When the annual Gone Country concert aims to raise more than a half-million dollars for charity on Saturday, July 21, The Washboard Union will be happy to play a part in the cancer-fighting fundraiser.
“We actually played the event a long time ago when we were kind of just starting out, early in the day one year,” Roberts explained. “We stuck around that day, and I remember thinking, ‘Oh man, it’d be so great to play here on the main stage later on in the day,’ and lo and behold we’re fortunate enough to be doing that this year.”
The Washboard Union will share the stage with Gord Bamford, Karen Lee Batten, Rollin’ Trainwreck, The Tumblin’ Dice, Andrew Christopher, Jesse Allen Harris and JR-FM DJ Jaxon Hawks, in another “Here for the Cure” benefit concert that has a goal in 2018 of raising $580,000 for the Canuck Place Children’s Hospice in Abbotsford.
Last year’s Tim Hicks-headlined party raised close to $520,000 for the cause.
Gone Country was founded by identical twins Chris and Jamie Ruscheinski, who work as realtors in the Langley area.
“It’s for a great cause and we’re happy to support it,” said Roberts, one of three principal members of Vancouver-based Washboard Union, along with Aaron Grain and Chris “Dunner” Duncombe. In concert, they’re backed by a trio of Ontario-based musicians on guitar, bass and drums.
The band’s positive, feel-good music is a good fit for Gone Country, which gets going at 2 p.m. and won’t quit until 11 that night.
“We tend to write positive songs, I guess, and we’ve been told that by people, which is kind of neat,” Roberts said. “I have favourite bands and songs I’ve listened to throughout my life, that helped me get through tough times, so when you hear that back from people who attend your concerts, it’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Signed to Warner Music Canada, The Washboard released a 12-track album called What We’re Made Of back in April. The video for the banjo-driven title song was filmed by Surrey-based director Stefano Barberis on a cold Ontario day.
“It was one of the coldest shoots I’ve ever had,” Barberis told the Now-Leader. “We had to make different seasons and a slightly warm dinner celebration but it was the dead of winter in an open barn. We piped in hot air via a massive tube.”
Roberts recalls feeling sorry for the cast.
“It was really cold, a blustery Ontario winter day, and everybody was wearing dinner attire, just shirts on, no jackets, and they were quite the heroes,” he said.
Last fall, The Washboard Union were a hot commodity at the B.C. Country Music Awards, where the band won seven awards, including Group of the Year, Single of the Year (for “Head Over Heels”) and Roots Group of the Year.
No question, the accolades are piling up for a band that got its start almost by accident, according to Roberts.
“We all used to live in this big mansion,” he related. “I mean, Chris and Aaron are stepbrothers, and they’ve been jamming and singing since age 13 or something, and we all ended up in this big mansion by chance, out by UBC, and it was just filled with musicians – a ‘20s-era Tudor mansion that in no way on earth should they have been renting to a bunch of musicians. It just so happened that we lived in this beautiful place, so after work we’d pull out guitars and have campfires in the backyard. It was just such a great place to play, and this all grew from there, those campfire jams and in the living room.”
Later, they formed a band called Run GMC to play their favourite trucker tunes and country songs they grew up hearing.
“It was just for fun, pure pleasure,” Roberts explained, “and then one night we were playing a show in Vancouver and Garth Richardson was there. This guy is a major rock producer, right, and he said later that we made him smile and that he’d love to record us. He was the first guy from the industry to kind of notice us, and he loved how much fun we were having.”
From there, an album was recorded, a new band name emerged, and things started happening for the trio.
“We’re as surprised as anyone by all this,” Roberts said.
For tickets and other details about Gone Country, visit twinscancerfundraising.com.