Music

Twenty years in, Rae Spoon keeps doing whatever the heck they want with new album bodiesofwater

You can pack a lot into 20 years.

For most people, that’s a lot of nothing or a lot of very mundane.

For Rae Spoon, that’s a great deal and a great variety of important, impactful and enduring art — so much so that it seems like only yesterday the Calgary-raised artist ambled onto the scene as a country musician.

“Yeah, it’s wild how fast time goes, hey?” Spoon says from their home in Victoria.

And also wild the paths they’ve travelled in that time, first as that roots artist before gravitating to the more electronic realm, then as an author, multimedia performer, soundtrack composer, label owner and so much more.

Spoon’s two-decade pronouncement, the new album bodiesofwater, dropped earlier this month, and they’ve returned home for a pair of shows, Sept. 12 and Sept. 13 at the King Eddy.

Prior to those dates, Spoon spoke with theYYSCENE about that project and others. Here’s an excerpt of that interview.

Q: Your career has been so full and diverse and different, it seems like you’re not even done one project before you’re on to the next.

A: I really like doing projects (laughs), it’s true. Yeah, and I think you have such a lead-up time for each one that I’m usually writing a book while I’m making an album or something like that.

Q: You get to focus on this album now for a few weeks anyway. You recorded it in a very different way — you finally did it, you finally kicked (longtime Calgary producer Lorrie) Matheson to the curb. Good for you.

A: (Laughs)

Q: Seriously, was it necessary to try something new?

A: I felt like I needed to record near where I lived, which is something I hadn’t been doing, just because of the way life has been going. So we ended up on Gabriola Island, which is maybe two hours from here — it all kind of just worked out that way …

Q: Was it also nice to be somewhere where you could just focus on the album and your life just took a backseat?

A: Yeah, for sure. The musicians on the album, one is from Montreal, one is from Saskatoon, one from Vancouver, so it was nice to just gather everyone (at The Noise Floor Recording Studio) and it was a recording studio with a place for musicians to stay. Even though we all live in different towns we got to just be there to make the record. There’s other things on the Gabriola, but it’s definitely way easier to focus there than Vancouver or Toronto.

Q: All of the songs, I’m assuming, were done before you went there?

A: Yeah, I wrote the songs, some of the songs leading right up to recording, but over the last couple of years. I did a lot of collaborations with other people over the last couple of years, too, (My Side Of The Mountain with Clyde Petersen in 2017 and They with Plastik the year previous) so then it was time for a solo album. I was happy with how it turned out.

Q: I don’t know what I was expecting, but maybe just from our Podcask conversation (at the end of 2017 — listen or download here) I think I assumed you might go a little more in the purely electronic way, but there are so many organic elements on this … I have to say, I think my favourite tunes on the album are It’s Not In My Body and Undertow. And It’s Not In My Body, it seems like it could be from your past musical life, it could be a country song. It’s a really lovely song, I could hear that as just an acoustic strummer.

A: Yeah, for sure. We didn’t try to stop songs from going the way they were going. At the end of It’s Not In My Body it does have that classic Sheryl Crow or Shania Twain ending, that country solo ending. I think it was nice to just let the music go where it went and have me step away from all of the machines for awhile. Which now I’m probably going heavy electronic. But who knows? I always say I’m doing something and then I do something else. (Laughs) So.

Q: This album is very much informed by your environment, by your life on Vancouver Island, by being surrounded by water, by being surrounded by nature that could possibly be in peril. That was something that was very much on your mind, I’m guessing, as the songwriting was going on.

A: Yeah, and exploring my relationship to the land and the water around me, and kind of coming to realize that even though I am a settler on this land, everyone here we’re all connected to the land. The disconnection on the connection was something that I was looking at and taking responsibility for that connection.

Q: The song In My Town (which is about the #Metoo movement in the music community), I was surprised by the fact that at the end that you do indicate it’s Victoria because the entire song you think that it could be any town.

A: And it’s every town. I have so many shows I cancel and so many things I have to change on my schedule because I find out that there’s things going on or survivors not being supported. So for me at least two shows a tour I’m changing. Even just in my direct relationships I’m always constantly thinking about, “How do I prioritize survivors in these spaces?” And unfortunately these are places for the arts. It’s not actually a hopeful song, I don’t think, but it’s kind of an unearthing of how that happens … Everyone putting on shows including me, we’re always trying to figure out how to make spaces safer for people, but nobody has yet made a safe space.

Q: Another song, and obviously this one is going to get you a lot of attention, Do Whatever the Heck You Want (originally titled Do Whatever the Fuck You Want). By the way, nice name-drop in the bio: “My friend Carole Pope said to me ‘You can’t have a hit with the f-word in it, Rae.’ ”

A: (Laughs) But it’s absolutely true, though.

Q: Again, how many “fucks” did it originally have in it?

A: Oh, so many and no one needs to worry because this is not the only version. There’s going to be a garage rock one I did … so the F-bomb one I did will be released. But I started playing at folk festivals after I wrote that song, and I just changed it to “heck” because I can’t ask every person in the place if they’re going to be mad about it. And then all of sudden children, I had people come up and be like, “Yeah, I work at this camp and the kids saw you play at Hillside (in Guelph) and they’re all singing this song as they’re picking peas.” (Laughs) So children became very attached to it, which is really interesting to me. Just to be, like, you can do what you want. Sometimes I think we that all need that once in awhile to remind us, we can actually just do what we want. I need that sometimes.

(Photos courtesy Dave Todon.)

Rae Spoon performs Thursday, Sept. 13 at the King Eddy. Their new album bodiesofwater is available now.

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