In The Know...Interview with The Liptonians

>> Friday, 11 February 2011

There’s no question, really. With their second outing, Let’s All March Back into the Sea, Winnipeg’s The Liptonians make a strong case for a Western Canadian Music Award nod. Their second in a row.

In 2008 the still nascent group took home the statue for Best Pop Recording from the WCMAs, earning copious attention from both fans and industry alike. This time around the fivesome – co-founders Matt Schellenberg and Bucky Driedger as well as recent acquisitions Levi Penner, Michael Jordan, and Mitch Braun – build off this initial release, offering a stylish pop record super-saturated with stimulating ideas, dynamic tempo shifts, and playful arrangements. With each additional listen revealing new and surprising sounds, Let’s All… is an undeniable, must-hear local release.

I caught up with band co-founder Matt Schellenberg this week and asked him how winning a WCMA impacted their writing/recording process; where they came across the gorgeous pictures adorning the cover and liner notes; and what/who we can expect at the big cd release bash going down this Sunday night at the WECC.

Painting over Silence: First of all, I just have to ask you: as a founding member of the Liptonians, a contributing musician with Royal Canoe, and one-half of organic synth duo Courier News, how the heck do you find the time to play in all these bands?

Matt: Schellenberg: *laughs* I don’t really. You kind of try to prioritize things as they come up, like right now I’ve been doing a lot more Liptonians than Royal Canoe. And Courier News pretty much happens whenever Alexis is in town because she’s gone a lot with Chic Gamine. It’s definitely a challenge sometimes. And I still work at Olive Garden to make some money – it’s a lot of late nights!

PoS: Shifting gears to the new album, Let’s All March Back to Sea. Where and when was the majority of the album written and recorded?

MS: Almost all the songs are a year-to-two years old. It was written at a cabin that my uncle-in-law lent to Bucky and me for awhile. It was also written at the Lipton basement – when we used to live on Lipton Street – and at our rehearsal space on Portage. So, yeah, lots of different places.

PoS: Were there any tracks that didn’t make it on the album?

MS: Oh, a bunch. We probably cut about 30 ideas or so, maybe 15 or so fully formed songs. We eventually got it down to the 10 that are on the album, plus that prelude thing.

PoS: The initial track?

MS: Yeah, exactly.

PoS: The last record won countless acclaim (including a WCMA award for best pop recording), and the band toured pretty heavily behind the release. How did these experiences impact the writing and recording process the second time around?

MS: They informed it in that we were able to get more serious about the band because of the award. It kind of made people take us more seriously when we tried to book a show and go on tour. This allowed us to change our priorities as people and devote a lot more time to try and become better songwriters to the point where, in the last two years, we’ve given up pretty much everything to try and write songs everyday or do music everyday.

It was just a hobby in 2006 to 2008 when the first record was recorded. We recorded it into the wrong end of mikes and stuff – we didn’t know what we were doing at all, and some of it you can hear on the record. It opened up an opportunity to get taken more seriously and take ourselves more seriously.

PoS: The cast of characters appearing on Let’s All… differs than the current touring lineup. Who is presently in the band?

MS: Currently we have Mitch Braun, Levi Penner, and Michael Jordan – our three new members. On the actual record is the old band: Terrell Froese, Darren Grunau, and Michael Petkau Falk.

Our band was comprised of people who viewed this as a second project. They were all songwriters themselves and wanted to take their creative projects as far as they can go, so we totally understood that since that’s what we were trying to do. As the Liptonians became more and more serious, there was less and less time for those other things. Terrell moved on to write music with his other band. Darren has taken on a more creative role with Flying Foxes and the Hunter Gatherers, and Mike is touring with Les Jupes. So everybody is in their right place.

We’re really pumped about the new band, which is, I guess, comprised a littler more of players and maybe less of songwriters. But were really excited to begin writing songs with them too because the new stuff we’ve been jamming out has been really exciting.

PoS: I wanted to ask about the second-last track “Roller Coaster.” It was originally written for the Winnipeg Free Press’s “My City, My Song” contest and was a finalist. What made “Roller Coaster” the right fit for this album?

MS: We weren’t going to actually, and then we gave all the tracks to the producer of the album, Matt Peters. He’s also our good friend and bandmate in Royal Canoe, but at that point we were just getting to know him. He picked his favourite three or four songs – most of them we weren’t planning on including – and that was one of them. He thought it was a really vibrant song and one that we should include. This made us think about it again and try to breathe new life into it, and it sounds very different than the one that was submitted to the Free Press.

PoS: And it’s one of the few tracks on the album that’s kind of driven by synths. 

MS: Yeah. It’s got a synth drum beat. It’s one of the few tracks that has a little more electronic influence. When I wrote that song I had been writing so many songs with riffs and really complicated chord structures, and I realized that so many of my favourite songs were just a couple chords and lyrics you can hold on to and a couple hooks or places of interest.

For me, it was an exercise in discipline, trying to write a simpler song that was more about the lyrics. And as you can see from how cluttered the album can be, our natural inclination is more of everything.

PoS: The album cover features a hazy photo of a shirtless man staring into the sea while the liner notes boasts varying shots of a clothed, flaxen-haired female’s backside, also gazing out toward a seemingly vast body of water. Who took these striking photos, and what made you choose them for the album design/artwork?

MS: A guy name Paul Phung, and he’s from the UK. We were just looking around on Flickr for things we thought might suit us, not too heavy handed. We didn’t want a bunch of people actually marching into the sea. We were just trying to find something that had the right flavour to it – that still referenced the sea and still had a bit of longing for something. Something a little more subtle. And these pictures ended up perfectly fitting the vibe for what we thought the album should be.

So we emailed this guy in the UK and said, “Hey, we’re a really poor band and we’d like to use your photos.” And he said, “sure just give me $50 and an album when it’s done.” So that’s what we did, and we got to use all his beautiful photos.

PoS: And finally, this Sunday night marks the official cd launch party of Lets All… at the West End Cultural Centre. Is it safe to say we can expect a lot of special guests to join us on stage?

MS: Yes, you can. We got almost all horns – we weren’t able to get the bari sax player which is really too bad since he’s awesome – but we have the trombone and trumpet. And there’ll be appearances by the old band too, doing gang vocals and stuff like that.

See and hear the Liptonians (old and new cast) this Sunday night at the West End Cultural Centre.


Jakes1223,  16 February 2011 at 16:59  

Speaking of... Royal Canoe and Boats play the Bande A Parte stage at Winnipeg's Festival du Voyageur this Sat. in St. Boniface.

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