Interview by Tiffany Lam; photos by Winnie Surya. Edmonton rock band Tupelo Honey is Steve Vincent, Daniel Davidson, Tyler Dianocky, Greg Williamson and Brad Simons. In support of their new album at Canadian Music Week, Tupelo Honey joined us in Toronto for chats about touring, writing, recording and performing.
So Tupelo Honey just recently released Brave New World. How has the recording process been? I heard a bit of it was done in Toronto.
Yeah, part of it. We recorded it all over the place, actually. We did some in our rehearsal space just outside Edmonton, Alberta. Then we did some at a cabin on a lake in the middle of the woods somewhere in Northern Alberta. Did vocals in Toronto. Our house, our producer’s house, our private studios and rehearsal places. It was everywhere. But not on purpose. It was all very spread apart with months in between sometimes.
In addition to that, the music video for “These Walls” was just put out too – can you tell us a bit about the song and the video?
That was one of the really cool songs on our record because it sort of came out of nowhere. We were all in Greg’s basement and just decided to write from the ground up by starting to play instruments. A lot of the writing Dan added living lyrical ideas overtop of melodies just there, and this really cool concept came out. We just kept working with it, and then when our video director heard the song, he created this really great idea to incorporate with this story line about personal struggle and breaking through obstacles.
Using 5 words, describe who Tupelo Honey is.
Greg, Steve, Dan, Tyler, Brad… [laughs]
Nintendo, nerds, coffee, meat, beer. And burgers.
You guys have performed with big names like Bon Jovi, Three Days Grace, and Papa Roach before. How was the experience of being able to tour and open for such acts?
Over the years, it’s been a big learning curve. When we started doing those shows, we were kind of starstruck and in awe. We were just a little bit giddy and maybe not quite as professional as I think we’ve become in those scenarios, but they’re still really exciting. I love playing on a big stage in front of other people’s fans, especially if there’s tons of them. Part of the fun of playing live is trying to win people over. I think we also learned a lot about humility. A lot of those big artists… it’s so great to open for them, but what you really see is that even if they’re hugely famous, they’re working very hard themselves. It’s just as hard for them and even they very much appreciate it, so at no point did we… you know, I think our egos even got lower opening for them.
Years ago, when we played with Bon Jovi, that set the bar pretty high, but I remember they were jumping in a plane to play Brazil the next day and we were hoping in a van to go back to Cold Lake, Alberta. We were kind of bummed for a moment, but sometimes those are once in a lifetime situations and we’re pretty lucky to have something like that. We’ve been really fortunate over the years, even recently we’ve had pretty great shows.
So this isn’t exactly the first time you guys are at CMW at all, is it? How do you think this time will be different from the last?
We’ve probably been here about 8 times or so. A lot of the times we were recording while CMW was happening. Last time we were here was two years ago, and that was Brad’s first time with us. We played one of our favourite shows to date on that CMW. It was an impromptu unofficial showcase, but it was really just a party at some guy’s basement. There was 75 or 80 people maybe, all crammed in this basement, all industry people. But the basement could probably hold about 25 people, and there was one speaker that worked. We were playing right in people’s faces. It was mental. An old school punk show.
What has been a really rewarding or memorable moment for Tupelo Honey?
A fond memory was in 2005, we won Canadian Music Week’s Xtreme Bandslam competition, which was a national competition. We came in and we were lucky enough to take the prize that year, against State of Shock.
What is your favourite part about being on the road?
Now we’re playing a little bit more strategically with generally taking more of the big money gigs or the big people gigs, which has been an interesting shift for us – from being in our early 20s and just jumping in the van and doing whatever. I think my favourite part about playing shows now is that we are trying to have a plan instead of just doing them. We’ve been getting lots of grants to try and support ourselves with content and marketing plans. We’re being more selective and trying to pick our spots wisely. Quality over quantity, basically.
When you guys are blocked on songwriting, how do you guys get inspired?
It’s a pretty dynamic process. I don’t think there’s necessarily one set way that you can approach it. Sometimes, for example like “These Walls”, we just got in the basement, had one riff going, and just started playing. That was one approach that kind of helps. I think changing locations is really helpful too, we went all over the place. Sometimes you can’t force it so find a new environment. The songs turn out differently than you ever thought. When we were first working on These Walls, the original demo of the song sounds significantly different than what ended up on the record. It’s neat to see that process. It’s cool to see something start from somewhere small and build when you add production to it.
Individually, what are your biggest music guilty pleasures? Maybe some artists you guys listen to that might not exactly be expected.
Brad: I just downloaded Krewella, which is totally different from our music.
Dan: I love 90s hip-hop. LOVE. A lot.
Steve: Recently I was listening to a lot of 80s metal.
Greg: I’m totally guilty of listening to some 80s stuff, more like Frozen Ghost or something. 80s power rock songs. I’ve also been known to put on some girl pop… like Michelle Branch.
Tyler’s ipod is the soundtrack to the most bizarre horror movies / circus. Everything from crazy death metal to ripping banjo solos to the Muppet theme song. It’s full of theme songs.
Where do you guys hope to travel and tour next?
We met with a bunch of Germans today, a couple good meetings with some German promoters. Maybe next summer we’ll look at shows over there or something. Definitely always wanted to make our way overseas, so that would be a huge goal for us.
Last question, a little similar to the last, what are some Future plans for Tupelo honey?
Well, we gotta put out another single soon so we’re trying to figure out what video we want to shoot. We also received another grant to do some more recording, so maybe we’ll get some writing on the road a little bit.