Arts & Crafts It's been over a year since the release of Broken Social…
- Posted on Nov 26th 2012 4:30PM by Melody Lau
"When I first met her, she was like 'I'm going to make music with you someday' and I said 'sure,'" Whiteman tells Spinner, recalling when they first met five years ago at the Osheaga Music Festival in Montreal. "You just have that feeling and it eventually happened."
That feeling came shortly after Broken Social Scene wrapped up their final tour. While reading a book of poetry by Alice Notley called In the Pines, Whiteman began noticing old American folk lyrics hidden in them and became fixated. Wanting to rework Notley's 14 poems in the book into folk songs, he bought Engle -- whose musical history mostly consisted of background singing in bands -- a cigar box guitar and the two went and recorded in a friend's house in the forest.
"Because of the emotional and lyrical content of it, it had to have a specific musical pallet," explains Whiteman. "It's not a record to be made at a proper studio. It had to be made at home in the living room with shitty microphones. Just Ariel and I."
With the help of Canadian musician Sandro Perri, who mixed the record, the result was 14 songs -- one for each poem. Although Whiteman sees the album as a literary creation as much as a musical one, he doesn't want to place any particular labels on the project.
"There's no point to do that," he says. "[I don't want] to frame it as more of a literary thing because you don't want to block people off."
That being said, one of AroarA's most notable shows to date has got to be performing at New York's The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church, "a holy place, like going to Mecca," as Whiteman describes.
Notley's sons attended the show and even though Whiteman and Engle already had Notley's blessing, they learned another fascinating tidbit from them that more or less completed the circle.
"One of them told me after the show that he had made cassette tapes of old blues and country music, mailed it to his mom and she took that music and turned it into a book of poetry which I read," says Whiteman. "Isn't that a total trip?
"It totally closed the circle. In some sense, I was like, 'Wow, mission accomplished!' It's just really fucking cool. Turning poetry into music can often be too precious sounding, or too conceptual, but I think what we did is something that speaks in its own voice."
In the Pines, the album, is slated to be released at the end of January on a new label in Montreal, yet another step in initiating Whiteman into the Montreal music community.
"I've lived in Toronto for many years and I'm associated with many Toronto bands, but now that I've been in Montreal for the past three years it's important to me that the first thing I do musically is Montreal-centric," explains Whiteman.
"I've felt much more included in the Montreal scene in the last three months because I was often gone before, but now I'm getting to know people."
Whiteman isn't going to obsess over whether or not people draw comparisons between AroarA and his past Toronto-based projects like Broken Social Scene, Apostle of Hustle or Bourbon Tabernacle Choir. He does assure fans that there will be a noticeable difference upon hearing the music, though, and it will be clear that this is nothing like anything he's done before.
And we better get used to it as this is Whiteman's main project for the time being. Realizing he has a problem focusing on things sometimes, Whiteman has now promised to stop juggling tasks, which means those hoping for another Apostle of Hustle album will have to continue waiting.
"Apostle has taken a backseat," says Whiteman. "It was hard to try and be in Apostle and Broken at the same time and I don't want to split my attention.
"I made a whole thing where I wouldn't split my time between bands anymore, so right now it's AroarA time."