For over a decade, Sam Roberts has been the face of mainstream Canadian rock, but when it came time to record his new album, Lo-Fantasy, he decided to take things in a different direction, recruiting the help of critically acclaimed producer Youth (the Orb, the Verve) to create a dancefloor-ready mix of groove-inflected rock tunes.
"We wanted to make a dance-oriented record — a rhythmic record — from the beginning," Roberts tells Exclaim! "That's why I gravitated towards him. He's been involved in electronic music basically since its inception. Here was a guy who was going to dredge that out of the songs in some way."
After a week of pre-production in early February 2013, the band stepped into the studio with Youth in May of that year to record the album live off the floor. With the bulk of material being recorded in just 12 days, Roberts says the studio sessions were able to perfectly capture the immediacy of the band's new songs while maintaining their dance vibe, which he says was predominantly inspired by the work of Spiritualized, Fela Kuti and Primal Scream.
"These are the bands that I draw from — the kind of palette — and it's a very broad spectrum," he says. "All of a sudden I didn't have to explain that anymore, and I've always had to explain that in some way."
At Youth's own El Mirador Studio in Spain, the studio whiz also joined forces with club producer Eddie Banda and Andrew Weatherall to create a set of dub-inspired remixes for the album's deluxe edition.
While Roberts acknowledges the whole process may sound out of character for the radio-ready rock group, he's quick to point out that their partnership with Youth resulted in one of their most clear and ambitious albums to date.
"He didn't just say 'I'm a record producer,' he said, 'I'm your record producer. I can't just take this at face value. I have to challenge you on this.' And that was the M.O. for the entire record. I had a very clear idea, but he just took those ideas and he put each and every one of them to the test."
Lo-Fantasy is out now through Universal Music Canada. The album will also be seeing release in the U.S. and Europe through Paper Bag Records.
Check out the band's upcoming North American tour itinerary below.
02/15 Montreal, QC – Lion D'or
02/19 Allston, MA – Great Scott
02/21 Philadelphia, PA – World Café Live
02/22 Washington, DC – The Rock N Roll Hotel
03/01 Quebec City, Quebec – Imperial De Quebec
03/17 San Diego, CA – The Casbah
03/19 San Francisco, CA – The Chapel
03/21 Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern
03/22 Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
03/25 St. Paul, MN – Turf Club
03/26 Chicago, IL – Subterranean
03/28 Grand Rapids, MI – The Stache at the Intersection
04/11 Sarnia, ON – The Stubborn Mule
04/12 Hamilton, ON – Hamilton Place Studio
08/08-10 Squamish, BC – Squamish Music Festival
Read an interview with Sam Roberts here.