By Vish KhannaSome have called them one of the world's greatest rock'n'roll bands, and the Sadies continue to live up to the hype with Internal Sounds, another in a long line of instances where a new album one-ups the previous one in their catalogue. To hear it for yourself, you can stream Internal Soundshere ahead of its September 17 release on Outside Music.
Dallas Good is a tremendously gifted multi-instrumentalist from Toronto, who is best known for singing and playing guitar with his brother Travis, Sean Dean and Mike Belitsky in the Sadies. In the past, they've worked with engineer Steve Albini and producers like Greg Keelor (Blue Rodeo) and Gary Louris (the Jayhawks), but Internal Sounds marks the first Sadies record with the credit, "Produced by Dallas Good."
"I suppose it's really to do with the nature of this album being made," Good tells Exclaim! "Since releasing [2010's] Darker Circles, we've been chipping away at this one for a few years, as opposed to allotting a designated timeframe, hire everyone that we need, and get to work. So because of that, the producer role on this album had a lot to do with time management.
"Gary Louris, Greg Keelor — even Steve Albini who cringes at the title of producer — they've all functioned as fantastic argument settlers when the four of us are trying to sort something out. Or just bringing something else to the equation. So, this time, the guys gave me a bit more power, especially on my songs, which were a little more mapped out than usual."
Good suggests the credit is more of a "tip of the hat," but he did assist other people with lyric and melody ideas, the way Louris normally would. "We called Gary in to work with Travis and myself when we did all the vocals, over a span of three or four days," Good explains. "That was crucial to have his presence, but I kind of always had his voice in my head. Gary Louris was the devil on my shoulder, whispering in my ear."
While the Good boys sing every Sadies song, Dallas says that the lyrics are a fully collaborative effort with Belitsky contributing songs and Dean offering his thoughts on everyone's words. There are many cool and haunting lines ("So burn down the orchards and slaughter the flock," from killer opener "The First 5 Minutes") and a tension between the band's noise-punk origins ("The Very Beginning" and "STORY 19," a tribute to Ronnie Splinter and his band the Outsiders) and the intangible thing that makes them such an inclusive hit at folk festivals ("Another Yesterday Again," "Leave This World Behind").
In fact, "So Much Blood" bears the most striking reference ever to the Band, a group particularly close to Travis Good who helms the song.
"I would agree with you — it's a slow ballad with keyboards and mandolin," Good allows. "If you're struggling to describe that song, drawing a Band connection makes sense. Having said that, I don't think that Travis set out to write a song that even remotely sounded like them. He's a really great mandolin player and he doesn't play it that often, usually sticking to fiddle and guitar. It's certainly a formula the Band created and one we don't really have on our stage."
Elsewhere, "Another Tomorrow Again" sounds like the theme song for a Monkees-like TV show about a band who's always on the road; you can almost see a frenetic montage for opening credits where a group is loading and unloading their van in a different city every day.
The line "Shit'll happen every once in a while" conjures memories of Dallas breaking his leg before a show in Saskatoon, forcing the band to perform their first-ever set without him. Though the album cover features an artfully distorted X-ray of his broken leg and the title, Internal Sounds, references what Dallas heard inside his body when he hit the deck, he says the incident doesn't really inform songs like "Another Tomorrow Again."
"I wrote that song in 20 minutes and it would've been crazy if it'd taken me any longer to do it. Talk about immediacy; that song was a cakewalk to write. When I sent the lyrics to Gary Louris, he said something like, 'You don't have to be Yeats, Keats, or bloody Rimbaud' — you don't have to be pretentious to be clever."
Of course, the most eye-catching aspect of the new record's liner notes has to do with closer "We Are Circling," a collab with Canadian icon Buffy Sainte-Marie.
"I know! Oh my God! The greatest living being," Good exclaims in pure joy.
She first met the band after attending a Sadies show in Winnipeg about five years ago, where she performed songs with them on next to no preparation. After staying in touch, Good got up the gumption to invite her to do a song for the new record.
"We had started recording ["We Are Circling"] before I'd even spoken with her, and it was an experiment in 432 Hz, which is an alternate tuning that enabled the instruments to resonate much louder," he says. "It got really psych; it was long, it drones, and it is what it is. I was hoping Buffy would contribute some mouth bow to it and when I sent it to her, she was like, 'Man this is very trippy.'
"She already had lyrics in mind, which come from the Rainbow Family of Light, I think they're called? They had this campfire song they asked Buffy to write lyrics for back in 1971. She wrote it but never recorded it, and I was so blown away by the results.
"It was very selfless of her to do it because she's essentially re-visiting work from earlier in her career that was a big influence on me and I still can't believe she was willing to do it and I was able to get what I was looking for."
As previously reported, the Sadies are taking Internal Sounds out for a series of Canadian dates, and you can see all their upcoming stops here. And of course, listen to the album here.
Hear this entire interview with Dallas Good on an upcoming episode of The Kreative Kontrol with Vish Khanna podcast.