Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Five albums later, Sam Roberts still feels like a musical newbie

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Music is akin to the fountain of youth for Sam Roberts.

"Rock SSRqn' roll is an older man's game, but it keeps you young -- then it kills you. It's very final and very sudden," the singer says with a laugh over the phone from his Montreal home.

Roberts, 36, has been in the game since he was a teenager, but it took the release of the 2001 Inhuman Condition EP and 2003 full-length We Were Born in a Flame to make a mark on music fans and critics.

He finds it amusing he's considered something of a veteran Canadian artist and has to answer questions about longevity in the business when he feels he's still got a long way to go himself.

"I get questions like, 'What advice would you give younger bands?' but in my mind I'm still in infancy, or maybe travelling to the preadolescent stage in my career," he says. "I don't want to occupy that space in any way... I don't want to impart anything. I can tell you what it's like to travel in a van for 10 years with the same guys, or how on a musical level I'm still trying to tap into what's inside."

What's inside for Roberts is different every album. His first releases were full of jangly, hook-filled pop-rock. He switched things up on 2006's Chemical City by showcasing lengthier jams and psychedelic flourishes that reflected the Sam Roberts Band live show, while its followup, Love at the End of the World, was rooted in classic rock.

For his new album, Collider, the first release to have the Sam Roberts Band moniker on the cover, Roberts and his bandmates left Montreal to record with producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Josh Ritter) in Chicago, where they soaked up the city's atmosphere, reflected on the CD by the addition of horns and some soul-funk flourishes.

"When you're trying to move your music into uncharted territories, I want to do it in uncharted territories...There's trepidation bound up in that exploration of the unknown, but you just have to blaze forward without fear of leaving something out," says Roberts, a married father of three kids aged four, two and seven months.

On Collider, he tried leaving plenty out. In the past Roberts admits he would "overwrite" and overly complicate arrangements with up to 10 different guitar tracks that he would then whittle down to the finished product by removing things.

This time he consciously moved away from that approach by writing less, leaving room for things to be added later to fill out the sound instead.

"I was going in with a minimalist approach, but Brian was 10 times more minimalist than I am," Roberts says. "He was into stripping back the layers of what was in his mind and our minds to get to what was at the heart of the song and where the soul of the song resided. He said, 'Let's act on it, but not over-embellish it with the bells and whistles of the studio because we can, but because it's adding to the song.' He was one of the first producers I've work with who has really voiced an opinion on a creative level like that.

"You can hold on too tightly to a song, so I had to learn to take criticism and get knocked around."

Concert preview

Sam Roberts Band with Zeus

Centennial Concert Hall

Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Tickets: $35.75 and $52.25 at Ticketmaster

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 31, 2011 D3

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