Call of the wild

St. John’s own Hey Rosetta! are releasing their highly anticipated second album, Into Your Lungs (And Around In Your Heart And On Through Your Blood), on June 3.

Produced by Can-rock icon Hawksley Workman, it’s an epic piece of work, and with a tremendous amount of media hype surrounding the band, it’s bound to launch them onto the Canadian stage with a goodly amount of oomph.

Elling Lien had a fireside chat with the guys about the album, their cross-Canada tour, and what it feels like to be called “The Next Big Thing.”

Photos by Ryan Davis

Hey Rosetta!:

Tim Baker—vocals/piano/guitar
Adam Hogan—guitar
Josh Ward—bass
Phil Maloney—drums

Not interviewed:
Kinley Dowling—violin
Jessie Tesolin—cello

So I hear you guys are releasing some album or something?

TB: [laugh] Yeah. June 3.

Why?

TB: I don’t know. It’s a Tuesday. Apparently when you’re on a label CDs come out on Tuesdays. People buy more on Tuesdays, maybe. Tuesday is a great day though. Tuesday is a sober day. People aren’t as cranky as Monday, but they’re not so close to the weekend. People get a bit of work done. Maybe it’s in celebration of how great Tuesday is.

Right.

TB: We released Plan Your Escape on June 1, 2006. That was two years ago. It feels like a really long time. Two years man. It feels like forever. I can’t believe you only get to put albums out every two years. Those are the rules, I hear.

And only on Tuesdays.

TB: And only on Tuesdays.

Did Hey Rosetta! exist before 2006?

TB: In my parents’ basement.

JW: I remember the cookies! And the zucchini bread your mom used to make us. That was the summer of 2005?

TB: Our first show was in August 2005 and we made our EP in October 2005. We had been practicing for three or four months by then. That winter the Music NL grant came about. That new program. At first we weren’t going to try for it, but then everyone was like “why wouldn’t you apply for that?” so at the last minute we did, and we got it. So we did Plan Your Escape.

JW: We had been planning on going on tour that summer and people were, like, “man, if you’re going to go on tour you’re going to need some sort of legitimate product to try to sell. The EP thing, although its nice probably isn’t going to cut it. So you want to have a full length album.”

TB: We didn’t feel like we were ready to do a record yet, but the money was there, and we applied for it, and when we got it, we said “hey, we might as well do it because we’ve got this money.” And it all just kind of fell together, and then it was three long months at the studio.

AH: One big difference between the first album and this one is that we actually know each other now. We are a band at this point.

TB: Yeah, much more of a band.

So you had a better idea of who you were.

AH: We didn’t even know each other, at first. We had only been playing together for a few months before we recorded

TB: Absolutely. And a lot of the songs I had written myself, and just tried to arrange them according to what was around me at the time. Whereas this last album was written for this band, and we all worked together on how our parts would work. It was more of a band thing, and definitely less of an insular, me-in-my-bedroom kind of thing.

And how does that feel for you?
TB: [laugh] I don’t really think it’s working out.

No, it’s great. It’s much more defined, and the songs are better suited to these arrangements.

We’ve been touring quite a bit and as you tour with other bands you steal ideas from them. Or at least are exposed to them. For the Plan Your Escape record we weren’t really a band, and weren’t really band members or musicians who played together all the time, and listened to the music all of the time. I think this new record is a little more like that—from an East Coast sort of scene. Or something.

Really? Do you feel as much a part of the East Coast scene as much as people would say?

JW: Well we kind of get lumped into that category a bit, as in we have an “East Coast sound”, but I don’t know if such a thing exists. But having spent a lot of time touring around the East Coast we find we can really get along with a lot of the bands who we’ve gone on tour with.

The idea of an “East Coast sound” has always confused me.

JW: Yeah, because no one ever says “oh that’s a West Coast sound.” There’s no such thing really.

