When the Reason released Fools at the end of 2010, it would become their biggest album and seem to cap off many years of diligent work. The single “The Longest Highway Home” hit the top five on the Billboard Canadian rock charts and the Reason won both the Rock Album of the Year and People’s Choice Album of the Year at the 2010 Hamilton Music Awards. But it would also be the last for that incarnation of the band. Undaunted, Jonathan “Ronson” Armstrong (bass), James “Cubby” Nelan (guitar/vocals) and Adam White (vocals/guitar) continue their ten-year journey making the music they love as the Reason and offer their newest 6-song CDEP entitled Hollow Tree (Anthem/Warner).
“We basically got tired of switching members all of the time and we decided the three of us have been the core guys since the start — we’ve been a band for ten years now — when you’re thirty it’s just different,” offers White on the current band line up. “It’s not, ‘hey dude, you seem cool — want to get in a van with me for the next six weeks?’ It’s not as easy as that any more. We have a good working relationship with our current drummer and guitar player.”
Produced by Howard Redekopp (Mother Mother, Tegan & Sara, The New Pornographers) at Vancouver’s Greenhouse Recording Studios, Hollow Tree continues where Fools left off, in a direction that the Reason hopes goes against current musical trends.
“We were in Vancouver for a couple of weeks and it was the easiest recording session we ever had,” recalls White. “It was just us and we had the songs but didn’t know how it was going to come out. We wanted something organic and pleasing to the ear — something that sounded like us. Sounding like you can hear the life in it. I think a lot of modern recordings have become really computer oriented – we just wanted to make this record to sound like a band that’s alive.
“It’s got to pass the campfire test,” adds Nelan on songwriting. “If a song is not interesting played simply it’s not strong enough. There should be a good melody, rhythm and chord progression – that’s what a song is. If you can’t do it that way around a campfire, then your songs aren’t that good.”
Choosing to release smaller collections of songs more frequently is an attempt for the Reason to get more music out more frequently to fans. Having graduated from the indie rock trenches to the major label industry, the Reason are confident in doing things their own way now.
“Our new song, “Those Days Are Dead” is kind of about the music business,” reasons White. “The live side of things is still really kicking but it’s hard to see how people don’t see where the business is going and where it’s been going for the last ten years.”
“There’s no set rules right now but it’s definitely not going back to where it was in the ‘90s and everyone’s going to be selling millions of CDs again — that’s over,” interjects Nelan.
“Travelling across the country we met up with Dave Genn who was in the Matthew Good Band and he was just giving us the disclaimer,” recalls White. “Our song the Longest Highway Home is doing really well on radio and he said, “The MGB didn’t have songs that did this well on radio but if it were 1999, none of you guys would be working jobs, you’d be touring in a bus”. Everything would have been different with just that one song, but it’s not like that anymore.
“We’re not bitching about that but it is frustrating seeing people still operating under the assumption that it’s like that — it’s never going to be like that again so let’s move forward,” offers Nelan. “When things started picking up for us, [the major label] were still trying to treat us like a development band. Ronson went to Metalworks for school and they were using our band as an example of one of the last Canadian band’s to ever get a development contract.”
“We’re getting taught about in school and well, is that a good thing?” laughs White. “Probably not so much but we learned and our thing is we just want to keep making music and working hard playing shows. We’re happy when we’re busy. We’ve never had that great big meal, we’ve just had a little taste and that keeps us grounded which is good.”
With a solid collection of songs, the Reason will take to the road and do as they always have done. Regardless of changes in fashion, in the industry and even within their band, the Reason just want to play their music for the fans and assuredly, the fans are glad for it.
“Our tenth anniversary is coming up and we can’t keep pretending we’re a new band every time we put out a new record,” says White. “We’re a band with history and with a catalogue and we’re proud of all the songs we’ve written and sometime this year we’re planning on doing some kind of show that commemorates our history. But for now, like with the show this week, we’re going to be focusing on the present and our latest music and that’s something we really love right now.”
“It doesn’t matter if you’re getting paid, if you can’t not do it, you’ve got to do it,” says Nelan. V
The Reason plays Thursday February 7 at the Casbah with Saint Alvia for the Y108 Ben and Kerry Roast. Doors are at 7pm and cover is $10 with all proceeds go to the Y108 Children’s fund.
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