Three Canadians walk into a recording studio …

Ryan Dahle of supergroup Mounties takes the hit single from spark to stage

(Left to right) Ryan Dahle, Steve Bays and Hawksley Workman

Rebecca Blisset

Think of a song as a living entity. From a fragmented tune hummed in the shower or stumbled through on a guitar, to a sparkling of green and red lights on a soundboard to a tangible work in vinyl etching and finally to vibrant noise blasted through amps and bouncing off walls, a song is constantly in flux.

CanRock supergroup Mounties - formed after a chance meeting at the 2009 Juno awards between singer/songwriter Hawksley Workman, Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat and Ryan Dahle of Limblifter and Age of Electric - takes this jazz-inspired notion to their catchy rock rhythms.

“Your memory dictates how complicated or how interesting things can be,” Dahle says over the phone from his home in Vancouver, where he’s on his way to the studio after a walk along the sea wall. “When you’re spontaneously recording and writing you don’t have any limitations that way. You’re not thinking of how you’re going to perform it live or what parts are easy to remember.”

An improv-based creative process appears to be working for the band, which after a two-week-long jam session-style stint in the recording studio released their debut single “Headphones” last year to critical praise and mass hype, not to mention a charming found footage video by Bays, featuring the “squelettes” from Telefrancais.

The success was further fuelled by the release of Thrash Rock Legacy via Light Organ Records in March of this year, followed by a tour playing big outdoor festivals and small hole-in-the-wall clubs. Mounties also applies the spontaneous, jamming sensibility to the stage, making for an inspired live performance feeding the energy of the audience as well as the band.

“That has always been our goal in the way that Led Zeppelin would push the boundaries of a song after they had recorded it and started touring it,” Dahle explains. “That’s where we’ve gotten now which is much more exciting than trying to remember what you’ve recorded.”

With everyone in the band highly attune to each other and to the nuances of the music, the musicians can expand on the songs which allows every show to be slightly different. Musical expertise isn’t the only factor to the 2014 SiriusXM Indies Emerging Artists of the Year’s success, as all three Mounties have vast production experience and fine tuned ears.

“That’s definitely a benefit we all have,” Dahle says. “All three of us are are really listening to one another so not much gets by us. It’s a great situation in that way.”

Dahle’s self-professed obsession with the production and engineering side of things has led to him working with many music industry greats, one of whom is Grammy winner and American master engineer Bob Ludwig. 

“Getting to watch Ludwig master records really influenced me and made me realize how much the final step is connected to the initial spark of writing and recording a song,” Dahle says. “It’s important to keep the whole process in mind.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 14 of The Uniter (December 3, 2014)

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