With a name like The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer, you might be forgiven for thinking that the Vancouver-based duo is some sort of concept group, based on a hypothetical love story between Captain Ahab and Lizzie Borden.
As cool as that would be – and it would be pretty damn cool – that is not what Shawn Hall and Matt Rogers are all about.
They’re about blues – the type of blues that you have to go out to the crossroads to learn – with a dash of rock and soul.
And from that point of view the name kind of makes sense, if you think about it really hard.
Harp is blues argot for harmonica, which Hall blows when not belting out vocals. And harpoon is a play on that, making Hall the Harpoonist.
A little easier to decode is Matt (the Axe Murderer) Rogers. A lot of blues musicians and rockers refer to their guitar as their axe. Matt plays guitar. And he kills it.
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer have been playing together for five-years now and are about to record their third album.
The first thing you’ll notice – if you check out their shows in Dawson and Whitehorse this week – is that it’s just a two-man show.
While contributing vocals and shredding his axe, Rogers also plays foot percussion.
“For me it was a cool kind of challenge, learning to play guitar and percussion at the same time,” said Rogers.
“The cool thing about it is that I can switch up the direction of a song on a whim, whenever I feel like it, and I only have to communicate with Shawn.”
The format is something that goes back to original blues performances – with just one or two guys singing, playing guitar and stomping their feet.
And it also mirrors other blues-rock duos like the White Stripes and the Black Keys, influential groups that Rogers describes as “a small amount of people making a large amount of noise.”
“It makes it a different beast. There’s a lot of back and forth interaction between two people.”
The group may also have something against drummers.
“Drummers try to steal your girlfriends,” said Hall.
“And eat all the food in your fridge.”
The group’s first album, The Blues Can Kill You, came out in 2007 and was completely made up of covers and traditional blues standards.
Their eponymous second album was mostly originals.
Hall and Rogers say that their live shows are usually a mix of the two, with a little weight towards the old tried and true songs.
“Songs you write are going up against a hundred years of history, a hundred years of proven territory,” said Rogers.
“Its really hard for songs you write to live up to that, to get the people excited at shows.”
“It’s amazing the weight that a lot of those old songs have,” Hall added.
“The reason why they’re still around is that they’re incredible, they resonate with every generation, they’re timeless.”
The group’s latest five-song EP, and their upcoming album, contains more standards, but also some originals in the standard style.
“We’ve really honed in on a sound, and try to write in a more traditional style and way that builds on that history,” said Rogers.
This is the first time that the duo will be making their way north to Whitehorse.
And they won’t be pulling any punches – or kicks, rather.
“I just got some new foot percussion,” said Hall.
“So all of our limbs and orifices will be active in both shows. It’s going to be wild. It’s going to be impressive. It’s going to be a lot of sweating, elbow grease and shouting.”
The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer will be playing across the Yukon this week, along with local axe murderer Ryan McNally.
They’ll be playing The Pit in Dawson tonight and tomorrow.
Then they’ll be rocking the Gold Rush in Whitehorse on Friday and Saturday night.
A Whitehorse house concert is planned for Sunday night, but its time and location will be promoted through word-of-mouth and to those who attend the Gold Rush shows.
Contact Chris Oke at