The Artist Life Get Wood

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Sometimes events finally get around to unfolding as they should rather than only manifesting as a fairly decent, palatable-in-passing facsimile of what people hoped would come about. For The Artist Life, that time is now; after three and a half years of label frustrations and personnel problems of a degree and severity that would leave most bands wondering if their future had any security at all, events are finally starting to align in The Artist Life's favor. It may not have come easy, and it certainly didn't happen overnight – but it did finally come, at roughly the same moment singer Ian Blackwood and guitarist Dean Richards reached for the pen and inked their deal with Underground Operations.

As soon as they signed on the dotted line, things seemed to start going right for The Artist Life; suddenly, the frustrating days of online releases (as was the case with the band's debut EP, Living) and trying to promote them were over and, within a year, the band had a beautifully produced and appointed hard copy CD out in the form of the Let's Start A Riot EP, a very involved touring schedule confirmed, and a far brighter outlook. According to singer Ian Blackwood, the shine hasn't dulled from the climes in which the band is now sitting either as they now begin gearing up to further establish their name and broaden their musical horizons.

After the success of the Let's Start A Riot EP and the multitude of doors that it opened up (the band has since joined Warped Tour for a string of dates, as well as embarking upon some well-received tours of their own), The Artist Life wanted to see how far they could push their luck and how solid their footing was so they laid down a huge risk when they elected to lay down their electric guitars and get folky during some time off for Let's Start A Riot's acoustic counterpart, Let's Start A Campfire.

Reprising all of the songs that drew the interest of a larger audience (aka Let's Start A Riot in its entirety),  Let's Start A Campfire showcases a different and surprising side of The Artist Life as the songs prove they can stand up to the EP's stripped down production style, and some of the treatments – particular standouts include the acoustic takes of “Liquid Courage” and “Beach Towns And Foolish Clowns” – even surpass the originals  According to Blackwood, the whole purpose of Campfire was to give fans something a little different that they wouldn't hear at a concert (although there have been plans brewing to do select acoustic dates since the EP's release) but what ended up coming out during the process was a new set of strengths that the band hadn't considered before. Not ones to let such a discovery go to waste, while The Artist Life has no desire to become the next CSNY, the act of getting wood and strumming campfire style may become a regular fixture to the band's writing process.

Bill Adams vs. Ian Blackwood of The Artist Life

IB: Hello?

BA: Hey, may I speak to Ian Blackwood please?

IB: This is Ian.

BA: Hey man, it's Bill Adams calling.

IB: Hey Bill, how're you?

BA: I'm doing very well thanks, sorry I'm late.

IB: Oh, it's okay man, I'm just laying in the back of the van, driving to Halifax.

BA: That's cool, when did you leave?

IB: We left last week, seven days ago.

BA: How has everything been received?

IB: So far it's been really good.

BA: That's cool. So what're you playing and how are you playing it? I know you've got another online release – by the way, welcome back to the wonderful world of those – [both laughing] and you've got a different treatment of the same songs that came out eight months before that.

IB: Yeah it's about eight. It's funny because we just released Let's Start A Campfire but we're not necessarily playing that; it's sort of a bonus download that you can get as of right now to tide you over until the next full-length but there are plans to set up a few shows to promote the acoustic record. Right now, we're still basically touring in support of Let's Start A Riot, the original EP on Underground Operations and playing some new material as well. We do love the EP, but we also want to road test some new material as well and get a feel for them.

BA: I was going to ask about that. We might have talked about it the last time we spoke, but I don't know or can't remember how the writing process breaks down for Artist Life. Eight months out of Let's Start A Riot, is the writing process ongoing or is beginning to write new tunes a conscious effort that you have to sit down for?

IB: Yeah, we've pretty much been writing for a year and a half and have twenty new songs that are going to be broken down to our favorite twelve when we go to make the full-length. The songs that came out on Let's Start A Riot were songs we picked from seven or eight new ones but there was a string before that which haven't been recorded yet and we've got more done now because we're basically writing all the time. The EPs are just something we're releasing to tide us over until the timing is right to put out the best record we possibly can.

BA: That's cool. Have you reached the point now where you can call out, “Hey – do you want to hear some new shit?” and people are already into it? Or is there still a bit of hesitation like, “New stuff? I haven't learned all the words to the other stuff yet….”

IB: We worried about that. We thought, “Well, we shouldn't jump the gun here; this is still a new EP for a lot of people. We don't want to drown them.” Like, we played our first Warped Tour last spring and we only played a couple of songs off of Living [Artist Life's digital release via Stereo Dynamite Records –ed] when we remembered that Living hasn't even been out here yet so when we say something like, “Here's a new song!” The response is something like, “Well, everything is new – what are you talking about?” We're coming out and playing some cities where we might put in two or three new songs whereas we're not playing any in some because they need to hear everything because they haven't heard anything yet. That's actually kind of nice too though; we get to change the sets up regularly and go back and forth. As I say though, we are test-driving some of the new stuff that's going to be on the next record and it has been going really well. In some cases, by the second chorus people are into it and they're starting to figure some rough idea of lyrics. One of the things we have tried to do this time while we're working on the new songs is to adopt a pop structured, memorable songs.

