Mix Pick Sappyfest: Olympic Symphonium shake it up on new album

The Sackville, N.B. festival SappyFest  always puts quality above quantity and with this year’s lineup, they’re proving our point.  The 2014 lineup includes Banded Stilts, Basia Bulat, Bry Webb, Constantines, Cool, Cousins, Dusted, Duzheknew, El Ron Maltan, Eons, Freelove Fenner, The Grubbies, Joyfultalk, Julie Doiron, Michael Feuerstack, Moon, Motherhood, Nick Ferrio, The Olympic Symphonium, Ought, PS I Love You, Rae Spoon, Shotgun & Jaybird, Spencer Burton, The Weather Station, Weird Lines and Wet Denim. Sure Outkast aren’t playing, but Canadian indie music fans have to be excited about reunion shows for Constantines and Shotgun & Jaybird.

When it comes to The Olympic Symphonium, an indie-folk band from Fredericton, N.B., naming what instrument each band member plays would be a pointless task because they’re constantly trading instruments and handing off lead vocal duties.  The band’s core members, Nick Cobham, Kyle Cunjak and Graeme Walker, show off what it truly means to be “multi-instrumentalists”. When Mixtape chatted with the band before a show in Halifax, they were joined by lap-steel player Dennis Goodwin and drummer Bob Deveau.

Earlier this year, the band released their fourth album Chance To Fate. The album was in the mastering stages last summer, but the band waited until the spring to release the album, choosing the path of patience rather than releasing it in the winter and potentially having to cancel album release shows, which has happened in the past.

A band of singer songwriters

Surprisingly, Chance To Fate feels like a cohesive album despite having four different songwriters contributing to the album, with songs from Cobham, Cunjak, Walker and Goodwin.

“With four people writing tunes, filling up an album is pretty quick. It doesn’t take too much time if everybody brings two or three songs to the table. It’s a bit liberating as there’s no pressure,” says Cunjak.

Distance presents a challenge for the band as not all members live in one city so a lot of songwriting is done independently before coming together.

“When we get together to write new songs, each of us comes with a song ready and written and then we just work on that and everybody adds their parts,” says Cobham.

It’s almost like the foundation for a song is laid and then each member builds their own part into it. While the original songwriter may have ideas for what other band members parts should be, typically they are allowed to do what they want. The band did try songwriting together once before, but both Cobham and Cunjak say it was a terrible experience.

Bringing in outside help

The Olympic Symphonium’s previous three albums were self-produced. For Chance To Fate, the band brought in Forward Music label-mate Joshua Van Tassel to handle production and mastering duties.

“It was kind of scary. We know Josh’s work and trust him, but at the same time, when you’re used to recording by yourself and with your buddies, it’s kind of scary to have somebody touch your stuff and fiddle with it,” says Cobham.

“That’s why you get someone else to work on it. Hopefully they’ll do things that you wouldn’t or else what’s the point?,” says Cunjak.

Van Tassel did all the production work remotely, never physically working with the band. There was lots of conversing through emails and sending music back and forth. The band decided to go with him as a producer after hearing a remix of an older Olympic Symphonium tune he did.

“He turned (the tune) into this really different kind of thing that we thought was really complementary, so we decided to get him to try it with the new album,” says Cunjak.

Despite a new and strange experience, the band had a lot of “woah” and “okay, that’s amazing” moments and were happy with the results.

“Runner Road” is a song from Chance To Fate written by Kyle Cunjak. The video was recorded at Sonic Temple in Halifax, N.S. on May 3 where the band played a show a long with Jennah Barry.

Photo: Supplied
Video: Filmed by Nicole Feriancek, edited by Jonathan Briggins

About Jonathan Briggins 69 Articles
Editor-in-chief of Mixtape magazine.