The End is the Beginning
I just polished off half a bottle of a Masi Valpolicella. Im feeling quite warm and why shouldnt I? At day’s end tomorrow, our record is mastered.
It’s been some kind of journey. Towards the end there is usually less and less to say. There will be plenty of time to talk more as the walrus suggests- of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and of course, cabbages and kings. But for now…and for this thing we are doing…the words will soon be coming to a rest stop. There will be another time to write again, but this particular chapter is coming to a close.
With the completion of this record comes the end of a document. What started as a few words to describe a simple reaction to something musical seemed to turn into some sort of five year long monologue on the making of our rock n’ roll record. And after tomorrow, that will accomplished. So at least for now…this blog will come to an end.
But the end of something is the beginning of something else. And we are certainly looking forward to to this next beginning…whatever exactly it ends up being! And it is perhaps most important at this time to recognize just how many wonderful, talented, and beautiful people were involved in the creation of this beginning.
So as a final curtain for this blog, I invite you to meet the players involved in the making of Lickpenny Loafer’s first full-length record – ‘People Will Talk’.
Devin is the other half of the musical vision of Lickpenny Loafer. Without him, there is no Lickpenny Loafer. To say any more will be to always say too little. Suffice to say that a drunken 1am call placed 12 years ago out of the phone booth of the Weaver’s Arms would start a very long (and ongoing), remarkable conversation. What else can I say? To say any more will be to always say too little.
Another one where words dont seem to do a whole lot to explain. Steve is our producer and guide. He is equipped with the most incredible understanding and sensibilities when it comes to the world of recording music. The shear vastness of Steve’s knowledge when it comes to the history of records, musicians, gear, studios, etc, etc, etc is mind-blowing. Dont be surprised if a music history book comes out one day authored by Mr. Skratt.
Steve’s sense of musical vision is scary good. He is incredibly open-minded, patient, and most importantly – decisive. He also plays on the album – contributing glockenspiel, synthesizer, and a little piano while always constantly dipping into his lab of tricks to find the right sound for a particular part that someone was playing. Without Steve Skratt, ‘People Will Talk’ never gets made. It’s that simple.
“I hear…I hear something else…I hear crazy tribal rhythms…I hear great intensity…”. I remember Stephan calling me up and telling me this shortly after he heard an early recording of a live version of ‘In Retrospect’ before we had ever played it live with him. And man did those comments excite me. Not just because that particular song was due for yet another turn in its evolution – that story deserves its own chapter – but because when a musician of Stephan’s calibre is interested in your music, you pay attention.
Stephan is in many ways the best musician in our band. Playing with him has made us all a heck of a lot better as musicians. I cant tell you what its like to play live knowing youve got a fine Swiss watch back behind you keeping time. Your confidence soars – its like you get drive a car that you know has a top-of-the-line engine. You can shift recklessly or swerve wildly…but the ride is always going to be smooth.
But what I love most about Stephan’s playing is his feel. Stephan would be a tremendous Mrdingam or Tabla player (both Indian classical percussion instruments)- that is because these are instruments which not only demand great technical ability but are perfected by only those who truly understand the rhythm of the soul.
There are those that have rhythm. Then there are those talented percussionists who can command rhythm. And then there is a very select few who can breathe rhythm.
Stephan Szczesniak breathes rhythm.
Darren joined the band immediately after we completed our first record ‘Introducing Lickpenny Loafer’. In fact, his first show was the CD Release for that record. He learned our 9 song set for that show in a week and has been part of the band ever since.
Lickpenny Loafer is a band that has many voices. Darren’s knowledge of electric playing and use of pedals enables him to integrate wonderfully woven textures into the songs. Darren’s guitar playing is like the sound of water hitting the shore on a summer night …you know it’s there but it doesn’t overwhelm you. And if it was missing, it would change everything.
Todd was the last member to join Lickpenny Loafer. He is a versataile musician who can play guitars and bass. Initially, for live shows, Todd would rotate to whatever was needed for a song, switching often between bass, acoustic, and electric guitars while also supplying backing vocals.
As the band has evolved though, it is Todd’s talents as a bassist that have re-defined his role in the band. His bass playing on songs like Keys to the City is divine. And with Todd holding down the low end, Devin has now been freed up to return even more to his first love- lead guitar.
The release of ‘People Will Talk’ and the subsequent shows that follow it will reveal a more traditional lineup for Lickpenny Loafer with less of the ‘switcharoo’ going on between bandmates. One might be inclined to think that for a band to evolve, band members should take on more roles. In reality (for us anyway), it is the simplification of this lineup has truly made us a better band.
Phil is a very close friend of the band and a contributor in a variety of ways. He started off his contributions by just never missing one of our shows. As time went on, and as he journeyed into his own songwriting, he began to collaberate with the band. The End of the Fair is a collaberative effort between Phil and the band. He is a co-writer on the song – in fact, it was his sketch that started it all.
