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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

Blonde Ambition

Craig Silliphant
Published Thursday October 29, 06:21 pm
Yukon Blonde builds the buzz with their latest album


Wednesday 11

Broadway Theatre

Turns out your parents weren’t just being cruel when they kicked your tired (and possibly hungover) ass out of bed early every Saturday morning to do the damn chores; hard work and solid effort can actually pay off down the road!

Of course, it helps a whole helluva lot if what you’re working your fingers to the bone at is actually something you love doing — like, say, becoming one of this country’s most respected indie bands.

Vancouver’s Yukon Blonde has been one of the hardest-working bands in Canada for a few years now. They’ve been pumping out albums and EPs like their very lives depended on it and touring them intensely, gaining a reputation for a blistering live show along the way. And while they took a bit more time between their previous album, Tiger Talk, and their latest record, On Blonde, than they usually do between recordings, it certainly wasn’t because the band was slowing down or getting complacent. In fact, between making music and then playing it in front of fans pretty much everywhere they can find a stage, they’ve barely taken a break in the last few years.

We're all about ‘strike while the iron is hot,’ and we don't take anything for granted,” says singer and guitarist Jeff Innes. “This can all be gone in a minute, so we want to enjoy it and play music for people who want to hear it.”

2012’s Tiger Talk, the group’s second full album (the first being their self-titled 2010 record) picked up quite a few accolades. It also led to Yukon Blonde being nominated for a Juno for Breakthrough Group of the Year in 2013.

When it came to songwriting and their time in the studio, the band took a slightly new approach with On Blonde as compared to their previous albums and EPs. The songs still have the same pop sensibilities that their fans dig, but they’re using more analogue synths, and leaning into a more new-wave sound. They’ve also filled out the spacier end of their sonic spectrum, cranking up the “weird” knob a bit.

Part of the change can be attributed to how the songs were written — as the band created them in the studio, rather than going through the more standard process of writing and rehearsing them prior to the recording sessions. The idea, says Innes, was both to challenge themselves as a band and to keep each and every song as fresh and exciting as possible throughout the recording process.

This was our first experience writing and structuring songs on studio time,” he says, “with the main reason being to not get attached to any particular part, riff, or melody. We had handfuls of ideas [and] pieces and a couple rough demos, so at times it got stressful to put together. But for the most part [the method] brought a lot of excitement and creativity to the song-building process.

We went in with the mentality of not being afraid to get ‘weird’ — because as weird as we thought we were getting, the end result always ended up sounding like a Yukon Blonde song.”

One thing that undoubtedly helped the band in their efforts to embrace the weird was the recruitment of producer Colin Stewart to work with them on On Blonde. Stewart has a solid résumé of working with acts like Sleepy Sun, Dan Mangan, and Black Mountain — all groups that are no strangers to embracing the trippier side of things.

Colin is the absolute best,” says Innes. “We've become so comfortable working with him, [and] he brings a very relaxed environment to the process. Studio time can get stressful sometimes, but Colin is calm, patient and experienced, and that presence lets our creativeness flourish. Also, his overall knowledge is great to be around — and he can capture sounds in the best way possible.”

Thanks to the success of Tiger Talk with fans and music critics alike, the band was able to enjoy a longer album cycle than with their previous work, as they toured Tiger Talk across the world. It’ll be interesting to see if the musical tweaking the band has put into On Blonde can combine with their current momentum and lead to even more success in the future, though Innes says their measure of victory is to make the longevity of the record cycle as long as possible.

Overall, says Innes, the band’s primary goal with both their recordings and their live show is to keep making people happy — and, of course, keep them coming back for more.

Things move incredibly fast these days, and thousands of bands are putting out great records every week,” he says. “So staying above water and staying on people's radar is success in my eyes.”

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