On the Record: Steve Haley on Banded Stilts’ Little Village

Banded Stilts are coming (back) to town this week, for the Lawnya Vawnya Festival. It’s a band fronted by Steve Haley, a solid Newfoundland songwriter who moved away a few years ago. Their latest album boasts a unique brand of folk with the best parts of other genres borrowed and build into the songs as well. This amazing song, “The Squid and the Ghost Town,” should definitely be on the next playlist you make:

You can catch Banded Stilts, or at least Steve, three ways this week:
Saturday at 2 pm — Fred’s Records
Saturday at 11PM — The Ship Pub (with Nick Ferrio / Rube & Rake)
Sunday 2PM — Solo show, as part of a music crawl (with Snowblink & The Burning Hell)

If I made you pick a favourite song off the album, which would you pick? Any reason why?

I would go with “Out on the Sea.” It’s one of those songs that I wrote in one sitting in a very short period of time and was completely satisfied with it. It didn’t betray me like other songs that you hate the next day.  It’s also a very personal song for me. Both my beautiful grandmother and a very dear friend of mine were going through cancer treatment at the same time, and it really had me dwelling on mortality. As human beings, we all plod around, getting through life one day at a time, and it’s hard to imagine that at any second our lives could drastically change, we could be in over our heads and lost.

And if I let you pick another favourite?

“Gloria.” I really enjoy the narrative of this song. It’s about a woman who has a reputation for being quite promiscuous around town and who has, supposedly, been wrecking homes and seducing men. She drowns and we’re left to wonder whether she was killed and had it coming to her or whether she was misunderstood and tainted by the rumour mill of a small town. I also love the simplicity of the track musically. It’s one of the more stripped down tunes with just piano, violin, acoustic guitar and harmonies, and we were completely happy with the end result.

Is there a song on here that’s a little different for you, or that you questioned including?

There isn’t a song that we questioned including but, “Wading Bird” is the tune that’s a little different for us and is musically different than the rest of the album.  It’s a slow piano ballad that builds into a speedy little pop tune.  Love the unique drum take on this track too.

Which one of these songs came out the hardest or was the longest in the crafting? Why?

I know I said above that I was completely satisfied with Out on the Sea, well that song evolved quite a bit in the studio. I originally played it a little slower and envisioned more of a laid back country vibe. Well, our engineer/sometime bandmate/close friend, Don Mackay suggested a different, tighter groove with an organ addition, harder hitting drums and a violin melody. Don also suggested we cut a chorus out of the song and Marc Fagan came out of left field with a dreamy delayed solo at the end of the track. So by the time the track was finalized, it felt like something cool and different.

Share a random fact about one of your songs on this album, or the album itself.

The album cover is actually a photo of my grandparents’ village of origin, Grole. It’s located in Hermitage Bay and was one of the countless communites resettled in the 60s in rural Newfoundland.

Name one influence on your approach to songwriting – whether it be a musician or a goal you have in crafting a song.

Telling a story is probably my main goal. I really love crafting little narratives. I feel like a song has the potential to tell a kind of poetic short story and I personally love when stories are  ambiguous, open-ended and open to interpretation.

What’s a new album you’ve been loving lately?

I’ve been really digging Dog Day’s newest release, Fade Out. This is an amazing Halifax based band that I’ve dug for a long time. They’ve been at it awhile and have yet to release a dud. Check out “Joyride.”

Speaking of Dogs, I’m also digging Dr. Dog’s newest album, B-Room.

And if I lit your album collection on fire, what’s one album you’d think to save first?

The Band’s live double LP, Rock of Ages. To me, this is the definitive live album from The Band. Beats out The Last Waltz. For god’s sake, Garth plays a 6 or 7 minute organ-only tune that functions as an intro to Chest Fever.

There are many ways to evaluate a song. But for you, what’s one trait that makes a great song a great song? Name a song you love that fits that bill.

I want to be able to revisit a song over and over and get something different from it each time. Whether I hear a subtle instrument or harmony in the recording, or I’m able to re-interpret the lyrics or perhaps  the mood and feel of the song changes for me. I feel like Dylan is the master of this. Everything off of Blood on the Tracks would fit the bill and I would try to save that record from your merciless album fire as well.

Other than music, name something else you love.

Besides the complete and unconditional love I have for my wife and kid, I’m a huge comic book fanboy. Heading to the comic shop on Wednesdays is the only thing that can get me more excited than a new album or a live show.  Im just as excited for the comic book Saga to return as I am for Michael Feuerstack’s new record to drop.

 

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