by Daniel Emberg
The fellas of Scenic Route to Alaska (Shea Connor – drums/backing vocals, Trevor Mann-lead vocals/guitar, and Murray Wood – bass) have deep chemistry that keeps their lifelong friendship from being sapped by life as a touring creative collective. After playing together in various forms since early adolescence, they formed Scenic Route in late 2010 and have quickly made enough of a name that they were recently voted the second best band in their hometown of Edmonton by readers of the local arts weekly. The guys are currently supporting their second full-length effort Warrington, which is up for Pop Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards. They are coming to Winnipeg for BreakOut West this weekend, and Stylus caught up with Shea Connor by phone as the band was making a stop in Red Deer. Once Shea’s jaw got off the ground (Brent Sutter had just walked by) the conversation started moving and now we’ve got this introduction to Scenic Route in Alaska.
Stylus: Care to say a bit about the new record Warrington?
Shea Connor: We made it in Edmonton with a guy named Brad Smith and we co-produced it with Jay Sparrow. It’s our second full-length, but in a way it kind of feels like our first professional release.
Stylus: How so?
SC: We had an EP and a full-length out, but we recorded them in a real rush. We went to Montreal to record them while Murray was at McGill and made them with recording students out there. It was an amazing studio facility but, man, our time slots… We recorded that last full-length in three or four nights from 10pm to 6am so it felt super rushed. I like those songs, but I feel like with this album we’ve really come into our own.
Stylus: Did you give yourselves more time? Is Murray back in Edmonton now for keeps?
SC: Yeah, that was a really big thing for this album. Murray moved home in May of last year and we had the whole summer to really work on songs and write them together. It used to be that Trevor and I would arrange the songs, bring them to Murray and he would have two days to practice with us before we went in the studio. This time we really got to practice a lot, and we had two full weeks in the studio at normal hours of the day, which was beneficial!
Stylus: Do you think it’s being received by others as a step forward for the band?
SC: I think so, yeah. This is the first time we’ve really given a push too, we focused on college radio all over North America and even charted in the States on CMJ—we made like 84 or 81, and charted for a bunch of weeks in a row. It’s cool to see some progress…in the new year we’re looking to get down to the States, hoping to go to Europe soon too.
Stylus: Have you guys been able to tour much this summer?
SC: We had some pretty big [tour] plans but wound up getting some cool shows and awesome festival offers. We did Edmonton Folk Fest, Canmore Folk Fest, Tiny Lights Festival in BC, we opened up for Hey Rosetta and Said The Whale. All that kinda threw our plans for a loop and we had to be around western Canada. We were also part of this thing called the Peak Performance Project… part of the first Alberta group that got in on that, which was a very time consuming thing so our tour plans were on hold. You know, we’ve never actually played Winnipeg, surprisingly.
Stylus: That is kind of surprising.
SC: We did have a show booked there during a cross-Canada tour almost two years ago… but about two weeks before the show, the venue closed down or something.
Stylus: Awww, was it the Lo Pub?
SC: Yes! We heard that was the place to play in Winnipeg, so that was shitty. I did play there with another band one time at the Pyramid. We’re actually staying there for a whole week on this trip, it will be cool to get to check out the city a bit.
Stylus: You’re coming here for BreakOut West. Are these industry conferences a regular thing for you yet?
SC: When we first started, we got accepted to Canadian Music Week with our five-song EP and knew nothing about the business side of things. We went, played our shows, and didn’t know what was going on so we thought it was a waste of time. But then last year we did BreakOut West and it was smaller so you actually get to meet more people. I don’t feel like we’re seasoned at this, but [this will be] our third one so we have a pretty good idea of what we need to do. I think more people are intrigued by seeing what we can do, but it’s always hit or miss too because there are so many bands. Everyone’s there and trying to please.
Stylus: What’s up after you leave Winnipeg?
SC: We’re playing Regina right after, then Saskatoon, and we’re back in Edmonton playing a Canadian Mental Health Association charity event on the 9th. Then I think the next weekend we’re filming a video for our song “Every Year Or So,” which will be out in November, I imagine.
Stylus: One last question: as a touring musician, can you name some hidden gem on the highway that you want people to know about? Some breakfast place or swimming hole or whatever?
SC: Hmmm….the funny thing with tour is I feel like I could tell you a lot of places you don’t wanna go. But there are some good ones. We played this festival (Tiny Lights) in Ymir, BC. It’s like an old mining town in the middle of nowhere. It’s a little Hippieville, and the festival really suits that vibe. Pretty much the second we got there, the lady that was running the festival was like, “There’s a slither tent, if you guys are interested. We oil up the bottom of a tent and you can get naked—there’s no sexual touching—but if you guys just wanna go slither around…” We never partook in that, but I’d say this little festival in Ymir is a hidden gem!
Scenic Route to Alaska plays twice during BreakOut West: Friday at the Park Theatre (9pm) and Saturday at the Cavern (11pm). Bring your own oil, no tents allowed.