I Mother Earth’s Jagori Tanna talks Edwin Reunion, Scenery and Fish and Split with Brian Byrne

Canadian rockers I Mother Earth return to headline the final night of the 34th annual George Street Festival alongside Finger Eleven – performing in Newfoundland for the first time with newly returned frontman Edwin.

Discussing the long-awaited reunion and tour in support of their iconic album Scenery and Fish, founding member Jagori Tanna caught up with The Herald, discussing the mending of fences, new album on the horizon and the split with former frontman, and Newfoundlander and Labradorian, Brian Byrne.


Q: I Mother Earth reunited with original frontman Edwin in the spring of 2016 for a run of dates in support of the anniversary for Scenery and Fish. The shows were amazingly successful, prompting followup tours with Our Lady Peace and Finger Eleven. Describe those early days of reuniting with Edwin after two decades. Was there apprehension or some growing pains?

Jagori Tanna: It was kind of surreal in the beginning of it. It only took a handful of shows and everything just fell back on autopilot. Everyone fit into their roles and had a really good time. It was different this time. There was just no stress like it used to be. When we used to play and tour and make records it was the end of the world. Everything was the end of the world. That puts a lot of stress on a bunch of young guys and how to deal with it. We didn’t have people around us to help us manage that. Now we’re all like older guys, everyone is really relaxed and getting together and playing just became about playing and trying to be good every night and not letting the little things bug us and just really have fun. That’s it. We did that whole tour with OLP and just finished the one with Finger Eleven. I don’t know, I can’t complain about one thing about it.

Jagori Tanna: Everything sort of happened by luck, by chance, with all of these things with the anniversary. The opportunity popped up and we were like, let’s just do it. It took more to say let’s just do it on his end than our end, because we hadn’t seen each other in 20 years. Not even bumped into one another with a ‘hey how are you’ sort of thing. Me and him just sat in a room together and started laughing about really funny things. In the end you tend to forget about the weird, crazy stuff that maybe separated you in the first place and you just start talking about all the fun we actually had. You forget the fun far outweighs the bad things that happened when you were kids. It just worked out in a really neat way like it was meant to happen that way. That’s really what it came down to. Trust me, if we did that show in Toronto and it sold out in three minutes and it didn’t work out and we said ‘that was fun, this is cool’, we just would have moved on. It was a lot of fun and we sounded really good, so we just started that dialogue immediately after.

Q: So are there ideas of a new album in the works with Edwin? Realistically it would be the first IME album since 2003.

Jagori Tanna: Right now we’re in the studio. I just got back from a long trip. After we finished that tour (with Finger Eleven) I took off around the country and got back and sat on the couch and stared at the ceiling for a couple of weeks. Now it’s just studio for the rest of the year.

Obviously in a perfect world I’d just snap my fingers and there it is, but I think we have a long way to go in making it happen. We might get through a bunch of songs that when we get done we don’t like. It’s sort of finding a direction that fits where we’re at right now. I always say finding a direction, as if we ever do that. But really I just sit and start writing and say this is what we’ve got. It either works and we all look at each other and say this is better than where we left off, or it isn’t. Then we act accordingly from that.

Q: This will be your first show in Newfoundland since 2013, if memory serves. You’ve been here dozens of times over the years. What are some of your initial thoughts and memories of the island?

Jagori Tanna: I can’t think of one experience up there that we hated, or one that was bad. Even when we were at Salmon Fest and it rained the whole day and The Doobie Brothers were on after us and were getting soaked. We always look at all of those times we spent there as fun. Everyone always disappears from one another for some reason and the next day it’s like ‘what happened to you last night?’ Someone just disappears and there’s always an adventure at some point. With the guys now the adventures are getting kind of funny. 

Q: Speaking of your connection with Newfoundland, IME’s former frontman Brian Byrne is a Newfoundlander and Labradorian. Everything surrounding his exit from the band has been relatively quiet, as are most things with the band. Was it amicable? I know he made an attempt to join Stone Temple Pilots at one point as their new frontman.

Jagori Tanna: No, it was not amicable at all. He disappeared. Me and my brother never heard from him again. That’s how it worked out. We had a whole tour planned actually when all of this went down. It was like, what? We have a tour going on. This is what led us to say I’m not going to stop playing while someone is pursuing a dream. We would never stop someone from doing that, that being said. Go for it, but I’ve got other things to do. It was just sort of weird. Never heard from the guy again, nothing.

Even going back to when Ed and us broke up and when Bruce (Gordon) decided to leave, there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes of any band when these things happen. Both me and my brother and whoever is around us, we like to let it lie and people will say what they want without everyone knowing the truth. We tend to just take the high road and see what we have to do next. I think if you only go backwards and be angry and have all these feelings you end up not getting anything done and you end up being some bitter old guy. That’s not where we want to be, because it’s too much fun doing this. 

Q:I’d imagine 20 years ago you never would have seen this reunion with Edwin coming. It really says a lot about time mending old wounds does it not?

Jagori Tanna: You know what, it’s true. You never know. Even when we did sort of leave or break apart, it wasn’t a screaming match. It was very much on the table – he wanted to do something and we wanted to do something. That part of it was the most clean and honourable thing that happened, just staying true to each other. When we got back together there wasn’t an argument to be had. That’s when right away it started feeling ok in that way. 

Q: Looking back at those first two key albums Dig and Scenery and Fish, what do you think it is that has made them so beloved and ingrained in Canadian rock? It’s easily the highlight years of the band

Jagori Tanna: I’m always really honoured that somehow anything we do is a part of someone’s life. You don’t really think about it all that much until you get up there and talk to people and they give you the stories that go with the album. That’s when you really start to shake your head and say wow, that’s really incredible. It doesn’t really make me impressed or too proud, but it makes me sort of humbled. That’s where there’s a lot of responsibility. Why are we still doing this? Because I just don’t want to suck. At some point we meant something to a lot of people. Through the years and even to this day, we still do mean something to a lot of people, and we don’t want to let them down. That’s why it takes us a long time to record and when we do shows we put a lot of stress and thought into it. 

Scenery and Fish, when it happened, was one of those things. You never know what’s going to sell. Who knew? Some of the big songs on that record were written in five minutes. Some of the other ones we found that were more interesting take weeks. You never know what’s going to happen. We could write a song tomorrow that’s number one or we could absolutely disappear. We just take it as it comes and be extremely grateful for what that record has offered us. It opened up every single door. 

Tickets to see I Mother Earth and Finger Eleven with special guest Sea Dogs on August 1st at the 2018 George Street are available now online and at select Orange Store ticket kiosks. 

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