Like their namesakes, Canmore, Alberta folk-rock duo The Raven & The Fox offer a sound with a sly, mystical edge—what they’ve described from the beginning as “love-inspired mountain music.”
It’s a style that singer/songwriters Julie Chang and Sean Isaac have been honing since they first collaborated in 2014, and it has now reached fruition on their full-length debut album, simply entitled The Raven & The Fox. Produced by Geoff Hilhorst—keyboardist for acclaimed folk-rockers The Deep Dark Woods—and mixed by longtime associate Jesse Sanderson at OCL Studios outside of Calgary, the record is a haunting 10-track collection that displays Chang and Isaac’s irresistible rootsy sensibilities, as heard on the first focus track “Follow Me.”
Having released an EP in 2015 that presented four songs in bare bones glory, the pair became eager to expand their approach in the studio. Along with their frequent accompanying musicians, bassist Kyle Pullan and cellist Kitty Thompson, they added drummer Matt Mueller during rehearsals, while Hilhorst provided a range of instrumentation himself in the studio.
Chang and Isaac first connected during an informal jam session in Canmore, and the evolution of The Raven & The Fox got underway from there. They maintained a long distance relationship while Chang completed her herbal medicine diploma in Toronto, a period that Isaac—a certified mountain climbing guide—used to work on songs, sending lyrics to Chang in lieu of love letters.
Now with the release of The Raven & The Fox, the duo is poised to make an indelible first impression on the national music scene, through the combination of Chang’s rich, dark-hued voice and songs as awe-inspiring as a Rocky Mountain sunrise.
The self-titled debut album by The Raven & The Fox is available at iTunes, and for more info, go to theravenandthefox.com
As your debut album, what were you intent on capturing about your songwriting and the group's overall sound?
Julie Chang: Honestly, I did not have a vision of how our first album was going to turn out. We wrote these songs and got used to hearing and performing them with just the two of us so we really wanted to explore how they would sound with a full band. I think connection and emotion are a big part of our overall sound, which is more difficult to convey through a recording, so for me it was really about trying not to focus on a “perfect vocal” but rather capturing something real and raw.
Is there a song on the record that you feel best represents your musical vision?
Sean Isaac: For me, it would be “Where Mountains Meet The Sea.” It is a love song without overtly being about love. It is a story inspired by the mythology and natural beauty of Vancouver Island, a magical place that Julie and I both visited for the first time while on tour two years ago. The love-and-landscape theme seems to be a general thread throughout our lyrics. The words, instrumentation and harmonies all came together in that song nudging it to its fullest potential, I believe.
What would you say makes your creative partnership work?
Julie Chang: Sean and I are very different musicians. He is incredibly focused and puts so much time into becoming better at what he does. His work ethic is inspiring, and he has done things for us as a band that I would never have imagined were possible. Music is always something that has been second nature to me. It was never something I had to really learn or work at, it just came naturally. I think those fundamental differences give our music a balance of stability and emotion.
Our strengths in the songwriting process also complement each other. Sean will typically start with a guitar riff or chord progression and sometimes has lyrics written as well. I listen to the progression a few times before I start humming along. I have always been drawn to melodies with broad dynamic range, so I often come up with vocals that challenge me as a singer, as in the track “Wash Over Me.”
Being based in Canmore has clearly had a strong influence on your music. Why did you choose to live there?
Sean Isaac: Yes, Canmore is a one-of-a-kind mountain town filled with motivated and inspired people. It would be hard not to be influenced by such a place. A walk down Main Street invariably means bumping into Olympians, extreme sport athletes, world-class musicians, renowned artists and life-loving locals. The entire town seems to vibrate on a higher level. I moved here 25 years ago—when I was 20—to pursue mountain climbing. Since then, I have been both a professionally sponsored ice climber and a certified ACMG alpine guide. I still work as an independent climbing guide. It is too much fun not to!
Is there a story behind why you named the group after the famous fable?
Julie Chang: I had actually never heard the fable until Sean told me. The night we met, my sister and I were in a routine of naming a person’s spirit animal upon meeting them, and I immediately said Sean was “obviously a fox.” I had already been given raven as mine and after we began writing songs Sean came up with the idea to use our spirit names as our band name, and I loved it.