Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
Brendan Canning, Cookie Duster: Post-Broken Social Scene Album 'When Flying Was Easy' is About 'Experimentation'
- Posted on Jun 11th 2012 1:00PM by Lonny Knapp
When he arrived with barely a hint of a five o'clock shadow, we were surprised and a little let down. It just goes to show you, band names can be misleading.
Cookie Duster originally formed in 1997 when two foundation-building Canadian alt-rock bands -- By Divine Right and Change of Heart -- embarked on tour together. Canning, who was playing bass for By Divine Right, hit it off with Change of Heart keyboardist Bernard Maiezza, and the two made plans to form a side-project.
Four years later, Cookie Duster quietly released its dub-influenced guest-heavy (Danko Jones, credited as "The Mango Kid," Evan Cranley of Stars, former Danko drummer Damon Richardson and Spookey Ruben) debut. If you're keeping score that was 2001, the same year Broken Social Scene, dropped Feel Good Lost.
When BSS became the world's favourite alt-rock pirate nation, Cookie Duster got filed in the I'll-get-back-to-that-someday folder.
Now with Broken Social Scene on indefinite hiatus, Canning has dusted off the cookie and is set to release a new record, When Flying Was Easy under that same moniker.
Ask him, however, and he'll say the Cookie Duster of the past and the Cookie Duster of the present are distinct projects.
"I consider the two things separate," Canning tells Spinner. "This has little in common with what we were doing 10 years ago. We could have come up with another name, but it's catchy."
This time out Canning and Maiezza recruited Jeen O'Brien, a criminally underrated vocalist who fronted little known grunge act Lilith in the '90s before releasing a couple of solo albums. She brings a killer voice, sweet melodies and songwriting savvy to the project, and Canning credits her for revitalizing the project.
"In 2007, we started writing songs with Jeen," he says. "She came along, and gave Cookie Duster its rebirth."
A look at the liner notes of When Flying Was Easy and you might think that Cookie Duster is some late-'90's Can-rock supergroup.
Along with Maiezza and O'Brien the record features Damon Richardson on drums (Danko Jones), Matt Murphy on lead guitar (The Flashing Lights, Super Friendz) and production help from Ian Blurton (Change of Heart, C'Mon.)
"Everyone involved cut their teeth in the '90s," says Canning. "There's a retro sound to it, but these songs are bit more focused, and perhaps will travel a bit farther than our previous work."
Indeed, a nostalgic spirit informs the album, but while some of the loop-heavy tracks, "Space Will Follow" and "Where are My Young Ones" come off sounding a bit dated, the album has hooks a-plenty.
Stand out tracks include the Canning-fronted "Daddy's Got the Medicine," a track that would fit nicely on his underrated 2008 solo disc, Something For All of US, and the O'Brien-voiced and remix ready "Cut Me Focus."
The lead off single, "Two Feet Stand Up," is surely the most radio-friendly track Canning has ever produced.
That said, the album isn't playing safe. Cookie Duster is a studio project and When Flying Was Easy is chockfull of enough buzzes, bleeps, and atmospheric ear candy to satisfy even the most finicky audiophile.
"It's all about experimentation," Canning says of the recording process. "If you're not experimenting, then you are not having as much fun as you should be."
Beyond releasing the album, which drops courtesy of MapleMusic in Canada , Canning is without a solid gameplan. The band has no dates scheduled, and hasn't even begun to rehearse for the inevitable record-release party.
After a decade filled with all the B.S. involved with being part of BSS, Canning seems happy to take things slowly.
Take this interview for instance. Instead of insisting we meet at his label's stuffy office, he suggested a walk in the park. Arriving a bit late, he was in no hurry to run off once the interview finished. Instead, he was content to sit in the sun, chat about Cookie Duster, and watch the world roll by.
"I just want to let it unfold," he says. "The record is coming out and you think I'd be itching to get on the road. But just because we made a record, doesn't mean I'm going to spend the next six months touring," he says. "I've got other things I want to do."