Let’s start this off with a quick phone conference I had with The Once band members, Geraldine Hollett, Phil Churchill and Andrew Dale the night before their show.
Prior to getting into any real interview style questions, I chatted briefly with Geraldine about her flight from St. John’s Newfoundland as she preceded to her hotel room and met up with the other two band members. And before Andrew or Phil were present I was able to ask the following of Geraldine-
SC: I have been to Newfoundland a couple times myself. My last trip there I spent a couple weeks on the peninsula and some time in Gros Morne as well. It’s beautiful and I can see that being a source of a lot of inspiration. Where do you get yours?
Geraldine: Being away from home and family seems to be where a lot of the inspiration is. And the older you get the more crappy things happen, like things happen to people and teaching you how to live harder and enjoy more and a lot of our inspiration comes from everyday livin’. Just livin’.
I’m assuming we get a lot of influence from the sea …so there is a lot of influences there as well. It’s like meditation – it just pulls you away, it’s great.
SC: The name of the EP release, ‘We Win Some We Lose’. What helped you come up with the name?
Geraldine: You always seem to be getting ahead, but there is always something that will knock you down. Its the addiction of it too … you know it’s going to be great even though it’s going to be crap.
This definitely sets the tone perfectly for the feeling I got when I first tried to understand on my own, why they would name the EP the way they did. Some of the banter in between songs during their performance, also reflect some of this gritty feeling as well.
Enter Phil and Andrew-
SC: When I first heard your music a few years ago I was immediately attracted to the very outgoing east coast vibe you had in some of your songs. Some of that still persists, but the music seems a bit more serious or is it just me?
Phil: Lyrically, it’s absolutely more serious just because we are getting older and living more. And the more you do of that, the more serious things happen. But musically, we tried to make it a little more playful and a little bit more fun.
Phil then proceeded to explain the different instruments they would try in the process of making it playful, including a 16″ keyboard designed for kids. This lead to my next question-
SC: I always hear an assortment of instruments in your music – for each of you, what’s your favourite instrument to play?
Phil: I like playing the violin, mostly because I’m terrible at it.
Geraldine: I don’t really play a lot of …stuff and I think the shaker is the only specialty instrument that I play.
SC: Phil, I think you are playing with Ashley MacIsaac in your show on Saturday, right?
Geraldine: (to Phil) Did you bring your fiddle?
Phil: No. And I never will.
We’ve played with him before …it’s exciting every time.
He is staggeringly flawless, almost to a weird degree.
SC: “Blood Inside Your Heart” is definitely my favourite song on the new release. What’s yours?
Geraldine: That’s a beautiful song; I love that one too. Pretty powerful.
At this point I really wanted to know what else they planned on releasing given their latest only contained 5 original tracks (and two live).
Phil mentions that they are going to release another EP that would tie in with this one and that he really likes the EP format that allows them to be more expressive and not so worried about trying to jam a bunch of songs together into a single theme.
Geraldine furthered this answer by stating they have done some writing up to this point and will be taking the additional winter months to do some more, with inspiration from the likes of Fleetwood Mac and “old country”.
When asked where one could buy their latest EP, We Win Some We Lose – The Once couldn’t praise Fred’s Records in Corner Brook enough. It appears to be one of the few remaining record stores around with an online presence, a great local community of supporters and an assortment of independent Newfoundland locals pouring in new releases on a regular basis. Check them out at FredsRecords.com.
In parting, I asked them if they had any plans for upcoming tours and where we might be able to see them next-
Geraldine: We are in discussion about getting in to the United States and getting over to Europe as quick as possible. In the meantime, we will get some Canadian dates and spend some time in the studio so we can get out the 2nd EP.
Currently, the only remaining date that is posted is a circumnavigation cruise (around the island of Newfoundland) in June. Which, in all honestly, looks like a lot of fun.
I am so used to seeing and experiencing blood pumping, bass shuddering live music that this was a well received reprieve. This performance played more to my heart, inspired the soul and left me wanting for more.
Don’t get me wrong, I often listen to this style of music at home and in the car, but to hear it live was a treat.
There were humorous analogies that had the audience chuckling between a couple of the songs about aging, taxes and generally, living life.
As Phil mentioned when I was speaking with him earlier, “…being dark is easy”. With that in mind they performed, ‘The Nameless Murderess’, from their release Departures and the song from their new EP, ‘Last Lemonade’. Both are dark, but at the same time have an edge of playfulness in them as well.
The fun comes with a little more work it seems, but it’s definitely there.
The one song that I can say I will not forget from this performance was Charlie’s. It clearly came from the heart and was preceded by a story of near loss and a miraculous rescue of Geraldine’s own father while out doing what Newfoundlanders do- fishing the seas. Similarly described by Phil when asked about Ashley MacIsaac, the song was sung beautifully; flawlessly.
“Sonny’s Dream”, written by Ron Hynes, was performed with much of the audience singing along. Given that the audience was asked earlier in the performance how many of them were from Newfoundland and nearly a third of them cheered – so it would seem, unbeknownst to me and slightly embarrassed for not knowing it, this jig is a staple in that part of the country.
By the end of the show, all I could really think of was how much I miss the sea and wondering if I should book a weekend to St. John’s in the Spring.
The show closed with two standing ovations and The Once did not disappoint by closing up with a final song, “Nothing Compares To You” by Sinead O’Connor (written by Prince).
I will, without a doubt, be looking for them on the never ending music festival rosters and any solo performances in the years to come. What an amazing show; I can’t wait for the next one.
For more information about The Once check them out online at www.theonce.ca