TB: We’re often asked about that: “How does living in Newfoundland affect your writing?” I don’t know how it does. I write about the weather a bit. [laugh]

People don’t really think about how your influences are not limited to the music coming from the region.

Tim: [laugh] There’s this thing called the internet, and CD stores.

AH: I’m sure Josh would play bass the same way if he lived in Toronto.

JW: I don’t know.

Is there a Newfoundland way to play the bass?

TB: The bass he plays is so Newfoundland. But, you know, people want to hear that. The media wants to hear that. They want to know what the Newfoundland angle is. And, I think it’s just that we all happen to live here, and have grown up here. I don’t know if there is more of an angle to it than that.

The album name Into Your Lungs (And Around In Your Heart And On Through Your Blood) …I’m sure there were some conversations about the title.

TB: Yeah. That was the original title. I like this title. I like the intimacy of it. It asks a bit of people. It’s a bit of a mouthful, and a bit of an odd image.

I had another title Waving a New Goodbye, which is from the first song on the record. We actually made all the artwork based on that title. Sydney Smith came up with this really cool picture of a burning island with a boat sailing away, with both images flipped. One is upside down, and the other is right side up. It was pretty stunning.

…So from there we came up with this whole booklet of characters and people reacting to this narrative. It’s all good, the artwork is looking nice, and then about a week before we were going to put it in the book with Judd, the graphic designer… Then Jason was like “don’t you think people are going to think that burning island is Newfoundland and you guys are waving goodbye to it?”

I was like “no, what do you mean? People don’t think like that!” And he was like, “the press is going to ask you that question all the time. It’s going to be on people’s minds.” I was like, fuck man. I just thought it was a cool story; that it was set in a different time. It’s obviously not Newfoundland. He was like “well, it’s pretty symbolic. Are there any other titles?”

We were just sitting on the train coming from Montreal to Halifax and I was like there was this other title Into Your Lungs (And Around In Your Heart And On Through Your Blood). The images worked together. It makes the onlooker, the reader, work a bit more, but that’s a good thing because it makes them participate more in what’s going on, art-wise. And the wind… and the sails…it kind of works. It’s an intense title and intense image. It’s a line from the last song on the record. And we went with it. And I mentioned it to a bunch of people and they really liked it.

JW: The title will probably end up being shortened by a lot of people.

How was the album to put together? What was the process like?

TB: A lot of the tunes had been around for a while. We just kind of chose our favourites.

JW: We worked it out on the road too. By playing them over and over we got a sense of how they were going to be. I feel like nothing solidifies what I do like doing it in front of people and doing it wrong.

“That guy just frowned at me when I did that, so maybe I won’t do that next time.”

AH: It’s weird, yeah. Just because we’re playing it live doesn’t mean its always going to end up either. It’s always evolving until we actually record it.

JW: The tunes kind of come together that way.

TB: For me there was a lot of editing… imagining what instruments could go where.

AH: Until you’re in the studio you don’t even know. A lot of stuff changes last minute.

TB: I had dozens and dozens of charts written out. A lot has to be done before you get in the studio. We only had two weeks.

JW: You don’t get a lot of time for experimenting.

Two weeks to record an album sounds really tight.

JW: And that’s two weeks up early, in the studio, you’re there all day till late, then you get up the next morning and do the whole thing again.

So it was kind of out of necessity, some of the arrangements weren’t as grandiose as they could have been. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen but I guess you do what you can do with what you got…

Josh: [Laughing.] We’ve all had this Constantines song stuck in our head all day: “You do what you can do with what you got.”

TB: In some ways the time restriction is a good thing.

I could imagine it being a good thing for you guys because there are so many different people and you’re thinking so carefully about what changes need to be made that at some point you just have to throw it down.

TB: There’s a lot of that. Some of the arrangements I’ve never heard until we got in the studio because I just wrote them on my computer in MIDI. So they just kind of had to be good.

I have to ask about Hawksley Workman. He’s a nice guy?

JW: Super nice guy.

