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100 Mile House stops in for recording session

DIY; it’s very in among the homeowner set these days. Do It Yourselfers can be found patching walls, renovating bathrooms, putting down flooring; big box stores everywhere are dedicated to DIYers.
100 Mile House plays Communitea Caf
100 Mile House plays Communitea Caf

DIY; it’s very in among the homeowner set these days.

Do It Yourselfers can be found patching walls, renovating bathrooms, putting down flooring; big box stores everywhere are dedicated to DIYers.

In the music business, DIY is becoming more prevalent as the industry has moved from a few big labels in charge of a few big bands to a proliferation of indie bands who take pride in doing everything themselves.

In Edmonton, 100 Mile House (the folk band, not the B.C. town) has really embraced the DIY method of getting tunes on plastic. After releasing an EP in England in 2008, prior to pulling up stakes and moving to the Alberta capital, 100 Mile recorded its first full-length effort, from fall to fall (2009), in the hottest apartment in Edmonton, according to Peter Stone.

Stone (vocals, guitar), wife Denise MacKay (vocals, guitar), strings guy Scott Zubot (violin, mandolin) and newcomers tom Murray (bass) and Ty Armstrong (drums), play Communitea Café in Canmore, May 29.

The Communitea show will wrap up a short tour in support of the band’s latest release, hollow ponds, which was released in Stone and MacKay’s home.

Edmonton parlour folk duo The Awesomehots will open for 100 Mile.

In keeping with their DIY philosophy, hollow ponds was recorded, “in the shed, in the garage, in different parts of the house,” said Stone. “For “Better, Still”, we invited 20 friends over to be our choir in the garage, then paid them in beer.

“The album has a real organic feel because it was recorded in different parts of the house. We have violin from on the stairs and all 12 tracks have a good feel.”

Recording on your own, said Stone, can have its drawbacks. On the one hand, you can take as long as you want to get your material recorded just the way you want it. But on the other hand, he said, “sometimes you just can’t seem to let it go.”

Having let hollow ponds go, though, said Stone, the five-piece has embarked on a mini tour which will carry them through Alberta and interior B.C., before passing through Canmore en route to a return to Edmonton for an official CD launch at the Empress Ale House, June 4.

hollow ponds carries a theme of escape from and return to places the couple knew when they were young, but also the hope that comes with finding a new place to call home.

The entire process of getting hollow ponds recorded, said Stone, was a frustratingly lengthy one, due to his contracting a sinus infection which resulted in a no-vocals ban for several weeks.

Having logged a few gigs prior to the Communitea show, though, is a benefit, as CBC (Key of A) will record their gig.

“We played in Edmonton last night (May 18) and we were a bit rusty,” said Stone. “But by the time we get to Canmore, it will be coming together nicely.”

Some of the songs on hollow ponds were written several years ago, when Stone and MacKay were living in London, others have been written since then. “This album has been done over a wide range of time,” he said. Typically, the couple pens 100 Mile House songs, but on the new album, Zubot wrote a string quartet piece that Stone says is his favourite.

Also new will be songs which include banjo, which Stone has been teaching himself, and a pump organ track which was recorded in MacKay’s grandparent’s home on Prince Edward Island.

“There is this beautiful pump organ in their house,” said Stone. “I heard it played years ago and thought we need to use that. When it’s played, the whole house is filled with music. So, we rented mics and recorded it for future use.”

Songwriting continues to be largely the realm of Stone and MacKay, “but everyone adds their own bit. It’s like having a picture, with someone else adding the colour. Everyone has their input and luckily, we’ve never had a strong disagreement when it comes to the songs. Even then, some tension is good as well.”

With “Better, Still”, things are really rolling, as the song earned 100 Mile House a victory in a Calgary Folk Festival Pros and Prose songwriting contest and a spot in this year’s event to perform it. Along with the gig comes a cheque for $3,000 and a $500 in-house Mix 97.7 radio session.

hollow ponds is already enjoying advance release airplay on CKUA radio. “CKUA is such an amazing station,” said Stone. “I’m not used to anything like that in the U.K. and it’s all paid for by donations; that’s amazing too.”

While 100 Mile House is attracting attention from audiences and critics alike, all members are still holding down day jobs, said Stone. “The new album is getting some buzz, which is important and we just keep plugging away. It’s (music) like a full-time job on top of your job. When you try to explain that to a non-musician, though, they don’t understand.

“You can work on something for months, then sometimes everything happens in a few weeks… You hope all the hard work pays off in the end.”


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