Canadian Musician - January/February 2023 - Page 36

PHOTO : ELEANOR PETRY
O ’ HANLEY & RANKIN WITH ALVVAYS PERFORMING AT THE 2015 INDIE AWARDS
best under the circumstances , and we ’ re fortunate to be in a group that is up for anything and rolls with many , many punches . We also had confidence that Shawn could manipulate accordingly where necessary . So , we could integrate these clinical calculations , unorthodox BPMs , and tape warps into the live performances . In performing them differently , we did have the time to play an extra few notes , an extra drum fill , or what have you . Shawn ’ s a big fan of Lindsay Buckingham ’ s guitar tones and style , as we are , and I didn ’ t know that Lindsay would often slow the tape down to play his riffs . That imbued some of their stuff with that sort of glassy , sparkly tones that you hear from him . It ’ s not just a pure harmonic shift ; it ’ s a tonal one , too .”
“ Shawn strung up all manner of instruments with contact microphones – we all had little cylindrical mics taped to our guitars , keyboards , and drums . It made [ the sessions ] feel a bit like a sleep study or something like that , where you had all these electrodes dangling from your appendages . In that sense , it felt bizarre , but that puts you in a different headspace than you ’ d be if you were in capital ‘ S ’ Scrutiny mode ,” says O ’ Hanley . About his guitar work , he adds , “ Some of that desperation , frantic energy did get documented , but the same goes for when Molly , Kerri , and I were demoing together and playing over the demos three nights a week in our shed .”
Consequently , O ’ Hanley says , “ The division between production and pre-production is pretty blurry , like it is for a lot of folks , but we ended up getting a top-to-bottom vocal take and guitar take for a few songs , just playing over the existing demos live in our shed with Kerri , that we then used on the record in their entirety . So , these pseudo-performance scenarios were quite helpful for us and kind of eliminated the drudgery of a piecemeal approach to constructing a record . Not that we didn ’ t do our fair share of layering , but if you have a good foundation to build off of , then your house is a bit more solid .”
Taking that metaphor a bit further , building a house takes time ; it requires a lot of thought and an immense amount of back and forth between everyone involved before you break ground and start building the thing . And when someone up and rips off all your blueprints and building materials , it can be pretty soul-destroying . Especially if , the next day , some act of god , like a flood , ruins the tools you were planning to use in construction .
And , yes , that ’ s precisely what happened to Alvvays – the aforementioned break-in that ended in the loss of a significant amount of the raw materials and demos they ’ d been writing , recording , and compiling post-Antisocialites was followed by a flooded basement that damaged some of their equipment .
While the recordings weren ’ t finished work , it was still devastating . “ It was hours of me changing settings on a Prophet , humming random melodies – basically hours and hours of failure , with little beacons of melodic light coming through ,” Rankin says .
Still , she manages to remain philosophical about the loss . “ I ’ m so hard on myself when I ’ m writing that if I ’ m chasing something , it ’ s fairly easy
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