TO-based trio Language Arts are touring and stop in at The Legendary Horseshoe Dec 3 but have a much earlier showcase at RMG Fridays at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa Nov. 6. Language Arts (Kristen Cudmore with Neil MacIntosh, Joel Visentin and Søren Nissen) have just released Able Island, a tribute of sorts to Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia. The album was recorded in variety of locals right across Canada using homemade mics to capture storms, fireplaces, audiences, all of which went into the soup of sound mixed with Darryl Neudorf and mastered by Peter Moore. The album itself has some neat pop hooks and a sparkling disposition.
SlowCity sent L.A. a Q and A. L.A. sent it back.
Having travelled across the country did you find any patterns in your sound recordings, any overall sound that you would say speaks of Canada, the illusive Canadian Sound?
LA - "If patience could be a sound... (this country is huge! We are answering this while cruising across the prairies, right now, on tour!) There's a Canadian sound but we don't consider it illusive. We are Canadian and we are inspired by where we're from and that rings through in our music. We tried to capture the comforts of home (Nova Scotia) and the people and places we traveled to, on the road. On the record you can hear elements of the locations we chose to hunker down in, to make the album. The crackling of the cottage stove in Nova Scotia to the rain drops in a darkened alleyway in Saskatoon. To us, there's no point in not taking any risk with a broken industry that is never going to reward you for being safe. Don't get us wrong, there's a ton of amazing Canadian music out there, but the truly progressive and innovative music that we're drawn to, doesn't get the attention it deserves. On this record, we tried to take away any inhibitions. It is purely us and how we would like to sound."
Its interesting to me that you found inspiration for your album on Sable Island, I've never been, most people haven't I guess - can you describe it to me and what was it about the place that inspired you?
LA - "Picture a graveyard of shipwrecks in the middle of the ocean. A sandbar that is constantly changing. Sable Island is the focal inspiration piece for the record. It is hundreds of kilometers off the coast of Nova Scotia. It is a small crescent island in the middle of the Atlantic populated by 400+ wild horses (as Nova Scotians, I know, call them 'The Ponies'). The land is protected by Parks Canada and it has been a longing wish of mine, personally, (Kristen) to go there. You need special permission to go to Sable Island. To me it represents a pure beauty, the mystery of the sea and a romantic lonliness that could be both theraputic and stirring. It's a piece of where we're from that should be clumped in with the familiar but it is a place that isn't easy to access. -Like finding belonging. These themes are braided in the songs and some of the processes of making the album relate."
Rather than documenting the sound of the island you chose to use it as a starting point on your sonic journey, Why choose that route?
LA - "Because we couldn't get permission to go there, we started in 'A Coastline Bungalow' on the mainland of Nova Scotia. Here we workshopped 17 songs and decided on the first 4 for the record. We recorded the drums, bass, keys and guitars live-off-the-floor. Then we headed to Ontario and decided on the remaining songs and chose from 10 more songs that I brought to the table. Neil kept asking me to stop writing! There are only 24 hours in a day after-all. From Ontario we embarked across the country with a skeleton of a record. We packed Neil's island studio in the van and added Joel's grand piano in Winnipeg, the vocals in the basement in Saskatoon. Continuing, we set up shop in a hotel in Regina, a vacant parking lot in Edmonton, a kitchen in Calgary, an alleyway in Vancouver, a bar in Ottawa and so on and so forth. It was finalized in a bedroom and then sent off for mix. So, by process, it is a truly Canadian record by experience. We didn't make any conscious decisions on the road. We were at the whim of timing, our environment, the people around us and the amount of energy we had on any given day."
You must have a lot of material - what was your process for deciding what recordings went with what song? Did the recordings jumpstart the song or did you begin with the song and then add recordings for colour?
"The songs were fully written and brought to the band. Together we arranged our parts and then recorded the bed tracks live-off-the-floor. We added special guests and then the remaining parts of the record were things we happened upon before recording the vocals. One of our favourite moments on the record is the bridge for 'With Me', which features every audience member who volunteered to sing gang vocals with us. So voices ranging from Halifax to Vancouver and in between are all simultaneously singing together 'with me'. Which still give me chills of nostalgia and gratitude. Without these people, we wouldn't get the experiences we do, of sharing our music and broadening our community of music enthusiasts in our very large country."