There's an older couple watching Krasnogorsk play. They don't say much, but when the band finishes a song, they're the first to applaud. They seem impressed, not just with the Roma-influenced, vaguely Eastern European music, but also Krasnogorsk's entire image: their unshaven faces; rustic instruments and the dozen small gemstones covering their patio table. "I was gonna, like, strew these across the table for the interview," admits Corey Hinchey, one half of the duo. "Just so you'd be like, 'Woah. The table was covered in strange stones.'"
We're sitting on the patio of Brussels on Granville, where Krasnogorsk performs weekly. It's the one regular gig for a band that otherwise plays wherever it wants, from inside a cave at York Redoubt to atop a large pile of bricks by the Notre Dame in Montreal. With its debut album coming out August 13, the band fills an otherwise empty niche in Halifax's music scene: "Folklore music," as Jacques Mindreau describes it. "We try to tell stories with our music."
Their stories come from everywhere: their dreams; their imaginations; old folk tales of wizards and horses. The goal is non-verbal communication: Hinchey, with his baritone ukulele, will strum and stomp without any sign of fatigue, while Mindreau, in addition to playing a wicked-fast violin, has an operatically dramatic voice, made all the more operatic by the fact that he never sings in English. "It's sort of ineffable, the stories," Hinchey says. "They feel the music, and they jive it, and they give it its life."
About 30 seconds into their third song, Mindreau's E string breaks. Both boys are astonished---they weren't even playing intensely yet. Mindreau considers looking for a spare, but instead retunes and plays the song differently. It now sounds deeper, more melancholy than before. "That actually sounds kinda cool," Hinchey says. They keep playing.
"When I got this violin, I thought it was the ugliest thing ever," Mindreau laughs. "I was too young. Everyone else had shiny violins." Mindreau's instrument is old, to the point where its edges look like reptilian scales and half its varnish has been stripped away. He's had it for over a decade, and enjoys busting it out at parties, playing music with strangers. That's how he met Hinchey two years ago: When Hinchey saw Mindreau's violin, he ran home and got his ukulele. "He started playing it and I was like, 'It is so beautiful,'" Mindreau recalls.
Fast-forward two years, and they're putting out their debut album, with a release party at the Purple House, an artists' residence on North Street. "Everyone wants to do their CD release at like, the biggest venue they can get," Mindreau explains. "I thought that was kind of..." But Hinchey interrupts: "All the big venues were booked."
Before they begin their next song, Hinchey asks the older couple if they've been enjoying the evening. But they don't speak English. Luckily, Mindreau speaks French---"Un petit peu," he says in a fluid accent---and learns that the couple is from Quebec, that the older gentleman played guitar for years, and would like to buy their CD. He writes down their Quebec address and pays in advance. Mindreau seems surprised but agreeable, and promises to mail them a copy. Then, after this French dialogue in an English city at a restaurant called Brussels, Krasnogorsk plays a Spanish tango, without words.