Mr. Porter | Saint Laurent Given how pretty, stylish and charismatic the…
- Posted on Apr 5th 2012 12:00PM by Jason Schneider
Not only do the band love nature, but they live it, having recorded music in national parks, paddling through the sea, and even creating 2009's Polaris Prize short-listed Lost Channels in a variety of locations in and around the Thousand Islands, including a castle.
Their latest effort, New Wild Everywhere, is only different in that for the first time, the band chose to record in a studio rather than on location as they have on their previous four acclaimed albums.
While the band's international profile has steadily risen with each release, Dekker says that the choice to work in a studio was not the result of any outside pressure to make a more mainstream sounding album, even though New Wild Everywhere is their most accessible to date.
"We had such a blank slate at the outset that I think all of us were in the mindset of being as creative as possible," Dekker tells Spinner. "There was so much touring for Lost Channels that everyone, especially me, needed to take a break and recharge. Most of our last records were done in between tours or other jobs and this was the first time I'd allowed myself to kind of refill the well."
With Dekker recharged, the responsibility then fell on longtime Great Lake Swimmers engineer Andy Magoffin's shoulders to adapt their sound to a studio environment. The sessions offered a challenge, given where the band was recording -- Revolution Recording -- was then a brand-new studio that Magoffin had never used before. Drawing from his extensive experience working with the likes of the Constantines, the Hidden Cameras and Royal City, his sonic touch on New Wild Everywhere stand as one of the high points of his career. Dekker agrees.
"I wanted Andy to increase his role with us," Dekker says. "From not just engineering the record, but to guiding the project a little more than he has in the past. He was thrilled at the idea of us actually trying to record something in a controlled environment, since it kind of eliminated that fear that's always present when you're recording on location that if the computer screws up, the entire day is wasted. Andy basically set up the entire session at Revolution. One of the owners is Joao Carvalho, who mastered our last record, so we felt completely welcomed there. It sounds corny, but it really felt like a family atmosphere."
Dekker admits that he couldn't completely eliminate the option of recording outdoors though, and one track, "The Great Exhale," was part of a recording session conducted in an abandoned subway station at the foot of Bay Street in Toronto.
"I thought it would be cool to record a companion EP for the album, so we set up down there for three nights and recorded a bunch of songs," he says. "['The Great Exhale'] really stood out from the rest, and when I dropped it into the mix with the studio stuff it totally sounded like it belonged there. I'm looking at it now as kind of a bridge between our past and this new approach that we're taking, at least for the time being."
It could be said that finding those perfect recording locations has been crucial to accentuating the moods that have made Great Lake Swimmers albums so compelling. Nowhere was that more apparent than on Lost Channels, which grew out of an invitation from photographer and historian Ian Coristine to work together on a project based on Ontario's Thousand Islands region.
By contrast, New Wild Everywhere shows Dekker taking a broader overview of his natural surroundings, in what can be described as following the Canadian songwriting tradition. Dekker, in fact, has no problem with the term "Canadiana" being used to describe Great Lake Swimmers' sound, as he is now aware of audiences and critics from outside the country picking up on the subtle differences between them and other artists to whom they are commonly compared, such as Iron and Wine and Red House Painters.
"People definitely read that 'Canadian-ness' into what we do because our songs contain a lot of natural imagery," Dekker says. "There have been reviews that have basically said, 'These guys play great Americana -- but they're Canadian!' I'm always hesitant to put labels on our music or any kind of music, but I'm comfortable with the term 'Canadiana.' I like to believe that part of our Canadian heritage is showing respect for the environment, and for supporting environmental causes. That's something I've always tried to do, and to have our music reflect that."
Such a notion is encapsulated in New Wild Everywhere's title track, and Dekker says that as the song came together, it seemed to perfectly express the sense of venturing into unexplored territory that the album represents as a whole.
"The spark of the song was just one of those feelings when you're outside and there's this energy in the air like right before a thunderstorm," he explains. "You just know that the natural world is right on the cusp of something. It's almost magical. Those types of moments really resonate with me, and make me feel like I'm connected to something much bigger."