Daniel, Fred & Julie’s Creative Gamble Pays Off

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Creative focus is always an admirable trait in a musician, but sometimes a diversion is in order too – if only to fulfill a desire to do something a little different. Sometimes it happens because the players involved fear that they're stagnating creatively and they want to deliberately force themselves out of their respective comfort zones and sometimes the power of the almighty dollar is the motivation behind an artistic change or collaboration but, most rarely (and rewardingly), sometimes the whole point behind a collaborative effort or side project is to have fun; so imagine the surprise that Attack In Black singer/guitarist Daniel Romano, longtime Eric's Trip and solo critical squeeze Julie Doiron and Shotgun & Jaybird singer/guitarist Fred Squire got when their little creative diversion started to take off. “It's funny that the album has been received as well as it has, because I don't think any of us really had any plans at all for the project other than to have a little fun,” laughs Romano, almost in disbelief. “I was looking through these old folk books that I have at my house – I don't know whose they are or where they came from – and that's sort of how it started. I wondered how they'd sound – there wasn't any music there, they were just words in a book – so I was messing around with them a little bit; just putting music to the words.

“I had already been thinking about doing something with Fred so I thought that maybe creating a project around that music and trying to do it with him would work out,” Romano continues. “I introduced the idea to him and he was into it, so I caught the train to his place in Sackville, New Brunswick.

“We didn't really know what we were going to do or how we were even going to record it [laughing]. We knew we were going to use his tape machine so we brought that out to the garage and tried a couple of different miking techniques or whatever, but we ended up going with just one and finding the right spot for it and finding the right spots around it for us. Julie was there and she asked us if we wanted us to sing on any of it and that seemed like a good idea so she did. That's pretty much how it all came to be but, when we finished it, I wasn't even expecting it to be marketed or publicized in any way. That people have been so kind and receptive to it has been really strange and cool.”

While the warm reception has obviously been a surprise to everyone involved, it's easy to understand it; even on the first play through the Daniel, Fred & Julie's self-titled debut. In this record lies the implication that all of the developments and achievements made in recording technology over the last hundred years or so only amount to superfluous tree trimming as Romano, Squire and Doiron simply crowd around a single microphone with guitars and lay down something genuinely golden in its unadorned and beautiful simplicity. With no assistance other than their own voices and hands with which to play, these three singers cast a very different template from any other currently utilized in modern rock and revisit genuinely timeless fare that has been important to current music, but has gone largely unsung, for ages. They breathe new life into these lost artifacts and draw in the connecting lines through music history (if you've ever wondered where the inspiration for “Gallows Pole” by Led Zeppelin probably came from, check out “No One Knew My Name,” for example) while also betraying a whole lot of character as the performances were obviously done with love. Songs like “Down By The Weeping Willow,” “Bonny Black Bess” and “Runner” all find romance and beauty between the three voices singing, and much-loved and universally-known songs like “Clementine” are the sorts of things will make even the most muscular knees weak because they've gone unheard for so long that they were nearly forgotten. Their placement here is a heartfelt, much-needed reminder that gold doesn't have to cost a fortune to dig out.

According to Romano however, the catch sword to never really having any expectation or plan other than to blow off some steam has come in the post-release promotion; people like the record so it makes sense to go out and tour it a bit – but what comes after that? “The truth is, none of us ever really expected the album to do anything at all,” chuckles the singer dubiously. “I don't know if any of us thinks amount to anything else after this tour; at first, I considered [the album] to be a finished product that is having some sort of post-celebratory tour thing, but now I'm not so sure. If you had asked me what it would take to convince us to do another record like this before it actually started to build up some steam, I would have said that it would have taken Fred saying he was into the idea; but he's already mentioned that he'd be interested so I wouldn't put it totally outside of the realm of possibility.

I'm not really sure what we'd do next time though,” continues Romano, mulling over the prospects and potential of a follow-up. “I would want to do it differently somehow – you know? Like maybe write all the songs straight-up and maybe take a different approach production-wise; although I'm not sure which one would be best. The best thing for me about the whole process has been the stuff that I learned through it; I discovered that I really like writing to fit a genre – most of the stuff on it is public domain, but I did write a couple of original songs on this album. They were written in the same time I was also using to arrange some of the other songs for the record so they just sort of developed the same style naturally, which was kind of cool. Some of that got transferred into the record I recently did too – my solo record. There are a couple of tracks that are sort of half original, half traditional and that kind of goes back to the Daniel, Fred & Julie stuff. I wouldn't say that it adapts the exact same style as the Daniel, Fred & Julie record, but I think the idea became an acceptable after this project.”



Daniel, Fred & Julie – “The Gambler and His Bride”

Further Reading:
Ground Control 's review of Daniel, Fred & Julie's self-titled debut


Daniel, Fred & Julie
is available now as a Canadian import. Buy it here on Amazon .

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