Published Oct 19, 2011Ontario-based roots rockers Sunparlour Players delivered their third album, Us Little Devils, this week, capitalizing on the critical success made with 2007's Hymns for the Happy and 2009's Wave North. Rather than resting on their laurels, the trio have stretched out musically on Us Little Devils, with touches of electronic music and punk audible alongside their more familiar Canadiana strains. And as singer/multi-instrumentalist Andrew Penner explains to Exclaim!, the move was an intentional one.
"We are always looking for new sounds within us," he says. "There is a bit of a pop element to this record that I don't think has been there before. The sonics of it are different. It feels bigger in some way. We just wanted to push ourselves in all aspects of what we are doing. Sometimes it is just stompy and big-sounding raw stuff, other times it pulls back to quite orchestrated things."
Penner credits co-producer Chris Stringer (Timber Timbre, Ohbijou) with helping capture their sonic explorations.
"Chris was great for experimenting with sounds and pushing us in all sorts of ways. He loves hard rock and metal and experimental synths, but also bluegrass and folk," says Penner. "A lot of those things mushed together is what we sound like much of the time."
Recording with Stringer took place at the Lincoln Country Social Club in Toronto, with Penner guiding other sessions at the Bennington Schoolhouse in Zorra Township, ON (near Ingersoll). Penner and bandmates Dennis Van Dine (bass and keyboards) and Michael Rosenthal (drums) also decided to keep Us Little Devils as strictly a trio record.
"It was a conscious decision to make it just the three of us playing," says Penner. "In the past, we've had lots of guest artists, but from all the touring, we're very happy with the sound of the three of us."
Not that this is a stripped-down record. Penner is credited with playing 11 instruments, and his bandmates another eight between them. "On tour we usually have 10 to 15 instruments up there, so this was mostly stuff we naturally play."
Aside from touring, writing and recording with Sunparlour Players, Penner had a busy summer. "I performed in a show at the Stratford Festival for most of the summer, The Grapes of Wrath. I was able to write some music for it too. That was a really interesting process, working on the amazing Steinbeck story. There are a lot of themes in it that I have explored in all our records, so it was interesting that this popped up. I get to pretend I'm in a bluegrass band for some of the year."
He is also involved in a side-project, Detroit Time Machine, working with Brian Poirier of FemBots and noted Toronto artist/instrument maker Iner Souster. "We're going to be making a record using instruments Iner has made from junk and recycled material," says Penner.
But for now, Penner is looking forward to getting back on the road with Sunparlour Players. They're currently confirming their own headlining shows, and also have a handful of Ontario stops supporting the Sadies this winter.
You can see the schedule below and get Us Little Devils now on Outside Music.
10/23 Stratford, ON - Factory 163
11/25 Ottawa, ON - NAC Fourth Stage
11/29 St Catharines, ON - Mansion House *
12/1 Kingston, ON - Zappa's Lounge *
12/2 Peterborough, ON - The Red Dog*
12/3 London, ON - Call The Office*
12/4 Guelph, ON - Van Gogh's *
12/9 Hamilton, ON - The Casbah *
12/10 Toronto, ON - The Great Hall
* with the Sadies