"They were super humble and welcoming," Rice says. "Those were some amazing tours and they have been very helpful."
So helpful, in fact, that when it came time for the band to find a producer for their new record, they enlisted the National's Aaron Dessner. A conversation that started out as a joke, Rice explains that when the band was running through potential producers, they returned to the idea of Dessner and hoped that their joking around had some seriousness to it.
"We were so uncomfortable with this idea of a relationship with a producer," Rice says, having had no prior experience with one before. "We're just not used to not being the control freaks."
After stints in Los Angeles and Montreal, the band moved into Dessner's home in Brooklyn to work on production. The result was Hummingbird, an album that distils the band's fervid energy into slicker product.
The band's signature harmonies have lost the battle-cry urgency heard on Gorilla Manor's "Sun Hands," but gained a strength and confidence that doesn't need to scream for your attention anymore. The infectiously layered rhythms that made its predecessor a success are still the driving force behind single, "Breakers," but the band aren't banging on everything and the kitchen sink in order to maximize its effect. On the surface, Hummingbird may sound more polished to listeners, but is actually distinctly less polished in Rice's opinion.
"One thing Aaron was really great at was being spontaneous," Rice says. "I'd do a take and I wouldn't think it was it, but he would tell me to let it go and that was really helpful for us."
Dessner's influence on the record is quite apparent, from the compacted percussion — something that dominated much of Gorilla Manor — to a few songs that bear some resemblance to the National's sombre charge, like the marching beat and piano intro on "Heavy Feet."
Rice doesn't necessarily see Hummingbird as a darker album, though, pointing out that moments of optimism shine through, but he does note the past couple of years as a time of change and an abundance of emotions that altered the subject matter of their songs.
Written after the departure of bassist Andy Hamm and the death of singer Kelcey Ayers' mother, the album "feels like an expansion both inwards and outwards," Rice says.
"When we perform them, they feel very joyful, but I guess it's not as jubilant," he continues. "I do think we feel closer now, as a group and a family, than we've ever felt. I think we're a joyous, happy band. We do have this very positive outlook, even in the face of relationships falling apart. We have that stability."
FeaturesJul 29, 2015
Titus AndronicusAmbition In Five Acts
Since Patrick Stickles rose up with fists held high in July 2005 as frontman for Titus Andronicus, he and the band have done nothing half-as...
FeaturesJul 06, 2015
BullyYouth and the Old School
Ask any musician who grew up listening to Nirvana, the Breeders or PJ Harvey what studio they'd love to record their debut album in, and cha...
FeaturesJul 06, 2015
Where I PlayWill Currie and the Country French
"Our band isn't what it was," Will Currie says, seated behind a Korg SV-1 keyboard in his cozy living room in Waterloo, ON. One of his bandm...
FeaturesJul 03, 2015
Leon BridgesInstant Vintage
She was like, "Is this secular music?" I told her "yes ma'am," Leon Bridges recalls. The playing of or listening to secular music was ve...
FeaturesJul 02, 2015
The Exclaim! QuestionnaireFlorence Welch (of the Machine)
Florence Welch has been on top of the charts ever since her band Florence + the Machine burst onto the scene in 2009 with the breakthrough a...
FeaturesJun 05, 2015
Where I PlayKathryn Calder
"To be honest, I don't know what half this stuff does, but that's okay." Kathryn Calder laughs, sitting in front of the sprawling console in...
FeaturesJun 04, 2015
Brandon FlowersIs A Retro Killer
"For the first eight or nine years of my life all I heard was '80s music, so it's a part of me, I guess." Brandon Flowers is known as th...
FeaturesMay 28, 2015
Patrick WatsonBlinded By Science
An album about robots may seem suited for the kind of experimentalism seen in science fiction, but Patrick Watson — the Montreal-based...