Hooray for Raleigh

Local pop experimenters release heady new album

Raleigh couldn’t be more Calgarian. The three members that make up the weirdo-folk group — Brock Geiger (guitar/vocals) Clea Anais (cello/vocals) and Matt Doherty (percussion) — have played in almost every significant rock-ish act from the city; their gentle time-change-meandering sound draws significant influence from previous involvement with everyone from The Dudes to Dojo Workhorse to Woodpigeon to Axis of Conversation.

And like many other prominent provincial exports they found their way to Montreal (although far more temporarily than the likes of Cadence Weapon Purity Ring and Braids). On their way however Raleigh went and joined an elite category of Calgary bands a collection most notably occupied by Women Miesha and the Spanks and Boreal Sons: those whose vans just can’t keep it together for more than a few thousand kilometres.

“We busted our ass for 12 hours to make sure we were going to make it for our London show and broke down 30 minutes outside of London” says Geiger while wandering around Detroit. “It happened to be of course right in the middle of a brand-new blizzard. We were sitting roadside for two hours in -20 and missed the London show and then missed the show after that.”

Despite that slight vehicular hindrance Raleigh’s cross-Canada tour has been quite the success taking them from Saskatoon to Moncton. It’s all for a very good reason too. A few weeks ago they dropped their cutely named sophomore LP Sun Grenades & Grenadine Skies proving that the clever instrumentation and exemplary vocal camaraderie exhibited on the band’s first album ( New Times in Black and White ) was just the advent of many good things to come.

Releasing Sun Grenades however was a long process . Geiger notes that many of the record’s tracks were being played at shows before the album was made. The actual recording took place in a two-week period a little over a year ago at the illustrious hotel2tango the Montreal-based studio that’s helped create dozens of stellar Canadian works (Godspeed You! Black Emperor Colin Stetson Arcade Fire and Handsome Furs along with a recent LP from Calgary duo Jung People).

“For a while there the album was completely finished” says Geiger. “We liked the idea of shopping it around with [labels]. We talked to a few that there was potential for but it kind of came down to scheduling and timelines because all of a sudden you’re at the mercy of their timeline as opposed to your own. We were pretty eager to get it out. The things that we were being offered weren’t worth the wait for us this time.”

By that point their current month-long tour was booked the spectacularly odd music video for the equally strange song “Carebear” was out (hilariously featuring the non-essential line “We don’t carebear where the Buddha belly rolls the hills with jelly slip and slide”) and the bills for the recording were paid. So they self-released it. The response has been solid Geiger notes with steady press coverage in every city and streams on Exclaim! and National Post .

It’s an album of noteworthy quality with heavy horn backing (courtesy of Montreal’s Elwood Epps Jen Reimer and Nate Waters) and diverse displays of musicality and confidence that were hinted at in the band’s prior effort. All of these elements converge best in “Puritan” an almost-five-minute free-jazz-influenced cacophony that disregards every prior notion of what Raleigh is about.

“We had experimented with it in jam settings in the past” says Geiger noting that it was originally composed by Anais as a solo cello performance. “We decided it would be exciting to try and do as a trio. It was more for our own kicks.”

That mishmash of quirky irreverence and creative earnestness won’t just be limited to Canada’s concert-goers though. At the end of January Raleigh will be heading to Germany the Netherlands Belgium and Scotland for a month-and-a-half long tour.