Published Jul 25, 2010Although only 21, Eamon McGrath has a back catalogue of songs deeper than an artist twice his age. He sees no reason to limit his output, recording and releasing pretty much everything he's written. McGrath's debut for Ryder Havdale's White Whale Records, last year's 13 Songs of Whiskey and Light, was a collection of previously released tracks, making Peace Maker the first collection of new material he's offered up for the label. Unsurprisingly, the new album is more cohesive, both sonically and lyrically. McGrath filters country rock through his punk roots to chronicle his struggles with substance abuse. First track "Before You Got So Sad" opens with the Edmonton, AB native screaming, "Yeah, your confidence is gone," suggesting a man hitting rock bottom. But far from the dark, introspective mess it could have been, the record feels like it was written from the perspective of someone who's come out the other side of this ordeal in one piece and is now able to make sense of it all. The album closes with "No One's Going to Love You When You're Gone," whose triumphant chorus sounds more like an epiphany than a lament, a realization that things have to change before it gets any better. An album full of layers, Peace Maker is a rare thing: pretension-free rock'n'roll that works both as rousing drinking music and introspective headphone listening.
Peace Maker was recorded at JC/DC studios in Vancouver. What was the experience like?
Coming up in October, it will have been a year since I started it. I signed with Ryder New Year's day, 2008. We put the record, 13 Songs of Whiskey and Light, out April 29 of last year. And the day the record came out was the first show of the tour that we went on supporting it. The backing band and I were going to go back into the studio the day the tour was done. It fell through having the band. I could either reschedule or try and record it on my own, so I did that. I showed up and my voice was in tatters; it was a rough one. But the sessions went really well. I had to find a drummer in Vancouver, who ended up being Rob Josephson. He's a phenomenal person and a phenomenal drummer; he's like White Whale's resident drummer. And there was really no time; I taught Rob all the songs on the spot. We did about 22 tracks that way ― me teaching him stuff on the fly. We came out of there with about ten tracks that I thought were really usable.
And those were the ones that ended up on the record?
We decided that the album wasn't done; we were halfway there. Ryder and I listened to everything really carefully and regrouped a little. At that point, I think I started to really know what the record was about. I'd kind of toned down a lot of my drug use and drinking; it was kind of affecting some relationships I had with some people. It really took on a life of its own. The next four or five months were spent writing new material for the record. In the fall of last year, we went in again for another three days. I sent Rob the songs this time; we rehearsed them. I had a shit load of new stuff. And we finished the record. We recorded about 30 more tracks. In total, the ten-song album was culled from about 40 or 50 tracks.
What was the difference between the songs from the first session and the second?
Peace Maker mark one was a radically different record than the one we're putting out: a lot darker, a lot more ragged and really kind of angry, but experimental, which is strange. By the time we came back, it ended up being like a country band playing punk rock songs or a punk rock band playing country songs. Like, if Blue Rodeo and Black Flag were a band together, that's how it sounds. It was good to have that space. If I had put it out as we had it, I wouldn't know what to say about it. That album kind of recorded me and the changes I was going through and a lot of the things happening in my life. For the most part, it was redemption. Heavy drug use for two-and-a-half years, getting shit-faced high everyday, you just become a dick, an asshole. Coming down every day, you only think about yourself. You break the hearts of a lot of girls. The album's like I want to make peace. You try and redeem yourself. (White Whale)