Published Feb 20, 2010Aidan Knight's voice is older than his body. It's the guiding light of his debut album, as he leads listeners through riding a bicycle, missing someone, adolescence, knitting and nationality. Knight used to be known as a back-up musician in bands such as the Zolas, Maurice and Counting Heartbeats. But his voice was yearning to get out on its own, and so was his knack for teaching himself many instruments. It took two years, but only ten days of recording, to make this album, with producer Jon Anderson, and Toronto, ON collective the O'Darling. Versicolour is only eight songs long and, upon first listen, it feels like there should be more; it actually takes a few listens to get into it. But it is all the length that it needs; every song is something else, in its own place and feels comfortable. It would have been nice to see him explore more of his country, pop and jazz sides though, as he attempts to touch on everything at least once. However, the songs are all linked by bar repetition, many coordinated sounds, beautiful ascending climaxes and the notion that something memorable is about to happen. Versicolour is a wholly treasured harmony.
You did a lot of work with the O'Darling, but do you feel that these songs are really "yours"?
For sure. I didn't have a very concrete, preconceived notion of how the songs should sound. I went in with a very vague idea of how things would finish. A lot of the songs, I came in with just a verse and a chorus, and I sort of wrote them as we recorded them. I just couldn't be happier with the way that everything all fit together.
The music was spur-of-the-moment, but what about the lyrics?
Lyrics are not painful to get out, but they take me a long time. I'm sure it's the same with every artist, so I don't really want to make it seem like it's so much harder for me. Lyrics have to be the right way and I write pretty slowly. I feel like I only write in the fall and a little bit in the winter. I write a song and then write lyrics overtop of them. If I have a song that's kind of good enough for me, then I start sitting down and writing lyrics to the chord changes.
Tell me how you got into music.
I played in my school band. I started taking piano lessons when I was four. I hated it, hated practicing, hated the rudiments. I had a really great piano teacher, so she stuck it out with me and I did that for a while. When I was 14, Ben [Worcester] from Said the Whale and I met on a road trip to Alaska and we ran an after school program [that] I think was supposed to be put on through the church and was a bible camp, but we turned it into a Star Wars camp instead. When you're eight years old and it's summer, you want to go wild and go into space, you don't want to go to the Holy Land. And that's when I learned how to play guitar.
So with that you wanted to keep going?
I would play in front of a laptop microphone and I would put those online. I wrote some songs with a bunch of really big words that I kind of had a general grasp on. I probably used translucent, opalescent, lots of really wordy words that were just angsty love songs. I was trying to impress the ladies and it didn't really get me that far, full disclosure. I debunked pretty fast. I started writing songs for myself, for some friends to hear. People started asking me when I was going to start working on an album, and I feel like things just progressed really naturally.
Were you astounded by the quality of what you were making after recording through a laptop microphone?
Yeah, I started getting into home recording after learning the songs sounded frickin' terrible through that microphone. So I started recording in my living room with a couple different things and in the garage. By the time I was ready to go record it, I didn't want to do it by myself, because I knew all my tricks. I knew everything that I would probably do; I didn't feel like there would be any element of surprise. I was reaching out, doing that little bit of collaboration, and I found Jon Anderson. I think we were playing in the basement of a church and my friend was like, "Hey, you should meet Jon," and Jon was like, "My studio is right across the street," and I went over there and I was like, "This place is awesome, I'm going to record my album here. It's in your garage, so instead of recording in my garage, I'll just come over here and record with you."
So you went from bible camp to finding somebody in a church.
Yeah! There really is this sort of connection to the church and I know that people have commented that my songs have baptismal lyrics and a vague religious sort of allegory or metaphor to a lot of the songs, but I mean, I'm not someone who goes to church. I don't think that I'm a very deeply religious person. I believe in spirituality. I don't think my music comes off that way, but I do hear that a lot and it's kind of funny that a lot of my stories have to do with basements of churches and children's bible camp.
And you do have a song called "Altar Boys."
Yeah, that is about serving the altar. I should clarify that at one point I did go to church when I was younger between the ages of eight and 12. I was finding myself and rebelling and I got Combat Rock by the Clash and that just changed my whole world.
You go through different parts of genres. You have also played back-up in a ton of different bands. How did you get into doing so much?
I feel like everything happened very naturally. I guess it would be the fate of playing in bands and then opening for other bands, and then finding out that you guys are friends, and band members leaving, and because you're friends with those bands you end up just going and playing. I think that's kind of my "back-up musician life": being really open and trying to be friendly to people and allowing that stuff to happen as that happens. I feel really lucky to be able to play with so many great bands and still be able to do my own thing as well.
So when you were doing all this back-up stuff were you just thinking, "I still want to do my own solo stuff"?
I finished my album and I sent it to a few friends, one of them, Tyler [Bancroft], from STW. He was like, "Wow, this album is really good, and I've always been toying with the idea of creating a record label, and I would love to put out your album and help you put it out." I was like, "Yeah, as long as I can be a part of the label," and he said okay. When I was being a back-up guy, I was playing mostly in Maurice and things were really serious. It kind of just came to the point where I was... I don't want to do half of anything, I want to be 100-percent into something right now and if some people believe that I can do my music, and I believe in my music then maybe I could just be my own boss and I could go and just try and do the impossible thing, which is be an independent Canadian musician.
Explain the difference between what you played on Versicolour and what O' Darling played.
All of the violins, all of the horns that you hear are the O' Darlings. The female voices are the O' Darlings and then there are some drum parts and guitar parts that they play. For the most part though, I would say that I play the majority of the instruments on the album. It's kind of hard to discern which ones are me, but I sing on all the songs, so that's definitely me. They're all my songs. (Adventure Boys Club)