TB: He’s got great energy, but it’s definitely coupled with a really calm, down-to-earth feeling. Super positive, too.

JW: He’s really hilarious all of the time. Any of us could come in feeling a number of different ways but whenever he came in he was hilarious. And he had a calming effect. We were kind of nervous—”okay, we only have two hours to get this down, let’s get it done.” But sometimes he has this way of saying “hey, why don’t you just go play really awesome?” And that would work sometimes.

“You can do this. Just go do it.”

TB: Very dirty mind too. [laugh] It had a calming effect. Just like “do it full of tits.” And we’re like “okay! Let’s do this!”

I’m just going to pick a song title at random from the new album… “Holy Shit! (What A Relief)”. What’s the story behind that one?

TB: Well, we were at Adam’s friend’s house at South Side Road just drinking, and I passed out. I think this might have been the only time I have ever passed out in public, and for some reason I passed out on the couch and woke up twenty minutes later still sitting up with a beer and a bunch of CDs on my lap. “What the hell man?” The people were all talking about different stuff, the music was all different and I was like “what the hell? I’ve got to get out of here. I can’t be passing out just randomly on people’s couches.”

So I got up to leave, tripped my foot on the top step, and fell down twelve, wet wooden, outdoor steps. I was left just crumpled at the bottom.

All the by’s came rushing out because they heard this huge “bang” and I was just lying there. I knocked the wind out of myself.

Later I was thinking about it, thinking maybe dying isn’t such a bad thing… Everyone’s always afraid of it. Maybe it’s a bit of a relief. I’m really scared of failing, so maybe it’d be a bit of a relief after all of that stress. Heaven’s going to be sweet, obviously, according to what you hear, so maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. That’s what that song is about.

And then there’s a 7/8 rock-out at the end, which I always picture people dancing to in heaven.

JW: That one’s for all the music nerds out there…

TB: That’s one of the more morbid tunes. But this record isn’t as morbid as the last one.

This is going to be your most intensive tour so far… Toronto, Regina, Vancouver, Edmonton, Montreal… At least 17 gigs in June. How are you preparing?

TB: Voice lessons to try not to lose my voice halfway through.

JW: Audio books. Things that take up a long time in the van.

TB: Things we could actually listen to and think about. That would be cool. CDs. Making sets and practicing set lists. Eating healthy.

JW: Taking Cold FX.

AH: Eating healthy before eating at all the Irvings on tour.

TB: Yoga and crunches. Squats.

JW: Camping.

TB: Binge drinking in the woods. That sort of thing. (laugh)

Things you won’t be able to do once you’re superstars. I think there is going to be a lot of buzz around you guys. Will anything be different?

JW: It’s kind of strange, the whole buzz thing, because ultimately we’re going to show up and we’re going to play a show. We’ve been humbled by the crowd of two in Barrie, Ontario.

There will be good shows and bad shows, and no matter what anyone, or any publication has to say about what we’re doing, or if we’re the “next big thing” or whatever, we still have to play for those two people in Barrie. If they buy two CDs then, that’s excellent.

This whole buzz thing is kind of fleeting. All this media stuff can only last so long and at the end of the day we’re not going to stop doing what we’re doing. So I think the thing is to try to stay focussed in spite of what anyone has to stay about it. I don’t think anyone is going to say, “okay I’m an excellent musician now, I’m done.”

TB: Let’s release a CD of remixes! Let’s release a greatest hits record!

Does the hype put more pressure on you guys?

TB: Writing-wise ever since people started listening to songs that I wrote, there’s been a lot of pressure. I don’t know if you get more pressure with more people. That CD we just did, that was stressful. There are a lot of people looking over your shoulder, listening as you write it, judging you…

I’m pretty harsh on myself, so that’s going to be there either way. I don’t know if I can get much harder on myself to be honest.

Into Your Lungs… will be available in stores on June 3. The band will be returning home for their hometown launch in mid-July. For more info, or to hear audio samples, check their website at www.heyrosetta.com