Great Lake Swimmers' Tony Dekker: I've swum in every Great Lake
Great Lake Swimmers have built their decade-long musical career around deep, hushed folk-pop that, at times, can be breathtakingly lo-fi. Over the course of their slowly-evolving releases, Great Lake Swimmers -- and, really, Tony Dekker, band founder and lead songwriter/vocalist -- have cultivated a lush sound that always seems to be based on blurring the lines between the grandeur of nature and the grace of emotions.
The band's fifth album, New Wild Everywhere, takes those familiar landscapes and gives them a little more breathing room -- at least on the front end of the record, where songs like "Changes With the Wind" buzz with an upbeat, dance-worthy energy. While Great Lake Swimmers' first four albums were recorded in some unlikely places with basic setups -- from the inside of an abandoned grain silo to patches along the St. Lawrence River -- New Wild Everywhere marks the band's first official studio album. The band will be in Minneapolis Thursday beginning their month-long North American tour. Gimme Noise chatted with Dekker over the phone from his Ontario home about the new album.
Gimme Noise: So, which Great Lakes have you swam in? All of them, or just a few?
Tony Dekker: All of them.
GN: Tell me about your new album, New Wild Everywhere. What made you decide to go for the traditional route this time? How do you feel recording in the studio affected your sound and the album?
TD: Well, we recorded there at the suggestion of our producer Andy Magoffin. He was really curious to hear what we would sound like at a place where we wouldn't have to stop recording because it looked like it was going to rain or basically create an entire studio. I feel like the songwriting and that process was the same it has been, and I think the songwriting is still very strong...
We actually did go off-site for one song on the album. We spent three nights in a disused Toronto subway station and it produced the song "The Great Exhale," so I think we kind of bridged it a little bit with that. We were originally recording there for a kind of sister EP to the album, and that song really ended up standing out and fitting in with the record. I feel like the record, in the context of our past ones, is like extension of what we've been doing.
GN: Right. There's definitely a more folky, alt-country slant to New Wild Everywhere. How has that come about? Have you been inspired recently by that genre?
TD: It's come partly because of the evolution of the band, I think... We have a couple new members in there and a couple new songs. It wasn't anything I felt particularly influenced by, just the continual evolution on the band, with these country and folk influences in a really indie way. I feel like that's kind of a continuation, like we're just continuing the story in the album. It wasn't like we were going for a twangy kind of sound... I definitely think it exists in the context of all our albums.
GN: What do you love--or hate--about touring?
TD: Well, it's really hard on your body and it can be hard to maintain contact with your loved ones, and it can be a really grueling thing, but it's a great way to continue the conversation that you start with the record. It's really nice to connect with the fans. The people who connect with our music seem to really connect with it, and that's a great feeling.
GN: What is the most important thing to you about playing live?
TD: I think I try to be very protective of that space. It can be kind of a spiritual thing... You're finding spirituality on stage and kind of existing in that space, and I try to do the best job that I can. I don't take it lightly, I guess, connecting with people on that level. I think that music and singing is a direct kind of channel; on some levels it's easier to connect with people through music, and I take that seriously and do my very best on stage.
Great Lake Swimmers. With Cold Specks. 7 p.m., Thursday, May 3 at Cedar Cultural Center. $12-$15. Click here.
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