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Great Lake Swimmers dive head first into the studio

Submitted by on April 12, 2012 – 1:20 pmNo Comment

The Great Lake Swimmers have a flare for the eccentric and an appreciation for the modest, the traditional. The band’s last album, the Polaris Prize shortlisted Lost Channels, was recorded in various random spots around the Thousand Islands, including Singer Castle. Their first three offerings came to light in even odder locales: a grain silo, church and Aeolian Hall in London, Ontario, respectively. Martyr’s Devin Size caught up with the band’s frontman Tony Dekker to find out how he felt about recording the new album in a traditional studio for the first time since the band’s inception.

The band has in past recorded in a grain silo and church, among other esoteric establishments. With New Wild Everywhere you guys took to a studio in Toronto to lay the album down. How did you feel about the new environment?

It worked out better than we thought it would. This was a new challenge for us, and we were really happy with the results. Andy Magoffin, our collaborator for the last eight years, stepped into the role of producer, and it was at his suggestion that we entered the studio. Revolution Recording is an impressive place. Thematically, musically, and lyrically, I think this record is a continuation of the project’s work to date. It feels like a very natural continuation.

Was it a trial adapting to the technological advances of recording the album in a traditional studio without overstepping the boundary of digitizing the music itself?

We’ve been using digital technology to record the music from the very first album, but I think what you mean is the extent of “special effects.” We were extremely careful to preserve the integrity of the musicianship and the room, and I think we made a really organic and natural sounding album. I think that at this point, we sound like us regardless of where we record.

New Wild Everywhere has been out a week now and the band is already being lauded as sonically having stuck to their guns on the disc. Are you pleased to see moving into the studio hasn’t hurt your rustic mystique?

I’ve never tried to purvey any sort of mystique. We’re not a group that’s trying to live up to some kind of image, if that’s what you mean. I think the songwriting has remained consistent despite the change of setting.

Songs on the album range from “The Great Exhale” to “Easy Come, Easy Go” and “Quiet Your Mind.” Does the release come with its own personal form of self-release, catharsis or nirvana?

I don’t feel any personal sort of catharsis with the album release, no. I look at it as a document, and as a way of storytelling. Some of those things come into play when we’re performing live, though.

“There’s a new wild feeling dancing in the air, there’s a new wild everywhere.”  Is this hook from the title-track a reflection of the overarching theme of the album?

I think there are a number of themes that run through the album, and I’m not sure you could encapsulate them in that one line. It’s an interesting way to make sense of it, though. You could look at it through that lens.

There seems to be a clear progression flowing from your last album Lost Channels to New Wild Everywhere. Is that evolution due to growing stronger over years of playing together, or is there another driving force behind this emanation?

The musicians on this record were basically the touring band for Lost Channels, so there was definitely a dynamic and a chemistry that grew out of that. We played a lot of shows together, and traveled extensively, so I think the musicianship became more intuitive and the album reflects that.

Earlier this week, CBC Radio 3 tagged GLS as one of the “artists who personify their region.” Within the outfit, do you guys see yourself as ambassadors of the Southern Ontario sound?

I believe music is not confined by borders. I get asked a lot if I think we sound Canadian, for example. I feel a strong connection to the environment and the natural world, and maybe that springs from some sort of collective unconscious. Historically and culturally, Canadians have had a special relationship with the landscape, and in some ways we’ve been defined by that. That being said, it was important to me to place ourselves geographically in that area of land around the great lakes, as a way of telling the story of where we’re from.

Interview by Devin Size

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