The Mohawk Lodge: Plugged-In

The latest effort from Vancouver's Mohawk Lodge, Wildfires, finds the band moving away from their acoustic folk roots and embracing a gritty blue-collar roots rock sound that recalls the music of Crazy Horse and Bruce Springsteen's early material.

They've also earned a reputation as one of the best live bands out there thanks to their incendiary live shows. Singer/guitarist and White Whale Records impresario Ryder Havdale said that the band plans to rock Toronto at their two upcoming shows.

Q: Why did you make the shift away from acoustic folk on the new album in favour of a plugged in sound?

RH: I guess it kinda came up by chance because we had a number of problems with acoustics on stage.

Q: Why did you make the shift away from acoustic folk on the new album in favour of a plugged in sound?

RH: I guess it kinda came up by chance because we had a number of problems with acoustics on stage.

I used to play in a band called Kids these days and Kids These Days was a lot more rock oriented and the Mohawk Lodge was my side project, it was where I write songs.

As Kids got put in the backburner, The Mohawk Lodge became my main source for releasing my rock demon! (Laughs) And we got Arch on board and we've got a huge sound. I mean he sounds like J. Mascis some days, it always just blows me away. It's like huge, epic riffs and stuff.

It's a number of things but mainly its Mohawk Lodge is my driving project right now and playing with some guys who just love to rock.

Q: How have fans reacted to the band plugging in?

RH: In Vancouver it's been pretty heavy for a while. This record's just come out but the band's heavier now than the record is! (Laughs) When I say heavy I don't mean in a metal sense or anything, just like it's a pretty Crazy Horse rock project.

It's exciting, every time you do a record the band takes what gets recorded and becomes something completely different. So, this recording, it's made the band a hundred times better than it was before we (said), "Here's the finished project."

Q: What was making the shift from acoustic to electric like?

RH: It was a lot more fun! (Laughs) I remember the first show we ever played, all five of us were sitting down.

On that first record, I was using my grandfather's old dobro guitar and you can't plug it in, you can't do anything with it. It's great for writing but it suddenly way more dynamic with going electric, way more possibilities sound wise and what not.

I still love playing acoustic shows. It's nice to stand up and rock out!

Q: The lyrics are a lot more cathartic then they were on your last album, why did you take this approach to the songwriting this time out?

RH: For me the lyrics are different for me because I was going through a real lull in my relationship.

While writing that record, it's funny, because I basically holed up in this cabin and my relationship with my girlfriend was on the rocks and I basically wrote all the lyrics and just compiled it in a couple of weeks when I didn't think there was going to be a future there.

It's funny because that relationship did end up dying after another six months. And now I listen to the record and now listen to the record and now ... I guess the record to me was kind of, everything's burnin' up and fuckin' fallin' apart but at the same time maybe we'll pull it together but now this is a break-up record.

I guess I was lettin' go of some frustrations.

Q: One of the songs on the new record that really struck me was 'Why Would You'. What inspired the song and how have fans reacted to it?

RH: It's funny, that's one even the band had mixed reactions on. A couple of people in the band, it was now their favourite song and a couple of other people were like, "We'd never play that song!" (Laughs)

That one, to me, is more along the lines of the last record.

I haven't heard a lot of feedback on that song to be honest! My parent's heard it and they're like, "What's this lyric about don't give the artist your money? We just helped you out last month with some money!" And they took it all personal.

I meant it be ironic. Like, "Please give the artist some money!" It's like you gotta play a show and people are like, "Oh no, I gotta buy a beer!" They would rather spend a hundred bucks on beer then 10 bucks on a CD.

Which is fine, but it's just funny. I'm just trying to poke a little fun at it.

Q: Speaking of recording in a log cabin, did the environment you recorded the album in have any kind of effect the songs went in?

RH: We started the demos, we've got a place, a house on a lake north of Toronto about a half hour north of there in Richmond Hill and then we flew it back and we went down to this cabin in Port Roberts.

It was interesting, it was nice in the way that you get outside, it's more comfortable, I was there for a month pretty much just writing, recording and it's more laid back spot. But it allowed for people to come down and just hang out and have fun and there was a moment where we had 10 people around one microphone and that was one of my favourite recording moments ever! It's not a big cabin but you can look through both windows and out onto the ocean.

