MY final interview before the weekend…
is with LeBarons as they talk about their current single, Long Highway. I was interested to know what the song’s story is and what sort of things they address in their upcoming album, Summer of Death. They tell me how they got together and what the music scene is like over in Toronto.
I ask whether they will come to the U.K. and play and whether they have favourite memories from their careers so far; which rising artist we need to keep a watchful eye out for; if they get time to unwind away from music – they each pick a song to end the interview with.
Hi, guys. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi, there! It’s been going great; thank you for asking. It was exciting to finally release our single after all the preparation we did for the album. It seems like it has been well-received.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourselves, please?
We are LeBarons; an Alt-Country band from Toronto, Canada. We have been together for roughly four years. Members include: Chris MacDonald – Vocals, Acoustic; Megan Tilston – Vocals; Casey Irvin – Lap Steel; Evan Levy – Electric Guitar; Po Karim – Drums and John Dinsmore on Bass.
Long Highway is your new single. Is there a story behind the song?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a writer - I still do. Haha. One of my first ideas for a book was going to be about two kids that live in a small, removed town somewhere along the coast. It’s a town where the only place to go is down to the lake and is where all the kids hang out. The two protagonists would soon venture out on the road in search of something bigger. Along the way, they get mixed up in a murder, ultimately forcing them to make a decision to run or face up.
They choose to run and the road trip continues only in a different context. I decided I would write it into a song; I just couldn’t put the murder in there because I’m not as good as Nick Cave. But, I think I captured the vibe of how I wanted the book to feel. I would love to write it one day.
Everyone put a lot (of input) into it and had a lot of creative ideas that really furthered the vibe; our songs come out best when that happens.
It is from the upcoming album, Summer of Death (out on 2nd November). What sort of ideas and experiences inspired the song?
Roots would go back to my love of romantic style stories - anything Springsteen, S.E. Hinton/Rumble Fish; Kerouac - anything along those lines is where I always want to be.
How did LeBarons get together? What attracted you to one another?
I made a few Craigslist posts, which landed Casey and Evan; I married the other singer; met Po through my work and then we were recording at John’s studio, Lincoln County Social, and forced him to play bass with us.
What do you hope to achieve by the end of 2018?
I’m sure Po has it all planned out for us. Haha. No, really…the fact that we have achieved all that we have is a marvel in its own. These recordings have just made me want to record and document more; I just want to play and have a lot of fun with my band. They are so talented, insightful and the best bunch of musicians anyone could ask to play with. Writing songs with them feels really good.
You are based out of Toronto. Is there a good music scene there at the moment?
Toronto’s music scene has always been thriving. It’s very lively and stocked full of talent that stretch across all genres. You can go out any night of the week and find a show to go to. I feel fortunate to live in a city like this, definitely.
Have you each got a favourite memory from your time in music so far – the one that sticks in the mind?
Chris: We’ve played so many fun shows it’s hard to choose. But, last winter, we played a show in my shop as a part of a block party/music crawl. The crowd was handpicked because of space limitations. It was intimate and the vibe was just amazing. That is a fond memory.
Casey: When Chris brings a new song to the rest of us, it usually comes with a shortlist of notes for the feel. He might say “make it like American Girl” or he'll slouch down in his knees, sit back in space and air-drum a few bars. I really love interpreting these songs as a band; we each start from a different interpretation of Chris’ notes but, after a few runs and things start to click, it's such a wonderful feeling.
Evan: We had some terrific guest musicians on the Summer of Death record including a horn section playing a part I had created (a first for me). It's really powerful experiencing something you have in your head become music in the air, then on the record. I'll remember that for a long time.
Which one album means the most to each of you would you say (and why)?
Chris: I can’t answer this…
Megan: (Shakes her head, ‘no’).
Po: If it’s a LeBarons record, it’s the new one Summer of Death. I think the songs are amazing and we had a lot of fun making it. We were able to branch out and explore some really creative ideas and sounds. We also took our time making the record - almost two years. That meant that we were able to spend time on each song and make them all sound unique based on the mood we were trying to create. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.
Casey: Sweetheart of the Rodeo by The Byrds is definitely a key album for me. The first pedal steel line of You Ain't Goin’ Nowhere runs itself through my head on an almost daily basis. Really, though; anything that Gram Parsons had a hand in could be my answer to your question here.
Evan: Too many to mention…
If you could support any musician alive today, and choose your own rider, what would that entail?
I’m pretty fond of our hometown staples at the moment: give me Matt Mays or The Sadies and I’d be happy to follow them around for sure.
Rider? Hmmmmmm. I’m going to think long and hard about that. I’d take Springsteen, too.
Will we see you on the road this year at all?
I think we’ll definitely put a few miles into it when the dust settles.
Might we see you in the U.K. very soon?
Would love to. It’s a great place and haven’t been for a few years. Might be due for a visit and a pint!
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
I don’t know exactly...read books, try and stay off the phone.
Are there any new artists you recommend we check out?
Alun Piggins. He’s not new, but I have no idea why he isn’t famous. He’s one of the best songwriters in Toronto and, if you don’t believe it, you will when you here his song Steel Heart.
Do you both get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Music is the unwind...music and beer.
Finally, and for being good sports; you can each choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Chris: Living on the Moon - Adam Faucett
Megan: Bad Girl (Pt. I) - Lee Moses
Po: Appalachian Death Sigh - Bill Fox
Casey: Sleep with One Eye Open by Chris Thile and Michael Daves
Evan: 1952 Vincent Black Lightning - Richard Thompson