“Hey, do you want some grapes?”
“No thanks, I’m good for grapes.”
And that, quite simply, is how it all began.
It was about a year-and-a-half ago when Graham Gomez and some friends were heading to Victoria, planning on doing some busking on the streets of B.C.’s capital.
In the car on the way, Alexa Unwin offered Gomez some grapes. And Graham delivered the quirky response they all laughed about later.
Once on the ferry, the teens brought out their instruments and began practicing on the outside deck.
A small group gathered to listen. And then more people stopped. And more. They thought B.C. Ferries had perhaps hired summer entertainment.
Eventually, a crowd so large formed that the young musicians felt they ought to carry on, and played almost an entire set during the hour-and-a-half crossing.
Afterward, some of the new-found fans asked the name of the band.
Gomez and his friends glanced at one another, uncertain what to say because really, they didn’t have a band.
“Good For Grapes,” they finally answered.
The moniker stuck. And so did the novel idea of forming a cohesive group.
Good For Grapes, an alternative folk ensemble with a Celtic slant, is now comprised of Unwin (keyboard, vocals), Gomez (guitar, vocals), Daniel McBurnie (lead vocals, guitar), Sean Mackeigan (accordion), Jesse Brook (trumpet, trombone, flute) and Robert Hardie (bass, vocals).
Five of the band’s six members – all between 18 and 19 years old – met at Fleetwood Park Secondary, where they became close while in the school’s drama and music programs.
“We didn’t really start playing music together having a band in mind. We just started jamming,” said McBurnie, who also does all the writing for the group.
After a while, however, they began writing songs and started playing together more. It all came about almost by unintentionally, McBurnie admits.
They took in Brook (who’s from Alberta) after advertising for a brass player – a unique sound they felt was needed to expand the band.
Now, after less than two years together, the band is making great strides and gained a strong fan following. Within the first year, they won both Roger’s Music Battle of the Bands and Supernova’s Band on the Run to the UK, as well as attracting the attention of an array of music industry representatives.
They recorded a six-song EP last April and recently released two studio tracks on Facebook.
Oh Dear was released in early October and has logged a couple thousand plays and 100 or so downloads. The latest song, Skipping Stone, has only been out for a couple of weeks but already has nearly 200 plays and 32 downloads.
Late last year, Good For Grapes was taken on by Watchdog Management (a division of S.L. Feldman & Associates) who represent talent such as Hedley, Mother Mother and Colin James).
The young ensemble also had the opportunity – after beating 150 other bands in a contest – to open for Mother Mother at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver at the end of December.
Playing at such as historic venue opening for a successful band was almost life-altering for the young musicians.
“It was incredible. It’s unlike anything we’d ever done before,” said McBurnie. “It really made us feel like we’d want to do that kind of thing for the rest of our lives.”
The gig served to cement their commitment, as well.
“By this point, all of us have gotten together and said ‘is this something we want to pursue?’ and it’s 100 per cent yes for all of us,” McBurnie said.
The next big move is to launch a debut album. But the group wants to first ensure they’ve got plenty of support – something they plan to build during a cross-Canada tour this summer.
“We have all our stuff ready, but what we want to do now is tour around and get our fan base to grow so we can support that album.”
First, a short tour around the province is planned for February. And closer to home, an all-ages concert in Surrey this Friday.
Good For Grapes will perform Jan. 13 at Sullivan Hall, 6306 152 St., 7 p.m.
Tickets are $10 at the door or search Good for Grapes on Facebook.