April 26 at Riddell Centre the Dead South are releasing their first full-length. I spoke recently with Danny Kenyon about Good Company, which is the Regina band’s second release following a five-track EP last April. Kenyon plays cello in the Dead South, and his band-mates are Nate Hilts (guitar/vocals), Scott Pringle (mandolin/guitar/backup vocals) and Colton Crawford (banjo).
Did you work with a producer on Good Company or was it self-produced?
The EP was our first professional recording experience. One of the biggest things we learned is that it would be a very good idea to work with a producer again for the album. So we went back to Orion Paradis in his Soul Sound Studio in Regina. We really enjoy working with him. Along with having a great idea of what we want to accomplish for each song, his input and experience proved to be invaluable in bringing Good Company to life.
Is there a theme that emerged while you were writing and recording?
The songs have a pretty wide range, from traditional bluegrass/folk to newgrass (this is a thing I guess?) and even to what could be considered acoustic heavy metal. We didn’t set out to create an overall theme, although many of the songs are stories we thought up, usually about people who get themselves into trouble. We’re fans of Spaghetti Westerns, Grindhouse films, and shows like Deadwood — so the stories include drinking, gambling, murder, and barren landscape… all the “good company” that might inhabit a hell. However, there are a number of outliers as well.
What’s the band’s song-writing process like?
It’s very much a collaborative effort. Usually one of us approaches the group with a lick, a lyric, or a chord progression and says, “Hey, let’s try this out!” From there some ideas slowly get developed into songs, some get merged together with other ideas, and most of them get tossed.
Does the band have any specific influences?
Each of us comes from a very different musical background. None of us grew up around the folk/bluegrass genre, so we pull from all over the place. Initially, we set out to create a folk/bluegrass band because it looked fun, and we all like the relaxed party atmosphere that the genre seems to inspire. But it’s very much a mix.
How do you compare being in studio to performing live?
They are completely different. In the studio it’s a mental marathon attempting to get the energy of each song across with nothing but sound. It can be frustrating, and it’s very easy to get mad at yourself over a mistake. But when a song turns out well, even if it’s by accident, it can be very fun and fulfilling. On stage, we try to send our energy out to the crowd, and hope they take it in and send it back to us. We try to make our live shows a spectacle, where what people see plays as big a part of the experience as what they hear.
We consider ourselves to be very live-performance oriented. So we try to keep our songs as consistent as possible to our live shows. Having said that, there are a couple of songs like “Into the Valley” or “Ballad for Janoski” where we played around a little more in the studio, adding some layers, and even incorporating a horn section at points.
Outside of the launch, what’s the best way for people to pick up the album?
We’ll have hard copies at our show, but if you can’t make it out, just contact us on facebook, twitter, e-mail, etc. and we’d be glad to get one to you. Also, we’ll be on most digital media resources (itunes, amazon, reverbnation, etc.) or at our website.
Any tour plans?
We will have a short tour up to Toronto, where we’ll be playing a couple of showcases for Canadian Music Week in May. Other than that, we’ll be playing at festivals throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta this summer.
Doors Saturday are at 8 p.m., the back-up band is the Capones, and tickets are $10 advance and $15 door (contact Nate at 306-527-2588 or Scott 306-539-4917 for advance). To give you a taste of what to expect here’s video of the band performing the song “Travellin’ Man” off the new album: