By Scott Roos, Herald contributor
In a music industry that is becoming increasingly based on “autotune”, “studio magic” and “fix it in the mix”, every so often when a record comes along that goes against that trend, it makes you sit up and takes notice.
On Friday, Saskatoon originals The Northern Pikes will release their first full-length in 16 years entitled “Forest of Love”. A lot has changed since the Pikes first formed 35 years ago but one mantra that has remained consistent throughout their time together is the band’s enthusiasm for recording music with a more natural, live off the floor feel.
This time around, the band used a studio in Calgary called the Studio Bell National Music Centre and the warmth of tone and expression is evident. There’s an earthy quality within the walls of the studio that had Pikes bassist/vocalist Jay Semko noticeably excited as he spoke to me over the phone.
“They have great vintage instruments and gear. We were knocked out by it. And we’ve recorded in a lot of really good studios over the years. (We’ve) worked in a lot of different places and I must say Studio A at Studio Bell National Music Centre is as good as or better than any studio we ever worked in,” raves Jay.
Jay continues, ““The core of the recordings were the four people all playing together and I think you feel that in the recordings. There’s really an organic (live off the floor) quality to that.”
In terms of the writing process itself this is the first Northern Pikes record to feature The Grapes of Wrath guitarist/vocalist Kevin Kane as a full fledged member of the band. Kevin officially joined the band in 2018 after a bit of a “trial run/fill in” roll via multi-date tour with the Pikes in 2017. As my chat with Jay progressed, it’s very evident that Kevin is a fantastic fit.
“It was (a) very natural (fit). Sometimes when we were all harmonizing, and you can hear it especially on the songs that Kevin had kinda brought in, yeah they have a little bit of a Grapes of Wrath sound and from that point of view I go ‘Great! I love the Grapes of Wrath!’” laughs Jay.
But all that aside, this record was very much a team effort. Something that Jay takes pride in and refers to as the “natural order” of how the Northern Pikes work together when writing songs.
Jay explains, “The songs that I brought ideas for – I did not have them over-rehearsed or overdone. I wanted to get the input of the other guys and have it as a true band song and that’s what we’ve done. I mean all of the songs are credited to all four members as songwriters. And really the songs would not be what they are without the contributions of each member of the group.”
All this aside, now that the album touring cycle is getting going it would be great to see the band again in Prince Albert. Until then, pick yourself up a copy of “Forest of Love” or stream it on your favourite device. You’ll be very glad you did.