Music

The Northern Pikes prep for summer release of new Calgary-produced studio album with brief prairie tour

It’s more than three decades into their career, but you’re going to be hearing a lot about The Northern Pikes over the coming months.

The veteran Saskatchewan pop-rock act are readying the release of their first studio album in a decade and a half — their last actual release was the 2017 30th anniversary reissue of their classic debut Big Blue Sky.

Before that new album (title TBA) drops this summer, the beloved band is heading out on a brief tour which brings them to the Bragg Creek Community Centre on Saturday, March 23.

It will actually be bringing them back to the province where they recorded that new album last year. The Pikes, which features Jay Semko, Bryan Potvin, Don Schmid and newcomer Kevin Kane from fellow ’80s/‘90s Cancon holdovers Grapes of Wrath, holed up in the facilities at Studio Bell to put together the recording and, according to drummer Schmid, the area holds a fond place in their prairie hearts.

“Calgary’s kind of become the Pikes’ second home over the past couple of years,” he says.

Prior to their return here for that Bragg Creek date and before the album’s release, Schmid talked to theYYSCENE about the current state of The Northern Pikes and that anticipated new album — well, as much as he could.

Q: I know that you can’t talk about the new album until it’s ready to go, but it’s got to be exciting to not — and I don’t mean this in a negative way — to not be a nostalgia act, but to be a creative and current act.

A: It’s true and there’s a fine line. We’re considered to be a Canadian classic rock band now — She Ain’t Pretty and Teenland have been on the airwaves for over 30 years so we’re classic rock … and we’re fine with that. But, hey, we’re doing new things as well. We still love playing all of those old songs and we always will, but it’s sure going to be a lot of fun — we are so excited to be playing these new songs and put it them into the set with the old ones, it’s going to be wonderful.

Q: Are you going to be playing some new ones in the upcoming tour?

A: No, no we’re not going to do that until the record comes out.

Q: So this is basically Tantric Northern Pikes — you’re holding us off until you’re ready to release?

A: Yeah, that’s our plan. We might throw one in the encore possibly, but all I can say is we’re very excited to be playing them live. The record was made, all 10 songs were recorded with the four of us playing in the studio at the same time creating the bed tracks and then the overdubs and vocals were done afterwards. A lot of our earlier records we did piece by piece, I would do the drums by myself with a click track, sometimes with Jay on the bass at the same time, and then you’d layer guitars. There’s many ways to record and they all have their good and bad about them.

But there’s something to be said about a group of people playing together at the same time because that’s where the chemistry comes from … It’s just so much better when we’re all playing at the same time and it creates energy that you just somehow you can’t get playing on your own. It’s a weird thing. We feed off each other’s movements and that sort of thing, you hear somebody do something a little bit different and that causes you either to think of it differently yourself and that just falls down to chemistry and it really is interesting. 

And we now have Kevin Kane in the band (he replaced original member Merl Bryck) — it’s been wonderful. We’ve talked it about it many times, you couldn’t have asked for a smoother transition for a guy to fit in with guys who’ve been playing together for 35 years, it’s just been amazing. We have the same same general interests in topics we talk about, whether it be about (laughs) the politics of the U.S. — you can talk about that every day of your life — and musically it’s not like we all like exactly the same things, but we can appreciate what other people are into and it’s all kind of in the same vein … So Kevin’s been great, we’re very happy to have him in the band.

Q: You talk about the band being established, having a sound, having a history, it’s got to be interesting when you haven’t recorded anything for so long, how do you write a Northern Pikes song in 2018 and will it be the same as a Northern Pikes song of 20 years ago?

A: I think all of our records sounded different than the previous one. We were never trying to redo Teenland, we weren’t trying to redo Things I Do for Money … we were always trying to just move forward and we were admirers of the Beatles or the Stones or The Who, bands that their albums did sound different from album to album — there was a growth or a departure.

The Northern Pikes perform Saturday, March 23 at the Bragg Creek Community Centre.

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