BA: So – I don't want to say it's a formula that you're sticking with per se – you're sticking with forms that people will be able to understand right away.

IB: Yeah. With Campfire, we found that it was a chance to strip the songs down and see how they'd stand up apart from what people would expect from the band, and what we found was that that the craft of them is really strong. Because of that, we're really proud of Campfire but, at the same time because it worked out as well as it did and the experience was as good as it was, we sort of decided that this is how we should be writing all of our music like that all the time and then building it up from that base. That's exactly what we want to do with the new record: we want to really make sure we never forget the essence of the songs and make sure we play each one for what it is.

BA: So from here on out, it'll be a call like, “Grab your wood, get your acoustic guitar out and build it from there.” That's how it's going to be?

IB: [laughing] Yeah, for the majority I think and we were even starting to do that a little on Riot; most of those songs started on acoustic guitar.

BA: That's cool. Now I think Katie was telling me that there will eventually be a hard copy release of Campfire, but it's going to be vinyl right?

IB: Yeah. We're doing a double-sided 12-inch vinyl that will have the Let's Start A Riot EP on one side and the Let's Start A Campfire EP on the other and it'll be dual-cover too so you'll have the artwork from each on either side.

BA: Oh nice! So where did the idea come from for Campfire? I mean, yeah, the songs may have started out at least partially as acoustic tunes, but there is a novel air to it too; I mean, how many bands will shift gears that dramatically so early on in their careers? Like, how long did it take Green Day to record Warning? Where'd the idea come from?

IB: Honestly? The idea came from a show. We were about to be leaving for Winnipeg the next day, but we were invited to and played International Record Store Day at Sunrise Records – the invitation was made, but it was an acoustic set. Katie [Katie Clark of The Artist Life's label, Underground Operations –ed] lined it up and we got there with our three acoustic guitars, we started playing. We did six or seven songs that day and, after we finished, the response was so fantastic that we couldn't believe it. Katie looked at us literally as we were walking off to get in the van to drive to Winnipeg, and she said, “We have to talk when you guys get back because I think I want to do an acoustic record with you. That was amazing.” That sounded interesting to us, so after we got back from that four-week tour, that's what we did. Katie has really opened a whole new world for us; she is one of the best things that has happened to this band. We have a joke in the band about 'In Katie We Trust' because her ideas are great and I think she finds a lot of great things in our band that we might not have considered.

BA: It is pretty cool to hear you say tat. I know you guys did the sort of hard luck story where record labels are concerned, but it seems like it's starting to straighten out for you now.

IB: Well, the whole relationship with Stereo Dynamite and Riot Rock had its highs and lows but, to be quite honest with you at the end of the day, the opportunities just weren't there and we had to move to where they were which included joining a record label that is family-oriented takes care of their artists and fosters a mutual appreciation between bands and the label. That all happened in the past though – to me, the future is golden and I couldn't be happier.

BA: That's cool, so what happens next?

IB: Next we have a West Coast tour to follow up on the one we did in the springtime, and then we come home for a couple of days before we go and do about twelve days in the US and then, finally, at the end of November, we sit down and we discuss where we're doing the new record; we've got somewhere between eighteen and twenty new songs – I'm sure we'll write a couple more too – but when it comes right down to it, we're more than prepared and we're more than excited and now it's just fun for us – we get to try out some new songs and see what people are thinking.

BA: So what else am I very obviously forgetting to ask about Ian? What else would you like to see in this article?

IB: Well, we're going to be shooting a new music video at the end of August for “Let's Start A Riot” and we're pretty excited about that and, hopefully, we'll have a nice, new, big release coming out. I think that about covers it all.

BA: That's cool. I did want to say that, if you do decide to shoot a video for anything off of Let's Start A Campfire, please do just one thing.

IB: Yeah, sure – what's that Bill?

BA: Make it look a little like The Red Green Show?

IB: Okay [laughing really hard]. Dude, that's a brilliant idea.

BA: It's be cheesy and funny all at once.

IB: I think that'd be great. That's actually a brilliant idea. That's sort of the point of it: it was just a fun, ridiculous thing. Like, even the name and the photograph on the cover of the record are hilarity in their own right.

BA: Absolutely – I can totally understand what you're saying. Well, thanks for taking a couple of minutes and slapping this all together on such short notice man.

IB: Oh Bill, no problem man, it's my pleasure. It's always good to talk to you.



"Let's Start A Riot" – The Artist Life – Let's Start A Riot

"Let's Start A Riot" – The Artist Life – Let's Start A Campfire


Both Let's Start A Riot and Let's Start A Campfire are out now. Buy Let's Start A Riot on Amazon and buy Let's Start A Campfire on Amazon.

Comments are closed.