Alt-folk band plumbs new depths on latest album

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Toronto folkies Great Lake Swimmers recently played for a small, intimate crowd in front of the beluga tank at the Vancouver Aquarium.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/04/2012 (3888 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Toronto folkies Great Lake Swimmers recently played for a small, intimate crowd in front of the beluga tank at the Vancouver Aquarium.

The following afternoon, the band’s main man Tony Dekker and friends were performing in front of stacks of jeans inside a trendy Gastown store for a special Vancouver Sun video session.

Later that day, they would hit up Zulu Records to play amid stacks of LPs for a free in-store performance previewing their fifth album, New Wild Everywhere, which was released on Tuesday.

“It’s been an interesting trip to Vancouver, that’s for sure,” Dekker says with a chuckle between the two afternoon appearances.

“We have a lot of fans in Vancouver and our label (Nettwerk) is here. We wanted to do as much promo stuff and cool little things before we get rolling on tour, especially in Canada… So that was the point: Coming to Vancouver and trying on some jeans.”

Dekker has plenty of reasons to be in good spirits.

The followup to 2009’s critically acclaimed, Polaris Music Prize shortlisted Lost Channels is, as Dekker put it, Great Lake Swimmers’ “most hopeful-themed” record.

“New starts, new beginnings,” Dekker said. “It’s like a rebirth, almost. Coming off the touring for Lost Channels, I was so burned out. It was really nice to allow myself to have that time to recharge.”

Lost Channels had been recorded in a number of strange locations around Ontario’s Thousand Islands region, including the reportedly haunted Singer Castle on Dark Island.

New Wild Everywhere, on the other hand, was recorded with longtime producer Andy Magoffin at his Revolution Recording studios in Toronto.

Only one song, The Great Exhale, ended up being recorded in an “offbeat” location, namely a Toronto subway station.

“It was really nice to have a closed, controlled environment,” Dekker said of working with Magoffin at Revolution Recording. “The whole band was there the whole time so it wasn’t like Brett (Higgins, upright bass) came in for a couple hours and knocked out his parts and said, ‘OK, the bass is done.’

“We all played together on all the songs and pieced them together and finessed them. Some songs change so much once you start doing that.”

The band’s current lineup also features longtime guitarist and collaborator Erik Arnesen and Lost Channels touring band members Higgins, Miranda Mulholland (vocals and violin), and Greg Millson (drums).

In a way, New Wild Everywhere may just be the most band-oriented record Dekker has ever produced with Great Lake Swimmers.

“It was natural to get that energy of us playing on the road into the studio, that kind of chemistry we were all working at on the road.”

But while New Wild Everywhere appears to be a departure from geographically centred efforts like Ongiara and Lost Channels, hinting at a bigger sense of space and place in the world, some common elements remain.

For example, protest song Ballad of a Fisherman’s Wife follows a similar initial melody line as Lost Channels single Pulling on a Line, and both quite obviously reference water and fishing.

“Interestingly enough, Ballad of a Fisherman’s Wife was recorded in a different form shortly after Lost Channels. It was an exclusive for (environmental group) the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper. They asked me to write a song for their digital music club. The Waterkeepers are all over North America. You can still get the original of that song if you sign up for their digital music club. So maybe there is something more there than I realized.”

The song was recorded while the oil spill was taking place in the Gulf of Mexico, something Dekker witnessed first-hand while he passed through Louisiana.

Dekker says the connection he feels with water — and the name Great Lake Swimmers is probably the most obvious indication — is something that was instilled in him at a very young age.

“I think having grown up on the shores of Lake Erie and spending so much time in that pocket of land between the Great Lakes, you’re in tune with it. I spent all of my formative years in that area. For better or for worse, I grew up swimming in the Great Lakes. As I dig deeper and progress in songwriting, I realize how important that is becoming to me.”

— Postmedia News

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