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April 17-30
VOL.12 ISSUE. 17
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Chris Morin
Published Thursday October 20, 11:16 am
Can-rock icon still rolls his own way

 

SAM ROBERTS BAND

Sunday 30

The Odeon

 

Sam Roberts is something of an enigma when it comes to mainstream Can-rock — in a good way, mind you. Long known for his ability to write hit singles (with soaring choruses, loud, hooky guitars and the like), the Juno-nominated Montrealer nonetheless goes far deeper than mere radio fodder — and in doing so, he still seems like somewhat of an underdog.

Now creating music as The Sam Roberts Band, Roberts has just released his fourth album, Collider. His songwriting remains as solid as ever — as does his dedication to letting good songs be good songs, rather than trying to dictate their tone.

“I try not to go into the studio to make a record with an overarching philosophy,” says Roberts. “I try not to think that I want this album to be different from the last one by doing this or that or whatever. I was starting the songs off with more rhythm rather than just riffs, and that was a fundamentally different approach — these songs all literally grew out of a rhythm.”

Touted by many as his return to rock, Collider combines the drive of early singles like “Don’t Walk Away Eileen” and “Brother Down” with the maturity Roberts has gained since his solo career first broke out back in 2000.

It’s a boisterous album, but Roberts says that sessions for Collider began with a relative whimper.

“The album started off in an un-exotic basement,” he says, “and I really had to use my imagination to try and put an impetus behind each and every song. Thankfully, when it came to tracking the album,we went to Chicago — and that gave the record a jolt. You open yourself up to opportunity and you’ve broken the routine, which can stifle the creative process because you get bogged down by things in your normal life that have a way of infiltrating everything.

“[Going somewhere else], you’re forced to embrace the unfamiliar — and that opens up a part of your mind that you use for music. You might be more spontaneous in your performances or writing arrangements. Going to Chicago was a really integral part of how this record sounded.”

During his live performances, Roberts makes a conscious effort to mix the hit singles with the obscure. Occasionally peppering his live shows with political rants (something he admits that he doesn’t always identify with as a songwriter), Roberts hopes that onstage is where the dichotomy of radio hits and everything else comes together.

“Picking songs to play live is kind of a daily torment,” he says with a laugh. “We don’t play the same show twice — that’s been a tradition since the first tour, because we want the show to change every day. That helps us stay motivated and sharp. But it’s hard: you want to play a lot of new stuff because nobody wants to live in the past, but there’s always a handful of songs you have to leave out that you know people are going to want to hear.

“It’s like cutting your own kids off of the soccer team.”

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Dark Side Of The Dan

DAN MANGAN

Wednesday 2

Broadway Theatre

Indie folk-rock darling Dan Mangan has recently released his third album, Oh Fortune, while riding a wave of positive press (including a nomination for the 2010 Polaris Prize).

But if you were expecting a mere repeat of his critically lauded 2009 album Nice, Nice, Very Nice, prepare to be surprised. Oh Fortune is a much darker record than Nice, and clearly a product of Mangan’s growing maturity as a songwriter who’s growing up in the public eye. It’s also, says Mangan, a representation of the people he’s surrounded himself with.

“It was an intense process emotionally,” he says. “It’s our most collaborative album yet, and I worked on it with my band a lot. Over the years I had been slowly assembling this band of fairly out-there and interesting musicians, and this record is a reflection of what we came up with together.

“We’re a six-piece band right now, which is the biggest band I’ve ever had on the road. It’s exciting, because there are a lot of different layers and textures going on. There’s been a lot of progression with these songs, and there’s a lot of trust on stage.”

Oh Fortuneis definitely Mangan’s most realized work: Nice, Nice, Very Nice was filled with sweet songs about robots who needed love — which was undeniably charming, especially coming from a guy who may well be indie rock’s answer to the teddy bear. OhFortune, however, is a definite contrast — songs like “If I Am Dead,” for example, hint that those robots he once sang about have not only found love but are now looking for a good divorce lawyer.

“Lots of life things were going on at the time,” says Mangan. “I think this record is my most mature lyric-wise. I took a lot of snippets from conversations and books and movies. I guess if you’re a person who makes art of any kind, you draw inspiration from pretty much all of those small things around you. If you keep your eyes and ears open, you start to notice the things that will inspire you to do the things you need to do.”

The darker lyrical tone notwithstanding, the music on Oh Fortune is still orchestral and uplifting, utilizing horns and string sections in addition to Mangan’s acoustic guitar. And interestingly, those darker lyrics have come at a time when Mangan says his life couldn’t be much better.

“More people are coming to our shows now more than ever, which is amazing,” he says, “but everything has happened really slowly and methodically. What it comes down to is the live show, and us trying to give it everything we have at the time. People have been really responding to that, and it’s amazing — it’s been a real gift to be able to play music as much as I have been. We’re just enjoying the ride, and trying to appreciate everything that comes our way.

“Also, I’m getting married. It’s definitely not something I thought I would ever do, but I guess I got inspired. The person who I’m marrying has been with me the entire time, and she’s well aware of what she’s getting herself into,” he says with a laugh.

 

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We Are The World

DELHI 2 DUBLIN

Friday 21

Amigos

Mixing musical genres is much like dating: you never really know what the result will be when you start, and sometimes the results are a nightmare. (Hellooo, second-generation ska-punk!) Sometimes, though, everything works wonderfully — even if no one really knows why.

 The latter is an apt description of Vancouver-based Delhi 2 Dublin.

Delhi 2 Dublin fearlessly mash up different sounds while giving audiences a superdose of culture, paired with some seriously pumping beats. The group combines Indian bhangra, Celtic, reggae and electronica all on the same stage. Oh — and the group features an Irish fiddler and a Korean man who wears a kilt.

Confused yet?

If you are, it’s understandable — but  Delhi 2 Dublin vocalist Sanjay Seran states that the group is simply doing what comes naturally to them as individuals.

“We’ve never said that we would incorporate an Irish folk sound or whatever. In fact, it’s kind of like everything in-between,” he says. “The project came about because the musicians in the collective were all doing different things and brought their own style — and we kept that as the way we do things. We’ve never had the pressure to put a certain sound on anything we do. At this point, we’re allowed to whatever we want — which is sometimes scary.”

The group’s recent full-length album, Planet Electric, would be the perfect soundtrack to the foreign film section of your local video store — if such a thing existed anymore, that is. Combining jumpy party beats with layers of varied instrumentation and heroic vocal raps overtop, Planet Electric sees Delhi 2 Dublin taking the term “world beat” and rebranding it as hipster-friendly.

As interesting as the album is, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the energy the group creates live. Indeed, Seran admits the group is still working on taking the electricity of their live show and figuring out how to capture it in the studio.

“We still haven’t quite gotten there in terms of capturing our live energy yet, but we’re working on that,” he says. “But we grew a lot more as a band after the first album, and we found our sound. At that time we weren’t even really a band, but with Planet Electric, we tried to capture the energy of recording together live off the floor.”

Along with their albums (and Seran says they’re already working on their next one), Delhi 2 Dublin are notable for numerous remixes of their already club-savvy tracks.

“We try to do one album and then a year later put out the remix album, because it’s really minimal work,” says Seran. “[Also], that gives you another year to put out your next album, so you have something new every year.

“Coming from an electronic scene, putting out remixes is a really normal thing to do, and we really like other people’s own take on our music. Plus, the remixed versions are usually a lot heavier and geared towards DJs who play music in a live set. From a business point of view it’s quite smart, because it pushes your music to new audiences and it gives your fans [a new version] of something that they hopefully already like.”

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