Published Oct 20, 2014Hey Rosetta! have a habit of writing records without singles. The Newfoundland indie rock outfit's tunes tend to build slowly, defy traditional song structures and regularly venture past the five-minute mark — a holy trinity of rock radio faux pas.
So when frontman Tim Baker was tasked with writing a single for the group's first full-length in almost four years, Second Sight — which arrives via Sonic Records/Warner Music Canada tomorrow (October 21) — the job felt unnatural.
"We kicked against it for a long time, but I eventually came to see it as the challenge it actually is: to write something that's not six minutes long, as I'm wont to do, and is catchy and means something serious and dear to me," Baker tells Exclaim! "There was a lot of banging my head against the wall, but we somehow got there."
The result is "Kintsukuroi," a three-and-a-half-minute pop rock gem with a name that's sure to be botched on all those radio stations it was designed to be played on. In contrast to its lead single, however, Second Sight wasn't rushed. After wrapping up a long period of intensive touring for 2011's Polaris Music Prize shortlisted Seeds, the band went to work on the new record. Then, in late 2013, after narrowing down a selection of more than 20 songs, the group began recording at MixArt Studio in Montreal with producer Marcus Paquin (Arcade Fire, the National, Stars).
Second Sight features a refined focus on tone; Baker says the band "experimented with sounds to make something that will draw you in and envelop and delight you, [instead of] just the same old palette." It also marks the arrival of Mara Pellerin on horns and keys, the band's seventh member.
But, overall, Second Sight's sound will be familiar for fans: Hey Rosetta!'s classic cross between orchestrated chamber pop and emotive indie rock. "We didn't completely try to reinvent ourselves," Baker says. "I don't know if it's that different in theory from Seeds, but I think it has more depth, more layers."
In line with previous records, Baker's lyrics also go deep, taking on themes of unrealized potential, self-will and seeing the world through a different perspective — ideas that often relate to the band's music itself.
"Every song, when you're writing it, could be so much," he explains. "And then when you finish it, it's a pale version of what you had dreamed of. Everyone knows how that feels. It's such a universal thing: having promise that you never seem to fully realize. I feel like that's a beautiful thing to think about and stay focused on."
Baker might be his own toughest critic, but at the very least, he's excited to play Second Sight live, even if it means stuffing his life into a van and being unable to write for months at a time.
"We're ready to go back on the road," he says, adding with a laugh, "I can't believe that I'm saying that."
As previously reported, that will happen soon enough, as the band will embark on a Canadian tour with Stars. You can see all the dates here and stream Exclaim.ca's premiere of Second Sight here.
Read more from our recent interview with Hey Rosetta!'s Tim Baker here.