In Features...Twilight Hotel Return Home. For A Day.

>> Wednesday, 2 February 2011

For Twilight Hotel, you can take the band out of Winnipeg, but you can’t quite take Winnipeg out of the band.

A few years back, Twilight Hotel, the folk-roots musical partnership of Brandy Zdan and Dave Quanbury, up and relocated almost a full 19 degrees south latitude from here to Austin, Texas, making them, quite possibly, the first Austin-via-Winnipeg band in existence.

“We had toured down to Austin a few times and the town just kind of caught our eye and sparked interest,” explains Brandy Zdan over the phone. “Maybe it’s the weather, the food, the culture, but there’s lots of creative stuff happening. They call it the music capital of the world – I don’t know if that’s a true thing – but it’s definitely a place that nurtures the creative soul.”

Now officially calling Austin home, Zdan and Quanbury ventured to Los Angeles in late 2009 to record a follow-up to their WCMA award-winning and Juno award-nominated debut, Highway Prayer. Joining them in studio was engineer John Whynot (Lucinda Williams, Blue Rodeo) and drummer Stephen Hodges (Tom Waits, Mavis Staples).

The studio in-time was remarkably quick, with the entire album recorded in about three days.

“We always take a lot of care in the arrangements, so that when we go into the studio we are ready. We pick our dream musicians, and we record a record,” Zdan says, before adding, “There’s definitely a magic that can happen when we’re recording live off the floor. Some of these tracks are literally the first take with the band, in that room. All you need to do is make sure you get an awesome, awesome engineer to capture that.”

The result: When The Wolves Go Blind, a record teeming with unadorned production, dusty rhythms, and those oh-so-enviable vocal harmonies, the latter made possible thanks to the one-two vocal complement of Zdan’s earthy pipes and Quanbury’s modest delivery.

Lyrically, When The Wolves Go Blind represents a decided shift in storytelling. Gone are the third-person narratives found throughout Highway Prayer; this time around, Twilight Hotel spin their introspective, thoughtful tales in first-person, an effective narrative shift that brings a further level of closeness to their already inviting stories.

“It (the narrative shift) wasn’t necessarily a conscious effort. It just kind of happened. When we moved to Austin and, even before that, we weren’t road dogging it as much and then when you take that time to reflect, that’s when you start thinking ‘what did we just do over the last few years? I think there’s some stuff inside that we can pull out and write about.’”

It’s these alluring stories that beat at the heart of the record, musings that wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for, well, the unique influence of Peg City (the feeling of returning to Winnipeg after some time on the road helped shape album standouts “Frozen Town” and “Mahogany Veneer.”).

Now that When The Wolves Go Blind has entered the world (#1 on the Earshot National Roots Chart for the second week running), Zdan and Quanbury are out and about promoting the record in full touring force, a three-month Canadian and European tour which sees the pair (joined by drummer Pat Phillips for the Canadian leg) roll through town in a few days from now.

Expect other special guests to materialize on stage, as well. Just don’t expect the band to stick around too long – they’re due in Saskatoon the next night.

“It’ll be interesting to just pass through the hometown and spend 24 hours there because we really haven’t done that before. We’ve always kind of lingered for a few days,” Zdan confesses.

“But it’s always nice to play for people who’ve seen you so many times and they can see how you’ve grown and how the songs have grown.”

Catch Twilight Hotel at the West End Cultural Centre this Friday.


Absent Sound 4 February 2011 at 14:52  

I heard them on CKUW the other day, sounds really good folks, good work.

Anonymous,  4 February 2011 at 19:49  

This feature is a nice change from "11 Questions." Not that I dislike 11 Qs...

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