This month, Evening Hymns releases their wildly anticipated third album, Spectral Dusk. Considering our mutual affinity for natural spaces, us folks at ARBORETUM are proud to present their album release show at Raw Sugar Cafe on Aug. 19.
It seems fitting that we host Evening Hymns in Ottawa, because of our name: ARBORETUM. You may know the Ottawa Valley was settled because the area’s abundant forests provided much needed lumber to the UK and the US. And so we named our festival after a tree garden, to show how our city has grown into a diverse and vibrant culture.
JB: I’ve spent a good part of my life around wood. Grew up on a property that was heavily wooded with plantation red pine, cedars, spruce. My childhood was spent building tree forts with my brothers on that property. Running around out there. I think that whole upbringing near the forests just seeped into my writing. It’s not something I sit down and try to do. Write about trees. I look back on the album and realize now that it’s loaded with trees but it happens naturally.
Working on the sawmill was a pretty amazing experience. My dad had bought it when he was sick because it was always a dream of his to run a mill. It’s amazing to take a tree and turn it into lumber and then to build with it. It was portable so I’d drive it around Ontario to different locations to cut for people. I’d get to camp out and cut by myself all day. I’d like to own one at some point down the road. It’s a really enjoyable, albeit labour intensive. job.
JB: I haven’t really come to terms with it. I love Toronto. It’s a great city but I prefer the country. With touring we get to see so many great cities and spend time with a ton of people that when I get home I prefer to just disappear into the country to unwind. My address is Toronto but I spend maybe a month or two a year there. We’ve taken to subletting our apartment for long periods of time so that when we’re not touring we’re staying out in the woods somewhere. We spent the last winter in Perth Ontario and I’ve been living in a tent this summer since the beginning of May building a labyrinth/performance space east of Peterborough. I’m done here in a week or so then it’s back to Toronto for a week, then tour… I do miss all the great food and shows that Toronto has but the solitude of tent life is pretty hard to beat.
JB: I don’t think it influenced the writing process too much. Certainly it changes things in the production process though. I write on my own, and especially with this record, where the topic of it was intensely personal. When it came time to start recording though we “workshopped” the songs as a band to find the best possible way to treat the track. At that stage everyone had input into how to shape the final song. I like working that way because then we get this final piece that has been filtered through a bunch of musical minds that I really respect and I think the end result is stronger because of it.
JB: Spectral Dusk is all about my relationship with my dad. I’ve spent the last 10 years thinking a lot about him, life and mortality. He was sick for 7 years before he passed away in 2009 and so there was a lot of time to think about what was happening and how unfair it was. Why it was happening and what it all meant. This record, in a way, sums up everything I learned through the whole process: where I’m at now and where I hope to get to while dealing with this loss. Listening to Spectral Dusk when it was finished seemed like a really complete picture of who he was to me. I’m really proud of that. Seems cliche to say that I learned a lot about myself through making this but it’s really true. I think in the end I’ve gained a lot of strength through making this record. As if after he has passed away he is still fathering me, or guiding me.
JB: Our last release got picked up in France by a label there almost a full year after it was released in Canada which led to quite a bit of European touring and kept us away from writing and recording at home. Once we got back from that I did a bunch of writing and got things together and saw it start to take shape as a complete record. We did the bulk of the recording in January 2010 and then took our time mixing and recording more. We were in Europe for another long tour and so weren’t around to work on it. I’d get back from tour and it was really hard to motivate myself to deal with this record because it was so heavy. Hard to go to the studio and confront all these feelings. That was probably the main delay. Once we got it finished it was then waiting on labels, management, etc. to put the proper things in place for the release… and now here we are… so excited to be bringing these songs to Ottawa.
You can hear Spectral Dusk live at Raw Sugar on Aug. 19 and pick up a copy before its official release on Aug. 22.