10 people in a room singing at the end of 'Calm Down' and then 'Rising Sun' you can hear some of those moments. I don't know if they translate as well on tape but it was tons of fun.

People are like, "Why are there these guests?" And it's kind of like, "I was down there workin' on it for so long (and) friends are interested in playing on it", and one thing led to another and suddenly there's 14 people on it! (Laughs)

Q: What was recording in two different cities and what was your experience of recording with Darryl Neudorff (The New Pornographers, Neko Case) like?

RH: Darryl's great to work with! He had a done a remix of a band I was in ages ago, he lent me his recording gear when he was moving from Vancouver to Toronto and he cut it up in such a way ... he just took one of our jams and made it sound fantastic! And it was a cut up song out of something that totally wasn't a song.

I've always wanted to work with him for years and it just so happened that we finished a tour out there, The Mohawk Lodge, and everybody flew back there but me and (drummer) Sam(ir Mallal) and we were driving to Montreal. I was going to fly back the next day and Sam's like, "Well, we should just go to Darryl's and record next weekend."

Within half an hour, Sam had talked me into quitting my job; it wasn't a heavy gig but he was like, "What kind of commitments do you have in the next week? What do you really have to do?" And it's like, "Well, I guess I really don't have to do that."

I called my girlfriend and we called Darryl and he ended up playing drums on a chunk of the record because he was there and it was actually amazing! We had one of the most productive writing weekends. The three of us, we would go in there and Sam and I would go out on the lawn and if there was any points in the song where it was like, "Aw, where does this go?" We'd just write it right there and then go back in and Darryl would lay it down first or second take, really quickly and really heavy!

You don't worry about the groove with that guy!

Q: I read that you're working on a new album with "new instrumentation". Care to elaborate?

RH: (Laughs) We're going to do it (the new record) right after we get back from this tour, and it's just gonna be a live off the floor thing.

It's going to be more of a Crazy Horse sort of dirty (rock). It'll probably be more cathartic! I kinda mixed this last one to death . Whereas this new one's gonna be a lot more live, a lot more dirty, a lot more how the band sounds.

I'm not taking two years to do it! Never again! That was the biggest learning process off that record. Because with all the records that we do I always feel like we end up rushing them in one way or another, releasing them through the label (White Whale Records).

I was like, "This one, we're gonna take our time." But me saying that, we really took our time on everything! And in the end it's too much! You gotta strike while it's hot sometimes.
It was too much anticipation! Not anticipation from dying to hear the record but from us getting paranoid about the level of some instrument in the mix or something like that.

Q: Do you think that having alternating between a static set line-up and open-ended membership has helped the band?

RH: It started out as a solo project because (in) Kids These Days, everybody had equal say in and it held up that band in a lot of ways, right from touring to writing, et cetera.

I was determined, with The Lodge I was gonna go full bore and make it into what I wanted it to be.

We finished that first record and then a lot of those people ended up in the band. Then, as the new record took shape, the band's become a real band in the last two years. The band's a rock solid unit and almost to the point where I used to entertain the idea of moving to Montreal and having a Montreal chapter.

I'm a little more attached to it. But our bass player isn't coming on the road so Scott (Freeman) from Poorfolk, one of our bands out of Ottawa, is flying out and playing the tour with us.

It's awesome! I live in a small bachelor, it's where we run White Whale out of, and he's been on the floor the last few nights and it's fun having him around.

Q: What do you have planned for your Toronto shows?

RH: What have we got planned? Party! (Laughs) A nice party. It's gonna be a lot of fun and we already did Toronto a couple of times. I know The Boat is quite small.

They're both weekdays so whoever can't make it out one weekday can hit the other one hopefully.

I played in Toronto with this other band opening for Handsome Furs in July at Lee's Palace (with Silver Springs) and it was funny, it was the first time I've really had a great experience with a crowd in Toronto, but a lot of the times Toronto's very quiet and Montreal's very ... I don't know.

I'm excited about playing in Toronto again!

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

RH: Vancouver is the new Toronto and if you want to find out about it come out to the show! (Laughs)

The Mohawk Lodge with Octoberman and Poorfolk.

Wednesday October 17, 9 pm
The Boat
158 Augusta Ave.
Cover is $5 at the door.
Tuesday October 23rd, 9 pm
The El Mocambo
With Octorman and Culture Reject.
464 Spadina Ave.
Cover is TBA

Image is courtesy of While Whale Records' website.

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