It's the summer of 2017. I live in a hovel in Hull, Québec, and pay $200 a month in rent. Next door to my office space in Ottawa is the Little Bullhorn recording studio, owned and operated by Dave Draves, in a shed in his back yard. We become friends while mixing my second record, Amateur (the 2018 version).
Dave cuts a key to his studio and asks me to house-sit for a week while he and his family go on vacation. I feed the children's cats, gerbils, guinea pigs, fish—I think I remember a dog and a lizard—and several other members of the animal kingdom. I play Dave's century-old grand piano incessantly. I pilfer chocolate chips from the well-stocked pantry, courtesy of Dave's wife, Melanie.
My friend Yolande comes by one night; I've invited her to try out the grand. We smoke some weed and fool around in the studio for three hours; she noodling on the piano, I attempting to augment and accompany her performance, mostly to its detriment. At some point in the evening I set up a microphone and hit record.
Three years later, deep in the throes of first-wave quarantine, I dig through my hard drives (those who have read the story for Amateur's 2020 re-release will notice a theme), and find the recording of our stoned evening of play. I put it on in the background while I'm working, puttering around, and making dinner, and become attached to certain sections of the performance. What would often be considered "mistakes" count among my favourite moments.
I send two of the tracks to Montréal jazz heavyweights Mili Hong and Eli Davidovici, asking them to improvise along with Yolande's piano, keeping their mistakes in tact. They do as requested, and I'm presented with a Monk-esque trio for "Meanwhile..." and "Bug's Bounce" (named after Yolande's skittery chihuahua, Bug). I ask saxophonist Dustin Finer to do the same; this becomes the equal parts nautical and intestinal "Cat Soup." I find myself singing bucolic Alpine nonsense; this becomes "Wait for Me." Harpist Marie Hamilton channels Miyazaki end-credit feelings for the title track, "No Hiding."
So, a record emerges. On a warm fall afternoon in 2020, laying on a hill overlooking Montréal's Jarry Park, I inform Yolande of my secret record, of which she is the star performer. She knows me well enough not to be too surprised.
We decide to donate all of the record's anticipatedly meagre profits to the Canadian Roots Exchange, a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth working towards cultural reconciliation through exchanges, workshops, conferences, and leadership training across Canada. There's no thematic tie-in, we just thought they were doing good work. If you spend money on this record, it will go to them.
I'd like to thank all of the musicians for their generous sharing of talents and ideas, but more importantly, for their trust in my strange vision. I'm grateful to have been tasked with shepherding this music into maturity, and I hope you'll enjoy what it became.
released December 28, 2020
Yolande Laroche - piano
Eli Davidovici - bass
Mili Hong - drums
Dustin Finer - saxophone
Isaac Vallentin - voice
Marie Hamilton - harp