Published Oct 10, 2013Experimental West Coast folk crew Siskiyou had to take a health-related hiatus last year during the promotional cycle for their impressive 2011 set Keep Away the Dead, but the band are happily reporting that they'll have a follow-up ready sometime in 2014.
Speaking with Exclaim!, vocalist-guitarist Colin Huebert confirms that the band spent much of September tracking new tunes at Vancouver's Afterlife studio. Though details are still shaping up behind the record, Huebert co-produced the as-yet-untitled album's 13 songs with Leon Taheny (Final Fantasy, Dusted).
Before the band began work on the LP, though, Huebert had to take time off from the band due to nerve-related damage that has affected the right side of his head. While the songwriter was disappointed his condition prevented him from promoting Keep Away the Dead, he knew that he had to take a break before his condition got worse.
"I cancelled a couple of festivals, as well as a European tour, and haven't played live since," Huebert explains. "It's a bit of a bummer to have to stop in your tracks, yes, but when it comes to your health, I think you just have to put that first. There's no enjoyment in being on tour when you're sick, especially when it is more of a nebulous kind of thing like what I am dealing with."
His sabbatical came to an end during a solo journey up to Dawson, YK, where he spent a month prepping the song cycle on an eight-track recorder. Once he returned to Vancouver, he hooked up with bassist Peter Carruthers and drummer Shaunn Watt to flesh out the material, which is apparently "less 'folky' and a little more 'groovy'" than past work.
"I think when you try to build up songs with just a rhythm section, you naturally end up focusing more on the groove and less on the melodic details."
Longtime partner Erik Arnesen returned to the fold in the studio, following time spent promoting Great Lake Swimmers' New Wild Everywhere, flying in from Ontario to help track the LP. The album is also the first from Siskiyou to feature In Medias Res's Andrew Lee as a permanent member, though he had contributed pedal steel to Keep Away the Dead.
"Erik and Andrew work great together," Huebert says of the new band dynamic. "They're both pretty into gear and so can head down that rabbit hole pretty easily, and seemingly contentedly. Basically Andrew played guitar on two of the songs and Erik played guitar on the rest."
He adds, "Erik's general pattern is to just show up and fill in any holes that we leave. We just kind of left him in another room with a group of amplifiers and took him completely out of our headphone mixes. He could do whatever he wanted and we wouldn't hear any of it, sometimes for days, while we were working on bed tracks."
Another past Siskiyou collaborator due to make an appearance is Colin Stetson, who will lay down horns and woodwinds, while additional sting arrangements are also in the works.
Though Siskiyou have put a lot of legwork into the album, it may not appear for quite some time. The band aren't in a hurry to pump out a release, and Huebert has more important health matters to attend to in the meantime anyhow.
"I'm guessing the album will come out sometime in the early autumn of 2014," Huebert says. "No real need to rush it on my end. I'm following a couple of leads with my health right now and if either of them end up being successful, then I'd love to play some shows. After a year and a half of searching though, it seems less and less likely you're going to find some clean-cut end, but I've still got some hope."