Mara Pellerin and Adrian Collins of the Gramercy Riffs. Photo by Kerri Breen.
It takes a village to make a record in St. John’s, and all hands were on deck for this band’s first full-length release.
Sisters, friends from music school, friends from other bands, sound guy friends, and of course, the album’s producer Mark Bragg.
“You’d do it for them as well, so, that’s what’s nice about it,” guitarist Adrian Collins says of the help the band received.
It’s Heartbreak was recorded in several sessions, the largest chunk last August.
Collins and Mara Pellerin, vocalist and keyboardist, praise Bragg’s musical intuition and expertise, and credit him with keeping the band energized throughout the process. At one point, as they were exhausted while recording the drums and bass on “Call Me” on a sweltering day in St. Philip’s, Bragg had just the cure.
“It was really hot and we were wilting,” Pellerin says. “And he was like ‘all right that’s it, stop everything, c’mon.’ We went out of the house, went down to the rocks and jumped into the ocean.”
“It made everyone loose again,” says Collins.
Gentle reverb, rolling horns, and subtle touches like glockenspiel heighten the drama of these heartfelt, warm pop songs, with singer-guitarist Lee Hanlon and Pellerin trading vocals throughout the album.
“We spent a lot of time working out every little detail in every single one of the songs,” says Collins.
The influence of classic pop and the best of Canadian indie rock, such as Joel Plaskett, pervade the 11-song album, which includes material from the band’s two previously released EPs.
“It’s a culmination of the last two years. It puts it all into a nice, neat package,” says Pellerin.
It’s an appropriate sentiment about an album resulting from a set up that’s anything but tidy. Though they’re all from the St. John’s area, Collins is the only band member still living here. Bass player Daniel Banoub and Hanlon live in Toronto, with drummer Jamie March on the way, and Pellerin lives in Montreal.
The band started as a songwriting project for her and Hanlon, and some of their other friends came on board to form the band in 2008.
They write by trading tracks online, and jam whenever they’re home, which seems to correspond with university schedules and holidays. There are perks, however, of this type of set up — “aside from its obvious, terrible obstacles,” Pellerin says, laughing.
For one, Collins explains, they don’t get stuck in the trap of playing shows every weekend.
In fact, the last time they played was in February in Ottawa. They are playing a showcase at NXNE in June and will be applying to play other festivals on the mainland.
“Getting to make this record, it’s the start of something,” Pellerin says.
Gramercy Riffs’ album It’s Heartbreak will be released Friday, May 21 at The Rock House with Matt Hornell and the Diamond Minds and Mark Bragg (solo).