Phil has also been doing some multimedia work for us and filmed over 20 hours of raw video footage from the recording sessions for ‘People Will Talk’. He is using that footage for a range of projects around the album including promo videos and a potential documentary on the making of the album.
One of the things we sought to do with ‘People Will Talk’ was integrate other musicians and instruments into the studio representations of these songs. Scott Galloway plays all of the piano parts (save a couple trinkets played by Mr. Skratt) on the album.
I was fortunate enough to meet Scott at the wedding of bandmate from uni (Matt Daviau) in Las Vegas. The only time I actually heard things go quiet in Vegas was when Scott started playing, at the urging of his sister and bride of the wedding, at a piano bar in New York New York. Everyone stopped, turned around, and listened in awe. I joined him shortly after for a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ and I pretty much knew then and there that we had to get him to play on our record.
Scott’s playing is a wonderful combination of confident and delicate. He does an amazing job of playing the ‘inbetween’ notes which isnt always done wel (or even done at all) in rock music. His playing can be found all over ‘People Will Talk’ and in particular his playing on ‘Pistachio’ creates some of my personal favorite moments on the record. The recording of End of the Fair – one take of Scott playing and myself singing simoltaneously – would prove to be one of the most magical moments in the studio.
Chris is a tremendously accomplished Canadian session and tour violinist. His credits include being Jesse Cook’s tour violin player, among many others. Chris is also a very accomplished songwriter in his own right and released a record of his own in 2010. He also writes music for film and television.
Chris plays on three songs on the record – Slow Pour, Pistachio, and In Retrospect. We were thrilled to have him provide the string pads that lift various movements in Slow Pour and Pistachio. But it was his playing on In Retrospect which left us all jaw-dropped. In Retrospect was by the far the biggest song to tame in the studio, and it was Chris’ contributions on the song that really enabled us to start to get hold of the beast.
Kevin Fox is one of the premier cello session players in all of North America. Kevin has contributed his work to the likes of Raine Maida, Celine Dion, Chantal Kreviazuk, Tom Cochrane, and many others.
But the reason Kevin is so special for us is because he helped to realize…bring to life…one of the songs most near and dear to us – ‘Better Days’. As the album closer, it was a song that required a lot of thought around how to approach it in the studio. In the end, a stripped down version (in the style that the song was originally written) with only the addition of Kevin’s masterful cello playing did the trick.
Evan is a Toronto-based percussionist trained in both rock and Indian classical music styles. His main instrument of choice is the wave drum. He uses it to create a range of sounds and rhythms that can be applied in many different ways to a song. His playing can be found on ‘King Henry VIII’ and ‘In Retrospect’.
You can have all the great songs you like- but it dont mean jack if you cant get beautiful sounds in the studio. Jeremy Darby has been creating beautiful sounds in studios for a very long time.
As recording engineer for the album and owner of Canterbury Studios – where the album was tracked and mixed – Jeremy was an absolute pleasure to work with. Along with a tremendous technicial knowledge, Jeremy brings a lot of creative energy as a recording engineer. He played an active role in the exploration and development of ideas in the studio and really creates a playground-like atmosphere in the studio.
Working with Jeremy was just awesome. He is also blessed with the sharpest wit this side of Canterbury.
When July and August 2010 rolled around, ‘People Will Talk’ stalled. Save a few valuable sessions here and there spent editing with the very helpful Andrew Heppner, the album felt like it had hit a wall. It was hard to imagine how we were going to get to the next phases of the record.
Enter Sam Ibbett. A record takes a long time to make and there are many peaks and valleys. We were in a valley and Sam led us to the next peak. He had just come back from some needed time off and brought a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and spirit into the process. In short, he really helped breath new life into the record.
Sam was the mixing engineer for ‘People Will Talk’. He is young (well…young like us in the band…we’re all young right?!), very likeable, enthusiastic, really bright, really good at what he does, and he loves music. He’s already accomplished a significant body of work and he no doubt will continue to move on to bigger and better things throughout the world of making music. Even after being holed up with him in studio B for just about a month and tearing our hair out several times over these songs, I can say unflinchingly it was an absolute pleasure.
The ‘Hep’ is another Canterbury guy and helped us out with some much needed editing prior to the mixing phase. Many long, boring hours that still require total focus and attention- we’re very thankful for the time he took to help us get everything ready for the mixing stage.
We did our research and Peter is the cream of the crop when it comes to mastering engineers in Canada. As both Sam and Jeremy told me, “He just makes records sound really really good- that’s all he does”.
A project of this magnitude requires hard work and focus from so many. A lot of really talented, amazing people were involved in the making of ‘People Will Talk’. It was a pleasure working with them all. Making this record was a realization of a dream. Completing this record is not a endpoint, but rather a beginning. We look foward excitedly to our next set of challenges and adventures, being an Indie band in the wonderful world of music.
From all of us in Lickpenny Loafer – thanks, thanks, more thanks, and much love to all.