"Tony Dekker takes acoustics very seriously. His haunting, somber ballads emit an otherworldly quality, due in no small part to the natural environment in which they're captured ... Natural reverb and folkie arrangements complement Dekker's soft voice perfectly" - Rob Bolton, Exclaim!
Tony Dekker is the singer/songwriter behind the musical project Great Lake Swimmers
, and the new third full-length album "Ongiara
" will be released in Canada on June 5th, 2007 by Nettwerk Productions.
As with the first two critically acclaimed albums ("Great Lake Swimmers" 2003, and "Bodies and Minds" 2005), "Ongiara" continues to explore the worlds of indie folk, roots music and alt-country pop, with a focus on lyrics and the craft of songwriting. The new record is permeated with a rich natural reverb, courtesy of London, Ontario's Aeolian Hall, which creates the magical background on which the songs are painted, with a melancholic finesse that pulls at the heartstrings at the same time. The atmospheric sound has been referred to as "ambient folk."
These ten new songs are largely inspired by Canada's majestic natural environment ("Your Rocky Spine"), and our reciprocal relationship with the land ("Put There By The Land"). "Where In The World Are You", "Passenger Song" and "Changing Colours" touch on themes of seeking grace and understanding in the weary journey of everyday life, and the latter reflects on the cycle of living and dying. "There Is A Light" is a love song thinly veiled as a protest song, and similarly, "I Am Part Of A Large Family" contains a message of peace. Album closer "I Became Awake" is country-infused lullaby which speaks to revelation and self-realization.
In addition to the core band of Tony Dekker (voice, guitar), Erik Arnesen (banjo, electric guitar), and Colin Huebert (drums, percussion, glockenspiel, timpani), the new album features special guest appearances by singer-songwriter Serena Ryder (backing vocals, autoharp), Bob Egan of Blue Rodeo (pedal steel and dobro), Sarah Harmer (backing vocals) and Owen Pallett of Final Fantasy and Arcade Fire (string arrangements). Mike Overton (upright bass), Darcy Yates (electric bass), Mike Olsen (cello), and Mike Bonnell (organ) also contributed their talents to this recording.
The title of the album was taken from the Toronto Harbour boat that carried the band to their initial recording sessions on Toronto Island with Dale Morningstar. "Ongiara," however, was mainly recorded in the Aeolian Hall, the centuries-old acoustic jewel in the heart of London, Ontario. It was engineered by Andy Magoffin, and mixed at the renowned House of Miracles.
Great Lake Swimmers has toured extensively in Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia since 2004, and has shared the stage with musical acts as diverse as Feist, Andrew Bird, Vashti Bunyan, Final Fantasy, Akron/Family, Jon-Rae Fletcher, Album Leaf, Crooked Fingers, Jason Collett, Amy Millan, and Joel Plaskett Emergency.
The songs of Great Lake Swimmers have appeared on numerous compilations alongside such artists as Sufjan Stevens, Hot Chip, Broken Social Scene, Junior Boys, Mark Kozelek, Hayden, Beulah, Joss Stone, Hawksley Workman, Montag, Rheostatics, Tobin Sprout, Richard Buckner, and the Shins.
Great Lake Swimmers have been compared to Nick Drake, Iron and Wine, Red House Painters, and "After the Gold Rush"-era Neil Young. They were awarded the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Galaxie Rising Star Award in March 2005 and were voted Favourite Folk/Roots Artist at the 2004 Canadian Independent Music Awards.
Interview by tosnob
I had the chance to speak with lead singers and songwriter Tony Dekker about the album and the band's current tour.
Here's how it went down:
T.O. Snob: Thanks for doing this. How's the tour going?
Tony Dekker: It's been going really great so far. We've had a really great run across Canada.
T.O. Snob: Glad to hear that. We can't wait to see you back here.
TD: Yeah, I'm really excited for the Toronto show as well.
T.O. Snob: Does it make it special being a hometown show?
TD: I think so. It totally does. We're coming home after two months touring before we leave for Europe. It's at a special moment in the tour too where I think the band is gonna be in full form and so excited to leave for Europe at the same time. I'm really excited for it. It's gonna be a special show and it's at a great venue too, The Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
T.O. Snob: The album came out today.
TD: Yeah today's the day.
T.O. Snob: I think it's your best one yet.
TD: Thanks for saying that.
T.O. Snob: What can fans expect from the album?
TD: As far as the songwriting goes it's really an extension of the work that we've been doing. From a musical standpoint it's split up into Side A and Side B. Side A has more, by our standards I guess, more of an uptempo feel to it. Side B has more of what people would expect from us, which would be slower, quieter ballads.
T.O. Snob: I noticed that. A song like "Pulling On a Line" to me almost sounds like old Folk Implosion.
TD: Funny, I've never really thought of that. It's an interesting comparison.
T.O. Snob: What inspires you to write?
TD: I get inspired by getting out into the woods or something, getting to a quiet place. Those types of places are places I go to get inspired. Especially being in the air, being in nature, being in the woods. Quiet places for sure.
T.O. Snob: "Concrete Heart" is probably my favorite song on the record and it led me to thinking about other songs about Canadian towns. What inspired you to write that song in particular?
TD: That songs was actually a song I was asked to write for a group called Sound Access out of Toronto. There was a book that was published called Concrete Toronto and they did a music project and invited songwriters from Toronto to contribute to it. It was to tie into some of the themes that were in the book and they asked me to write a song for it.
It actually ended up turning out really well and we wanted to put it on the album. The inspiration really was that book Concrete Toronto and the project.
T.O. Snob: So what is your favorite Toronto Public Library branch?
T.O. Snob: When you began writing songs was there a local or Canadian artist that inspired or influenced you?
TD: Leonard Cohen has always been a source of inspiration throughout. He's a real guiding light and special spirit in Canadian music. First and foremost he's the great master of songwriting in my eyes. I've always found him a great source of inspiration, but moreso as a music appreciator than a songwriter.
T.O. Snob: What constitutes success for the band in your eyes?
TD: It's nice that I don't have to work another job right now and that music is my fulltime occupation. Now I can really focus on it whereas in the past I've had to have a day job while I was doing it. It made it very difficult and made me feel like I had two jobs. Being able to pay the rent is a huge success.
T.O. Snob: If you could tour with any artist in the world who would it be?
TD: Neil Young.
T.O. Snob: When's the last time you had a chance to actually swim in one of the Great Lakes?
TD: In the summer time. There are some spots out on Lake Erie that are really nice. There's some sandy beaches in the Wainfleet area that I like to get to in the summer time.
T.O. Snob: Is there anything else you'd like to get off your chest?
TD: Just that we're really looking forward to getting back for the Toronto show.
T.O. Snob: Thanks for doing this Tony.