Shane Koyczan flexes his verbal dexterity at Dream Café

If there is one person you don’t want to test your word-crafting prowess against, it could be Penticton’s Shane Koyczan.

Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long are performing at the Dream Café on March 16 and 17.

Shane Koyczan and The Short Story Long are performing at the Dream Café on March 16 and 17.

If there is one person you don’t want to test your word-crafting prowess against, it could be Penticton’s Shane Koyczan.

The cunning word-slinger, who rose on the international fame chart with his We Are More performance at the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, uses Scrabble tiles to hone his craft.

“I play a lot of word games,” admits Koyczan. “People always think that I am texting on my phone, but I am actually just playing a lot of Word Scramble, Scrabble, stuff like that.”

In fact, when he isn’t performing with his band The Short Story Long, who are going to be at the Dream Café on March 16 and 17, you might just catch Koyczan at the Penticton Art Gallery going tête-à-tête with curator Paul Crawford.

“It’s funny because I use to hate scrabble. Like, oh god what a boring game, but now I actually really love it. I enjoy playing with new people, seeing new strategies and exploring other people’s lexicon,” said Koyczan.

When he isn’t delving into new words, Koyczan has been working with his band. The Short Story Long released their sophomore album Remembrance Year and are embarking on an 18-date Canadian tour kicking off in Penticton.

Remembrance Year was partially recorded in the Penticton Art Gallery and the other half with Corwin Fox in his studio in Cumberland. Koyczan said their “talk rock” genre album is their best offering to date.

It has even received positive comment from esteemed Canadian rocker Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip.

“Listening to My Darling Sara — I left the ignition on, long after I’d parked to hear the end of that one — it all sounds like something’s coming, a sound everyone asks for,” said Downie.

Remembrance Year explores the musical background of the band, influenced by folk, funk and rock and takes on a variety of genres and themes accompanied by Koyczan’s warm and witty lyricism.

In addition to music, Koyczan will also release his third book, Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty. He previous collection of poetry, Visiting Hours, published in 2005 gained praise from The Guardian and The Globe and Mail in their best books of the year lists.

The multi-award-winning spoken-word performer also recently spent time in the Courtney-Comox area working on a project spearheaded by students to spread awareness of mental health and bullying — a subject that has touched his own life.

“What immediately came to mind is, I suffer from depression too and just looking at some of the things I tell myself to get through difficult days, well, maybe that could help someone else. That is how we developed the piece Instructions For a Bad Day,” said Koyczan. “It is pretty inspiring to see all these kids give up their after schools, weekends and Christmas holidays to work on this and to see that healing process that occurs through something simple like this project. It is pretty amazing.”

The video was made by students and is available for download at ShaneKoyczan.com, along with the back story.

Now Koyczan looks forward to hitting the road with The Short Story Long, of which he isn’t the only Okanagan artist — making the Dream Café concert a perfect place to launch their tour. Maiya Robbie (guitars and vocals), Olivia Mennell (keyboards and vocals), Jordie Robinson (cello) and Jesse Lee (standup bass) round out The Short Story Long.

“I love the Dream Café and I think what Pierre (Couture) is doing there is fantastic,” said Koyczan. “It is a great place to put on show and I couldn’t have picked a better place to launch the album in Penticton. We could do a theatre somewhere, or we are playing the Vogue in Vancouver, but for Penticton, I think the Dream Café feels better. It feels like a homecoming.”