Wednesday November 26, 2014

Yorkton connection for new release

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Long-time Yorkton music fans are likely to recall the band Things Better Left Unsaid from the early 2000s.

Well two of the members of that one-time Yorkton band has been back in the studio.

Brothers Byron and Evan Chambers, now living in Regina, have a new band The Third Alarm, and a new disk.

Evan is the guitarist and vocalist, with brother Byron on bass, and Eric Mazden on drums.

“We’ve been together as a trio probably since about 2009,” said Byron Chambers. “I guess you could say we technically started out as a ‘covers-only’ or ‘jam band; where we would just play blues standards by Stevie Ray Vaughan and similar artists.  We would just play a handful of gigs.

“As we started to feel more comfortable as a guitar-bass-drums-trio — because like I said, our previous band was a five-piece rock band with two guitars, bass, keyboard, and two vocalists — we started slowly writing our own material.

“Lots of those old songs have been long forgotten, but they were a necessary stepping stone to get to these songs that we ultimately put on the album.”

Chambers said the new band is musically different for him.

“Very different,” he said. “Our previous band was called Activate. We were a five-piece progressive rock/metal band with two guitars, bass, keyboard, and two vocalists. We were a very technically-driven type of band — lots of riffs, lots time signature changes and things like that. Much heavier and complex genre of music.

“But the strange thing is that metal has actually never been my (nor Evan, nor Eric’s) first choice in music. Evan’s favourite artists are guys like Joe Bonamassa and Derek Trucks. I’ve always been a big fan of bands like Rush and Pink Floyd. So has Eric.”

The new disk is a first for The Third Alarm.

“This is our first album as a band,” said Chambers. “The three of us have played in previous projects in the past such as a progressive rock/metal band called Activate.  As Activate we began writing material for a second album, just prior to disbanding. The sound seemed to have a more bluesy vibe to it, so starting up a blues trio was certainly a natural transition for us.”

In terms of sound Chambers said The Third Alarm seems to go back to one influence.

“The one artist we always seem to keep coming back to when we want to choose fun cover songs to play is Joe Bonamassa,” he said. “He is, in my opinion, the perfect modern-blues artist. He started out as a pretty standard bluesy ‘gun-slinger’ but has progressed over many albums into a very artistic, well-produced artist with lots of depth to his music.  

“I hate assembly-line music, and Bonamassa has managed to be a blues guitarist but still break way from the ‘12-bar-blues’ that we’ve all heard enough of.

“Not that there hasn’t been some great 12-bar-blues songs written in the past, but how many more of those songs do we really need?  

“I know I got a little side-tracked here, but artists like him are definitely who we look up to. We want our albums to go more places than just the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-guitar solo-chorus-end structure.”

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Asked how long it took to get the music together for the new album, Chambers said that was not a timeframe easy to define.

“Tough question to answer,” he said. “Like I said earlier, we’ve been writing this kind of music for about six-years, but we’ve cut a lot of songs over the years, and ultimately ended up with these 10 songs that we were proud of, and decided to make a record out of it.”

The material was created as a collaborative effort.

“Absolutely a joint effort,” offered Chambers. “We usually start with one little lick written by Evan, and we just get together and toss ideas back and forth. All of our songs go through many different ‘versions’ before we finally feel like we are happy with it, which is what I have always felt is where the best music comes from, — experimentation.”

While recording is a unique experience to performing, it is also one Chambers totally embraces.

“I’m a recording engineer myself, so the recording process is when I really get excited,” he said. “I have an extensive collection of microphones and recording equipment, so we decided to track the drums at our rehearsal space. It’s a small dilapidated warehouse in Regina, far away from any residential area so we can play loud all hours of the night without disturbing anyone.

“We set up some acoustic treatments around the drum kit, and we just jammed. After the drums were laid down, we moved on to bass, then guitars, then vocals, pretty standard procedure.  

“But after those are all done is when I feel like it’s my time to start dissecting things.  

“That’s when I sit at my small home studio and start adding in extra bits of piano, organs, and other synth sounds that might help spice things up.

“A couple times I called Evan back to record some extra little guitar parts just for extra flavour.  

“Additionally, I hired a very talented keyboard player from Regina named Jon Neher to take care of some of the more complicated organ parts. I can do basic keyboards, but I definitely needed someone like him to do the parts where the organ was the ‘feature’.”

Through the process the music took on a fresh fell.

“The songs absolutely evolved during the recording process,” said Chambers. “For example, we were almost ready to completely scrap ‘Home’ before we played around with some extra bits of guitar, keyboard and vocals, and now it’s one of my favourite tracks on the album.”

As a result Chambers said ‘Home’ became his favourite cut on the CD.

“It was almost cut from the album, but I spent a lot of my own time experimenting with extra instrumentation and arrangement. I feel like I kind of saved that song,” he said.

The Third Alarm CD is now one among several disks for Chambers, but it one he is very happy with.

“It’s the first musical project I’ve ever been involved in that I am actually proud to give to my friends and family and brag that it’s my own,” he said. “Any other album I’ve played on has always had some very major flaws.”

The disk, which was officially released at a party at The Exchange in Regina on Friday, May 16, is already getting some attention.

“As for a radio single, we haven’t actually released a specific song at this point but most of the songs have been getting played at random on Redbeard’s Blues on Regina’s CJTR,” said Chambers. “’Is it Love?’ seems to be the one lots of people take a liking to. That will certainly be one of the ones we consider releasing as a single when we decide to do so.”

CD’s are available at Fuzztone Music in Yorkton. Vinyl is available thru the band members.

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