It’s pretty safe to say that your first album is a success when the worst review you get states that your CD would be good to bring home to a girlfriend. And for Vancouver’s folk duo The Reckoners, that’s exactly what happened.
“I think we had tons and tons of really great reviews and I think we only had one that wasn’t that awesome, from Edmonton,” says Christina Simpson, one half of The Reckoners, about their first album …And The Sky Opened Up. “And the guy said, like, ‘Yeah if you need a good CD to bring home to your girlfriend it’ll be ok,’ or something.”
Simpson and musical partner Ricardo Khayatte both let out a laugh. If that’s as bad as it gets, I think to myself, these two must be doing something right. Correction: they are doing something right.
Brought together through mutual friends and a shared passion for music, Simpson and Khayatte began singing together about two years ago. What started as a fun jam duo turned into an act for local open mic nights and now into this, The Reckoners, the harmonic duo that has everyone from The Vancouver Sun to Exclaim Magazine showing their support.
“It’s been pretty exciting,” says Simpson. “I think any time we’ve kind of thrown ourselves out there we’ve had a lot of really great reception.”
Still, though they would love The Reckoners to be their full-time jobs (Simpson currently works in tourism and Khayatte studies political science and psychology), they both view their music making as a passion more than a profession.
“I don’t feel like it’s this overly professional thing that we need to do,” Khayatte says. “We do it because we love to do it and we couldn’t go without it.”
The Reckoners take it one day at a time, putting all their efforts into whatever project they have next – whether it be a small local gig or, as is currently at the forefront, the recording of their second album (due out, hopefully, in a year).
“I guess that’s the thing about what we’ve been doing, we’ve kind of been doing one little goal at a time,” says Simpson. “It’s always about the next show or obviously the big project coming up is recording that second album. And just making sure that we have fun, that when we get together that we’re having fun and not just doing it because it’s work or we feel like we have to do it – [it’s about] making it something that we’re both really enjoying.”
The music of The Reckoners is soothing, relaxing, subtle. It doesn’t scream for your attention, but rather whispers to you so that hearing it feels almost natural. Gorgeous harmonies make up the musical body, Simpson’s and Khayatte’s voices combining to form simple and minimal – not to be confused with boring – beauty. It’s an effect they’ve purposefully chosen to represent their sound.
“We wanted to just let the songs breathe, let the songs just kind of speak for themselves,” says Khayatte. “The songs, in their nature, are quite simple; they’re more about the lyrics.”
“And I think also the more complicated it would be would possibly take away from the harmonies we were working on,” Simpson adds. “And we obviously kind of wanted that to be our focus.”
Because Simpson and Khayatte, 30 and 31 respectively, have been friends for just as long as they’ve been music partners (literally – they started jamming the night they met), their dynamic is one of genuine care and love for each other.
“It’s fun, we’re hanging out all the time, be it for music reasons or just because our friends are getting together,” says Simpson. “So it’s awesome. We really couldn’t have it any better than that. And I think we complement each other in really great ways musically.”
“Especially when we’re working together, there’s a magic that happens that I haven’t really ever found before,” he says.
Outside of their duo, The Reckoners have found wonderful friends in fellow Vancouver musicians, too; they’ve successfully established themselves within the Vancouver music community.
“Everyone’s really supportive of each other,” Simpson says. “The Vancouver music community right now is amazing; it’s so great to be a part of. There’s so many amazing musicians in Vancouver and it’s also small enough that you can kind of connect with everybody and feel like you’re a part of that community, which is probably more so than in bigger cities.”
And going beyond the scene in Vancouver, The Reckoners think it’s a wonderful time to be in music in general.
“I think that if you’re going into it and you’re trying to find yourself in the music industry, I guess with quotations around “music industry,” then you’re going to find, at least I would think that you would find it daunting and a difficult time to be involved,” Khayatte says. “But if you’re in it for music and what’s going on right now then it’s an absolutely amazing time. There’s a huge amount of variation in music, there’s a lot to draw from; there’s a hell of a lot more to draw from than there was 20 years ago, 30 years ago. From a lyrical perspective, there’s so much to talk about in our day and age. I think it’s an amazing time to be in the music world.”
And if music keeps on the way it’s been going, with people like Simpson and Khayatte creating as they do, being on the listening end isn’t so bad either.