If you don’t find the Skydiggers on a stage, check a studio.
The latter is where core members Andy Maize and Josh Finlayson are on this July day, mixing some tracks at The Tragically Hip’s studio in Bath which they had laid down in the winter soon after the release and tour of their ninth studio album, the splendid Warmth of the Sun.
As guitarist Finlayson says, that’s something they’ve “always” done over their 25-plus-year career, as a way of “documenting” whatever it is they’re working on, with no real plan in place for a proper release.
“It’s a good problem to have,” he says, “because you end up with a lot of different stuff. Especially these days because it’s hard to know what a release is, how relevant it is. It’s just such a different world from when we started.
“But we still like making them.”
As for the stage, well Calgarians will get their chance to see the T.O. roots-rock mainstays when they perform as part of Oxford Stomp Friday, July 13 at Shaw Millennium Park on a stacked bill that also includes Barney Bentall and headliners Melissa Etheridge and legend John Fogerty — who Finlayson is particularly looking forward to catching, having never seen him before.
Prior to the show, he spoke with theYYSCENE and answered some Stampede-themed questions.
Q: How many Stampedes have you performed at or attended?
A: Ahhhh, at least three or four that I can point to over the years.
Q: Is it something you get into and enjoy, or do you do your thing and get the hell out?
A: (Laughs) Well, I’ve done both. I’ve had some super fun nights at Stampede. I always remember one year after we played we were backstage and there’s a guy, obviously he was part of the rodeo circuit and he was well into his cups, and he said to us, “Everybody needs their own personal rodeo clown sometimes.” (Laughs) … Being from Toronto, being from the East the rodeo … is not a culture we were particularly exposed to.
Q: Are you a rides person? If so what’s your favourite?
A: Ummm, I would have been a rollercoaster guy at some point, but I haven’t been on a rollercoaster in a long time. I would try it again, but I’m not entirely sure that I would enjoy it like I would when I was a kid, but definitely the rollercoaster was my ride as a kid.
Q: What’s your favourite midway food?
A: I would say — fuck, what are they called? The tiny donuts or whatever they’re called.
Q: Have you ever eaten a prairie oyster?
A: I have not.
Q: Do you know what a prairie oyster is?
A: Ummm, it’s not a horse turd is it?
A: That’s a road apple.
Q: It’s a bull testicle.
A: OK. Right. No, I have not.
Q: Would you ever?
A: I don’t know, I would probably try it, depending on the context. But hopefully as long as it’s not on the bull still. (Laughs)
Q: What’s your go-to song to rev up a Stampede crowd?
A: I think the Skydiggers’ tune that will work well is the tune called Just Before the Rain, which is from our second record Restless.
Q: Do you do any country covers? If not, what would you do if you could?
A: Oh, we’ve definitely done lots of country covers over the years, from Hank Williams to Merle Haggard’s Sing Me Back Home — there’s been loads over the years. But maybe Hank Williams You Win Again, which we kind of do as more of a rave-up. Maybe Buddy Holly, too, even though he was a rock ’n’ roll guy, I see him as a real country singer as well — Well … All Right would be the Buddy Holly song that we would do.
Q: Your craziest Stampede memory or experience?
A: I gave that to you already. (Laughs) “Everybody needs their own personal rodeo clown.”
(Photo courtesy Heather Pollock.)
Skydiggers perform Friday, July 13 at Shaw Millennium Park with Barney Bentall, Melissa Etheridge and John Fogerty. For tickets and information please click here.