Autumn Musk: An Interview with RED CEDAR

I caught up with Red Cedar in a dodgy white van and posed a few questions…

Backstage Vancouver: My first question is for Colin. How do you feel when you’re playing the bass or keys for another band, and you’re watching the drummer? Do you pay attention to the way other people play the drums?
Colin: With good drummers, no. With Graham [Jones of Yukon Blonde], I don’t particularly pay atttention to the drums, it’s just so awesome. With Christopher Smith I play bass, and Shaunn [Watt of Red Cedar] plays the drums, and I don’t particularly listen to the drums. I find it really nerve-wracking to play other instruments sometimes, so I’m pretty much lost in it.

And now for a bold question, so a bold answer is encouraged (and I’m not going to judge you). In your opinion, who is the best band in Canada?
Shaunn: Black Mountain.
Decisive. I like it.
Shaunn: Well, in BC. Locally? Local is a very tough one. Caribou.
Colin: Caribou, yeah.
Andy: Caribou are super awesome.
Shaunn: Yukon Blonde!
Colin: Yeah, Yukon Blonde. They’re super great.
Andy: And so good-looking!

Which bands inspired you in your journey from the formation of Red Cedar to now?
All: Grizzly Bear, Fleet Foxes, Sleepy Sun, Neil Young.
Shaunn: I think those four are pretty solid…
All: BJM [Brian Jonestown Massacre].
Shaunn: I think that really sums up all those bands right there.
Andy: All ten of them. We’re an amalgamation of sound.
JP: Some local bands, like Ladyhawk, Black Mountain, No Horses.
Shaunn: There are a lot of bands that we’ve [musically] grown  up with, in this incarnation of the band, that have really influenced us. Some of them aren’t around anymore but they’ve totally influenced us.
Colin: We’ve looked up to them, definitely.

If I had to describe your music in genres, I’d say that half of your music is country-tinged indie folk, and the other half is post-folk-rock.
Shaunn: POST-folk rock! That one’s crazy. Wow.

I thought I’d start trade-marking the genres I come up with. Are these the musical directions of Red Cedar now?
JP: Sure?
Andy: I guess so. We try not to think about it, it seems like a natural progression of the music. We’ve all played in different bands, and played a lot of different kinds of music, and I think it’s really an amalgamation of all of that.
Colin: It just naturally comes.
Shaunn: It has changed a lot from when we started.

That’s true, I haven’t seen you play in about a year, and it’s very different.
Shaunn: Yeah, there was a BIG difference back then. It still sounds like us, but we’ve just gotten really used to playing together.
Colin: It’s a very organic process, and the new material that we write really just evolved that way as we played more and more together. A lot of jamming.
JP: We all listen to different kinds of music and we all listen to similar kinds of music, everyone brings something to the table.

Which is great, because Colin is the one who introduced me to post-rock, so thank you.
JP: I don’t think that you could find a band that our band doesn’t listen to.
Andy: We’re all pretty musically open.
Shaunn: We’re huge music dorks, and the more and more we play together, the more cohesive our music becomes.
Andy: We started with a sound that was kind of like putting our feet in the water, and as the last couple of years have gone by we’ve really gelled and come up with something that’s OUR sound, instead of trying to find it or trying to write a certain way. Everything just kind of came together.
Shaunn: There’s a difference between wanting to sound like something and just sounding the way you are because you’re playing together, and I think it’s a lot more fulfilling in a lot of ways.
JP: It’s happening now.
Shaunn: It’s happening now, it’s really…
Colin: It’s just come together.
Shaunn: We’ve all been saying that too, that our sets have a certain flow to them. We put a lot of time and energy into… we pick apart a set, and the sequencing, trying new things and choosing what works.
Colin: We try them out, just creating an overall mood, as a whole.
Andy: Creating an atmosphere, you know? Not just having people be at the show, but really creating an experience for them, so they can really enjoy it.
Shaunn: It’s not a singles contest, where you’re just banging out song after song and they’re completely unrelated, playing a three-minute slot and then switching to something else. We want it to be this bigger picture.
JP: Ideally, we could just play one long song.
Andy: In ten years time, you will come and do this interview again, and that’s all we’ll do. We’ll make it work.
Shaunn: Ideally, in a perfect world.

Andy, you’re going on tour with Yukon Blonde!
Andy: Yeah, they needed a bass player to fill in. I live with Graham [Jones] the drummer, and Colin and Bruce here. He asked me on a whim and I was like “Oh man, I don’t think I can do that.” Then I went to a staff meeting and I’m sitting there at work, and after about an hour I looked around and thought, Man, why the hell not? I walked out of that meeting knowing I was going to go on tour.
Shaunn: They’re famous, they’re the bees knees!
Colin: Huge.
Shaunn: And they busted their butts.
Colin: They’re real hard-working guys and they’ve played together for years.
Shaunn: The real deal.
Andy: I’ve known Jeff [Innes of Yukon Blonde] since we were kids, we grew up together in Peachland a long, long time ago, and known each other for ten years or something. It was kind of neat that we ran into each other and it all kind of worked out. The first show he ever saw was my first band. It’s funny though, I feel like I’m switching to punk when I play with [Yukon Blonde], because it’s so fast and different.
Shaunn: You go from one extreme to another.
Colin: And they’ve made so many friends in every city, I went over to the island with them and they knew all of the musicians we ran into.
Shaunn: Because they’re beauties.
Colin: This is what they do every night, they sit in this van and drink with people.
Andy: That explains the beer cans everywhere! And the funky smell. That’s hard work you’re smelling right now.
Shaunn: Thousands of miles.
Andy: That’s the smell of Canada. Four times, coast to coast.
We need to bottle it.
Andy: Call it a musk. Yukon Blonde: Autumn Musk. There we go.

My last question is for JP. Do you ever wear plaid?
Colin: No.
JP: Yeah, I had some on tonight, but I took it off.
Boo, I thought it was a rebellion!
JP: No, no.

I love the purple Converse shoes, though. I told my photographer that he HAD to get a picture of your shoes, and he spent half the set doing it!
JP: Oh, thank you!
Shaunn: Oh, were we all wearing plaid tonight? Shit!

My photographer was telling me that he used to be a lumberjack who would legitimately wear plaid, and then he came here and everyone wears it. Posers all.
Shaunn: All these West Coast kids.
JP: Yeah, I do wear plaid.
Andy: Well, I grew up in The Great North. We were taught at a young age to cut trees. At age five, we came down from The Northern Plains…
Shaunn: I have all plaid, but we just can’t avoid it anymore. It’s the way it is.
Colin: We’ve stopped giving a shit, calling each other up and asking “What are you wearing?” That doesn’t happen.
Shaunn: Band shirts are a big issue.
JP: We all like the same bands, so at least two of us will own the same shirt of one band or another. I got a new Sleepy Sun shirt today, it’s green and none of you guys have it.
Shaunn: The tour one, with the crazy women?
JP: No, an island with a sun coming up, and all these eyes, and none of you guys have it.
Colin: That’s awesome.
Shaunn: So band shirts are really a big issue.
Colin: We’ve definitely played shows with two BJM shirts.
Andy: But they’re pretty much the best band in the world. Represent what we like.

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