Published Mar 01, 2013Sometimes finding the right people to record with is pretty easy and all you need to do is ask. This is what Montreal's Leif Vollebekk learned when it came time to put together his second full-length, North Americana. Convinced that he wanted to recreate the same texture and sounds as a Sigur Rós album, Vollebekk skimmed some liner notes and found engineer Tom Gloady.
"I saw his name in the liner notes for Sigur Rós and Ryan Adams' Jacksonville City Nights," Vollebekk tells Exclaim! "So I wrote him an email and asked if he could do a session and he was like 'sure.'"
And just like that, Gloady signed on to help on a few tracks, which took Vollebekk to New York, one of three places North Americana would take shape (the other two being Montreal and a brief session in France).
"I don't understand, it's kind of how everything worked on this record," Vollebekk says, of his luck finding the perfect players. "It's just weird that anybody you ask will say yes.
"Nobody knows who I am! It was a lovely lesson that life can just help you out sometimes if you just put your hand out."
Thanks to characters like Gloady, violinist Sarah Neufeld (Arcade Fire, Bell Orchestre), and his newly-formed backing band, North Americana took on a "dusty, rough around the edges" texture that takes an acoustic guitar album beyond its confining walls. Songs feel fuller and more layered than his 2010 debut, Inland, and its live-to-tape aesthetic really added a depth that Vollebekk craved.
"I knew tape would be different and I find it really magical," Vollebekk says. "I know some engineers might say that it's just psychological, but it's huge and it changes how you approach everything; there are no computer screens to look at."
Prone to comparisons to the likes of Bob Dylan, Vollebekk admits that his recording approach does create a very nostalgic sound that harkens back to the '70s. Some of his obsessions while recording included Dylan, Lou Reed and especially Neil Young's On the Beach.
At the end of a session, though, all Vollebekk was looking for was a feeling, something in his gut telling him a take was perfect. "It was just a feeling," Vollebekk explains. "There will be mistakes and maybe things out of tune, but good records always have those ridiculously bad moments and when you listen to it a bunch of times, it becomes your favourite thing. So it didn't matter if there was a mistake, but it was just the feeling. It's like when you listen to a Rolling Stones album, it's all feel, all the time and you just feel amazing. Not that we sound like them, but you've got to find something that feels good."