The O’Brien family regularly returns to its Oak Bay roots, the family’s “first port of call” when they emigrated to Canada from England a decade ago.
“Oak Bay was our very first place to live in Canada,” said Paul O’Brien, dad in the band that features daughter Millie, 20, on lead vocals, as well as sons Cormac, 18, string bass, piano and lead vocals, and Fintan, 17, on guitar, mandolin and lead vocals.
Paul adds vocals, guitar and mandolin.
The family band performs regularly at the Oak Bay Tea Party and their four-part harmonies will make toes tap at Willow’s Beach on Wednesday.
“This project began six or seven years ago, just as a little bit of fun busking on the street,” Paul said, adding it’s something he did as a teen himself. “If you were half decent you could make some money.”
So when the boys were 10 and 11 they gave Government Street a shot just for fun.
“The kids made $80 each. It just blew their little heads off,” Paul said. “The big change came in 2012, we recorded a record. It was a live concert with the Gettin’ Higher Choir.”
With bigger gigs calling, stringent liquor laws made most of the band members’ age a consideration, instead they started playing markets: Oak Bay, Sidney, Bastion Square, Moss Street and James Bay.
“We found these are the absolute best vehicle for us to perform,” Paul said. “It’s a selection of lovely, small gigs. The only thing that’s changed is we play markets now where we can bring a PA system. We’re really a vocal harmony band.”
“Suddenly this little project became a big project,” he added.
They performed at every Island festival over the past two years and added a tour in Europe last year. Yet it remains a summer project, as the kids each pursue his or her own endeavour. Fintan, who writes the songs with Paul, just graduated from St. Michaels University School and is the only of the siblings taking music as a serious career consideration.
“They all have other ambitions in life,” Paul said. “We play and do it as a summer thing and it’s fun, and my children can see the product of working hard.”
By fall, the eldest two head back to university while Paul starts a tour of Swtizerland and Germany in October, perhaps with Fintan at his side. But on Wednesday (July 16) fans can enjoy them at Oak Bay’s Willows Beach venue staring at 6:30 p.m.
The Damian Graham Trio performs, same time, same place, on Aug. 20.