Interview – Great Lake Swimmers

Award winning Toronto based Folk Rockers, Great Lake Swimmers have announced they are touring an intimate set during September, and work has already begun on their new studio album, billed for a 2018 release date. Canadian Beats caught up with Tony Dekker from the band during rehearsals to get the lowdown on the tour and to see how writing was going for the new record.

Tony, lots happening on the Great Lake Swimmers schedule at the moment! Can you tell us what to expect with the September Ontario dates?

We’re really excited to be headlining the Sandbanks Music Festival this year and we will have a bigger band for that show. For the Festival of Small Halls shows we’ll be presenting the more scaled back version of the band and playing the quieter side of the catalogue, and that goes along with the idea of playing in smaller, more intimate spaces. I think both will be equally engaging.

Do you prefer performing live or the time in the studio?

They are two different very different beasts. I love creating and spending time working on ideas but it’s also nice to be out in the world and continue the conversation in the live shows.

You’ve chosen an unusual location to record your 7th album. What’s the thinking behind the choice?

Our friends at the Aeolian Hall in London, Ontario let us know about a church they have started using the El Sistema music program, which has wonderful acoustics. We turned the church into a de facto studio space for a period of time and recorded the bulk of the new tracks there. It was a beautiful sounding, creative place to work in.

What can listeners expect with the new album?

I’m really happy to be working with Chris Stringer from Union Sound on the new album. We’re taking a minimalist approach and listening carefully to what the songs are asking for. In our more recent albums, there was an attempt to draw upon the strengths of five people in a room, but this time we are starting with the songs and working in reverse, in a way, to seek out musicians that will help expand the sound. I think the new album will be a bit more challenging than our most recent work.

Do you have a particular process when writing new material?

I don’t have any particular formula when I’m working on new songs, but it helps to have lengths of time with focussed intensity on writing. Songs can take shape around a melody, a rhythm, or a fragment of a lyric. It seems to work differently almost every time.

What was it like performing in New York for Canada Day 150?

It was great! So many expats came out to celebrate Canada’s 150 and I think they really appreciated the all-Canadian billing in New York City for Canada Day. I was glad we could be ambassadors and it was good fun. There are a lot of Canadians in New York!

Can you tell us a little about The Thesis Project?

“The Thesis Project is a series that pairs musicians from somewhat disparate worlds and encourages collaboration between them. I was thrilled to work with the duo Kinbrae who are known for their deep, textural, ambient compositions. It pulled me out of my comfort zone in a really great way and expanded my perspective on the song writing process. I’m really proud of the pieces that we came up with. They’re being released as a limited edition ten inch vinyl record with each having unique, handmade artwork as the jackets. It’s a really exciting and ambitious project.”

Who are your musical influences?

In terms of song writing, I think Leonard Cohen has set the high water mark. I think about his work often. He is still with us in so many ways.

What is your view of the Canadian music scene at the moment?

I think the Canadian music scene continues to be really close-knit and supportive and inspiring in a lot of ways. I really like one of Julie Doiron’s more recent projects called Weird Lines. Ariel and Mathias from The Burning Hell also released a duets album a few years ago called “Don’t Believe The Hyperreal” which I can’t get enough of. We’ve also toured with songwriter Megan Bonnell this past year and I think her latest record ‘Magnolia’ is excellent.

Which track are you proudest of to date?

I spent a lot of time reworking the song ‘Don’t Leave Me Hanging’ from our last album and I’m really happy with how that one turned out.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, and all the best for the upcoming shows.

Catch Great Lake Swimmers this September:

Sat. Sept. 9 – Dunedin ON :: Words In The Wood Festival
Thurs. Sept. 14 – Elgin ON :: Chaffey’s Lock Community Hall
Fri. Sept. 15 – Almonte ON :: Almonte Old Town Hall
Sat. Sept. 16 – Sandbanks Provincial Park :: Sandbanks Music Festival
Sun. Sept. 17 – Tamworth ON :: Tamworth Legion

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