “Bumps” played under not one but two make-out scenes, in CBC’s Working Moms and Syfy’s Wynonna Earp — I M U R also stays true to one of the best reasons for putting on a record.

“We’re starting a new project, and I’m highly anticipating more make-out scenes,” says lead singer Jenny Lea, laughing.

Lea grew up on Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu, always loved to sing, and watching other bands play she knew she’d love to be up there.

But her performing career almost didn’t happen.

Lea had been working at a bank for years when on a whim she put her name down for Whistler’s Got Talent.

“The next day, I went to withdraw,” she said.

Luckily, when Lea got to the bar holding the contest, she bumped into some old friends and together they decided to do a few hip-hop covers.

The show went so well that it led to Lea’s first gigs and, three years ago, to I M U R.

Mikey J Blige, a sound designer who gives the band its live beats, samples, and electric guitar, says it’s an exciting time for R&B. Mainstream acts are experimenting more, going beyond all-digital dance hits, and in Canada, R&B is rising along with the Toronto rap scene.

“Guitar is making a comeback,” said Blige, who also enjoys electronic music — he has scored video games as well as a film, and for I M U R’s latest recording sessions in a Montreal studio, he showed up every morning with a new electronic beat to spark ideas.

“We went really far out of bounds,” said Lea, who plays keys as well as singing.

“We were making straight-up jazz music, which was great for developing our technical skills, but we came home and we were like, ‘Wh-what?’ So we had to pull it way back in, and at the end of the day I think we came up with something really polished and refined and still unique.”

Amine Bouzaher, who plays bass and electronic violin, said the trio is excited to play Haida Gwaii.

None of them has been to the islands before, though they got familiar after collaborating with the non-profit Pacific Wild on a fundraiser for the Great Bear Rainforest. In return for sharing proceeds from their performances last year — which included spots at the Bumbershoot and South by Southwest Pacific music festivals —Pacific Wild lent them video footage to play during their sets.

Bouzaher is looking forward to seeing in person the islands he first saw through Emily Carr, not to mention putting on a fun couple of shows for islanders.

“We them to turn up, literally, and also to turn it up!”

Catch I M U R at the Skidegate Small Hall this Friday night, or on Saturday night at the Masset Legion. Both shows start at 7 p.m. and are hosted by the Haida Gwaii Arts Council.

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