For a decade, singer songwriter, multi–instrumentalist and producer Mitch Bowden has made use of his Mechanical Noise Studio in Dunnville and made music under the moniker of Don Vail. At times, it’s been a band but given a limitless amount of studio time to meticulously craft his songs, Bowden only releases music when the time is right. That’s meant for some seriously scant output from the unit. The Don Vail debut came out in 2009 and was followed up some seven years later with Fades. Now some three years later, Don Vale returns with a new album and a live showcase as part of Supercrawl but it’s probably not the start of a big performance schedule in the future. Bowden has been more of a studio hermit the last decade and doesn’t seem poised to relinquish that title.
The recording sessions actually began with some bizarre recording competition that had Bowden travel to Ireland to begin sessions that obvioiusly would be finished back at Mechanical Noise. Enlisting longtime drummer Victor Malang, as well as guitarist Matthew Fleming and keyboardist/vocalist Kori Pop, Bowden would complete the band’s latest release.
“I like writing songs and getting weird sounds — the experimenting is the real attraction for me,” says Bowden. “Creating something and if it takes eight or ten takes before it’s right then I have the luxury of doing that. Sometimes that’s great but sometimes it takes forever to put something out and not just obsess over something. That’s where I think Victor, Kori and Matt come in and I can bounce ideas off of them.
“The four of us played on the album in various capacities and we’re bringing in Cam Malcolm to play bass for us,” adds Bowden. “Lyrically, the album is pretty dark. Fades felt like a compilation but this album is a lot more cohesive as a body of work. I’ve never written happy songs and it has nothing to do whether I’m happy or not. I’ve always gravitated to the more melancholy side of things. I’m never going to write, “Walking on Sunshine”.
Mixing textured harmonic layers with cutting edged riffage — maybe conjuring up his old math rock days with Sonic Unyon band Chore, Stand of Tide is a strong collection of songs that fans of Guided By Voices or the Shins or even the Cure could get into. While assuredly Bowden would want fans to welcome the new material, fans could hope for more shows but if you are a fan, you should check Don Vail out now.
“Music is too much a part of me, it’d be like cutting off my arm if I stopped writing and recording,” says Bowden. “I have no interest in promoting singles on the Internet or doing anything like that. I love listening to albums and taking them in as a whole. I love music and don’t think I’ll ever stop making music. The hardest part about this band is that we all have our own lives and if we can keep regularly playing together, I’d love to, but we’ll have to see.
“I’ve fallen out of love with a lot of the aspects with performing shows,” confides Bowden. “I’m trying now to get back into it but it became such a stressful thing to not only write and record, which I enjoy but also to go out and present this visual aspect of it and ‘entertain’ — it’s not why I do this. I’ve never been comfortable with live performance because there is this expectation that doesn’t jive with the music. That said, we are trying to get out there and play the songs and enjoy it. We are super grateful to be playing Supercrawl. Hamilton has always been amazing to us and really receptive to the music for years. If we’re going to get out and play, Hamilton is going to be the place. But I don’t feel like a professional entertainer, this isn’t an act. You’re not going to get acrobatics or calling out to the crowd or anything like that. We’re going to get up there on stage and enjoy ourselves. If you happen to be passing by, maybe you’ll check us out.” V
Don Vail plays Supercrawl Mohawk College Stage this Saturday September 14 7:45pm opening for two Hamilton based artists that already graced the cover of View... Catch Don Vail followed by the ethereal alt rock of London-come Toronto ex-patriot Ellis at 9:15pm and Guelph area immigrants Ellevator at 11:00pm. Click on facebook.com/donvailmusic