It has been a few years now since Ottawa’s Amos the Transparent released their last album Goodnight My Dear, I’m Falling Apart back in 2011. They’ve played countless memorable shows, garnering the love and appreciation of fans across this great nation and a reputation as one of the best acts for live music in Ottawa. The album was one that you could listen to in many different contexts or moods – it’s balance between radio-friendly hooks and melodies along with strong, captivating lyricism helped propel them to the ranks of Canadian indie rock stardom (whatever that means). For everything that it was, the album left us wanting.
Without revealing too much, we know that their new album will be a concept album called This Cold Escape.
We started working on a story about a man’s desire to distance himself from the world he’s crafted for himself in order to stay close to those he loves. The idea is loosely biographical. […] This is the concept we wanted to explore through our new record – the consequences of trying to completely remove yourself from the world you’ve created.
Last year, I wrote a post about PledgeMusic, a company that is taking a somewhat familiar concept in today’s music industry and reworking it. In that post I interviewed the company’s CEO Benji Rogers, who helped to clarify why PledgeMusic’s model was unique and totally different from crowd funding enterprises such as indiegogo or Kickstarter. It’s a worthwhile read for those who like to keep up with how musicians are finding new ways to disseminate their music to the world and providing fans with new ways to consume that music.
Well, Amos the Transparent has teamed up with Benji and his team at PledgeMusic for their upcoming record this year (go to their campaign page here). With family lives and commitments outside of their band, the members of Amos recognize that the traditional way of going about making a record might not be in their best interest this time around. Instead, why not give fans (and there’s a lot of them) a chance to participate in the process? Oh yeah, I should also mention that the band is giving 3% of all money raised to CHEO, which is so great to see. I caught up with guitarist Dan Hay to discuss what the band is up to, and their new direction for their upcoming release.
Interview with Dan Hay, guitarist of Amos the Transparent
Matias: So it’s been a while since your last album Goodbye My Dear… I’m Falling Apart but it looks like exciting times for the band. What drove you to get back together and continue making music?
Dan: Essentially, it’s kind of hard to write a record and do shows all at once. When we’re in tour mode we don’t just choose a set for a year ,we switch it up every few shows or every few months. So every time we’d sit down and try to write this record something would pull us back a bit. With every record we want to try to do something different and with this one we wanted it to be very different—and that’s where the concept record came about. John had a rough idea of a storyline he wanted to tell over the course of the record. We decided we couldn’t work on shows or rework old material for a little while if we wanted to do this properly. That was the biggest catalyst to get this record written. And it’s also just difficult for six people with full-time jobs who have lives and kids to get together as much as we’d like. Those two things combined and the fact we wanted this to be a cohesive piece of music, lyrically and musically, meant it was going to be a longer process and take a lot more time fleshing it out.
M: Now that most of the members have kids or other responsibilities, has the band found a balance of life and art that works well for all of you?
D: I guess it’s everyone being aware of the others having their own things outside of the band, be it career or family—everyone has to understand that other things have to take priority sometimes. If we have to cancel practice or a show for a family emergency, no one’s allowed to lose their shit about it, they have to realize other things come first. At the same time everyone realizes we’ve worked really hard to get to this point and we have to make sacrifices. Sometimes we’d only be able to get together after 9:30 p.m., because of my work schedule, but one of our members works at CHEO and another is a schoolteacher so these people have to get up at 6 a.m. even after practicing until midnight or 1 a.m. It’s them saying, “I’m willing to do this because it’s the only way to make it work with your life.” I think it’s that trade off and a mutual understanding of others’ circumstances.
It’s really the only way we’ve been able to exist this long. Cause in other bands it was our whole existence and that can be too much time together. We’d just get cabin fever. I think by giving each other a lot more space it makes the experience a lot stronger when we come together.
M: For this record, you decided to go the Pledge Music route, what about it worked for the band and what initially attracted you to it?
D: We’ve always had a pretty strong connection with our fan base and we’ve operated almost entirely without record labels so this just seemed like the next logical step to try to include them as much as possible. So we looked at the way that Pledge structured everything. The way it was organized, to be able to offer cool prizes and nurture a deeper connection to the people who come buy our records at our shows. With a lot of our shows there’s usually a point where our fans will come on stage and do a sing-a-long, a lot of our fans are close fans. And I like how it’s set up, not like asking people for donations because everything is based around the idea that if you pledge something you’ll get a copy of the record. And they’re part of the process, they contribute to the record, which is really cool for a lot of fans. As soon as they pledge they get updates from us in the studio and the feeling is that we’re all doing this together. It’s beneficial to not have to rely on a record label, to be making a record for the fans, with the fans.
M: What are some of the things you’re offering when fans pledge?
D: There are things like the record, a signed copy of the record, special t-shirts and some of the cooler prizes are a private party with us, there’s a custom guitar with the record artwork painted on it, or John (our singer) will write a personal song for the pledger and record it for the purpose of having their own theme music for the rest of their life. There’s also handwritten lyrics to the full record and a spot in our next music video. We’re doing a pretty exclusive show in May at the Herb Garden in Almonte with limited seating but it’ll be the first playing of the full record, and we’ll be filming a DVD during that show. We look at some other pledge pages to get ideas for cool ideas and to think of things that no one’s done before.
M: Can you tell a little bit more about the album and what’s special about this record for the band?
D: Every song connects and ideally it would be listened to in one sitting as a 45-minute song, essentially. It’s a story from beginning to end so it’s not that different from albums we were influenced by: Ziggy Stardust, Abbey Road, and Pink Floyd records. To get back into the things that we got really excited about when we were younger: art that is directly related to the story or actually reading the lyrics and following the storyline. I think there’s always an evolution in our sound and we’re not necessarily going to do something like what worked for us in the past. Cause you definitely get both end of the spectrum on this. People in higher positions in the music industry say don’t make a concept record, that’s death, you’ll never get on the radio. But we’re willing to make one and if it completely fails then at least we tried it, if people like it then it’ll be a high point for us and we’ll do something different again next time.
PledgeMusic campaign here.