There was a time when Taylor Kirk, vocalist and songwriter for Canadian folk blues band Timber Timbre, resisted the blues. “I used to play guitar in my dad’s blues rock band. I was maybe 16 when I first started to play guitar, and I thought that I really didn’t want to play that kind of music — and then it’s kind of exactly what I ended up doing,” Kirk said.
The frontman reflected on his own musical development in a phone interview preceding Timber Timbre’s performance at the Fillmore in San Francisco on Friday. Kirk, whose band’s name alludes to the timber cabin in Ontario where the group’s first recordings were made, has come a long way from his adolescent reticence. “At some point, I stopped resisting what came naturally or was too familiar and just embraced it a little bit,” Kirk said.
The choice was undoubtedly a good one. Timber Timbre’s albums take Kirk’s influences — he points to the English folk band Sunhouse and Delta blues musician Robert Johnson as examples — and transform them into something new. Think seductive saxophone and haunting guitars with a cinematic vibe — the kind of rich sounds that would accompany a film montage.
Indeed, Kirk’s nostalgia for the Hollywood age between the 60s and early 80s permeates the mood of “Hot Dreams,” Timber Timbre’s 2014 release. The album’s musical ideas find their home in Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon neighborhood. “The lore around films like ‘Chinatown’ or ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,’ those films with big grandiose scores — I was thinking of that quite a lot with the instrumentation of ‘Hot Dreams,’ ” Kirk said.
The film influence can be traced back to Kirk’s time in art school. “I went to art school and took film at art school,” Kirk said. “I had this curiosity and background about cinema and filmmaking, and I used to make films a bit — short films, but also kind of strange documentary films.” Among Kirk’s favorite documentarians was Werner Herzog. “I love the way he uses music, whether it’s instrumental score or songs. ‘Hot Dreams’ cycled around (those ideas).”
Though some of Timber Timbre’s music may recall the lush settings of southern writers such as William Gay and William Faulkner — “Faulkner was one of my favorites back when I used to read books instead of just email,” Kirk joked — Kirk’s current musical favorites are decidedly contemporary.
“I like everything. I like the new D’Angelo record, ‘Black Messiah.’ It’s beautiful. I don’t understand how those recordings were made,” Kirk said, and his voice picked up, excited.
What does Kirk look for when collaborating? He claims he goes for depth rather than breadth; his main collaborator has been longtime bandmate Simon Trottier. “Simon was so generous with his compositions, and he allowed me to do what I wanted. I guess it’s just about trust and being interested and curious about other people’s approach to the craft.”