By Michael Dunn
CALGARY – It’s been a whirlwind year for Kacy & Clayton. It saw them sign to New West Records, earn a Juno nomination for their debut album Strange Country (2015), open for Wilco at San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore Auditorium, and have their latest album, The Siren’s Song, produced by Jeff Tweedy. Throughout it all, the Wood Mountain, Saskatchewan duo have maintained their very laid back vibe and very dry sense of humour.
“Well, [Jeff Tweedy] had [Strange Country] in a frame in the bathroom at the studio in Chicago,” says vocalist Kacy Lee Anderson. “If not Jeff, then someone went out of their way to hang it up in there. I mean, I wouldn’t do that, you know, to stroke someone’s ego when they’re coming by.”
Adds her second cousin, Clayton Linthicum, “‘Oh they’re coming over, better hang their record up in the bathroom.’”
Jokes aside, the transition from playing smaller clubs and festivals to touring with one of alt-country’s pioneering acts was a smooth one for the band, having toured throughout Canada for several years, the band did not feel much pressure.
“It’s really not so different from playing a festival,” says Linthicum. “The Wilco shows were in amphitheaters, so they had a festival feel, but going from those venues to the smaller shows we did in clubs was a real change. We felt this push to play the best show we could, and it’s nice to get that feeling, you feel a good kind of tense, it keeps you on the ball.”
The Siren’s Song finds Kacy & Clayton expanding on Strange Country’s ‘60s folk-rock sound, with the influences of Fairport Convention, Sandy Denny, The Byrds, and The Grateful Dead running through the mix.
Having Tweedy sign on to produce the album had a bigger impact on their schedule than it did on the music however. Anderson notes that Tweedy was genuinely excited and easy to work with. “
We wanted to have everything put together in case Jeff wanted to change things up,” Anderson attests, “and when we listened to demos, he said, ‘It all sounds great, let’s just do it.’ He really just made us feel so relaxed and let us do the work. He’d bring us soda waters, with caffeine in them.”
“Kacy and I had been planning the album for awhile,” Linthicum explains.
“We wanted to make one with our live band, with Mike [Silverman] and Shuyler [Jansen]. and we had the material almost all together,” says Linthicum. “We’d already booked the studio in Saskatoon, but when the opportunity to record in Chicago came up we had to rearrange some things. Tweedy’s a really kind guy. He knew a lot about our last album, it blew me away that he knew so much about what we’d already done. He really let us do our thing, and he’d step in here and there, if there was a moment of doubt or he had some idea he thought was cool.”
The run up to the release of the album has seen the band drop videos for “The Light Of Day” and “Just Like a Summer Cloud,” both shot in the pair’s absence. The clips are short films that feel connected to the content of the songs, as opposed to the live or performance footage that’s become de rigueur. As with the move to New West, Linthicum and Anderson are seeing the need to let go of the day-to-day promotion of their work.
“Kacy and I used to do all of that stuff, like most bands, just do it yourself,” says Linthicum. “And now there are a lot more people around, with smart ideas, chiming in on everything. Having a good manager like Shuyler really helps, we can leave a lot of those things up to him, and having a good agent to book the shows. It’s hard to keep that control at a certain point, so you have to let things go and trust the people you’re working with.”
“We have to constantly check on what’s being promoted, and make sure things are going out that reflect the way we want to represent the music we’re making,” says Anderson. “With the videos, it’s about acting, it doesn’t have much to do with playing music. I hope we never have to act in another video again, maybe we could just make a slide show, or a Powerpoint maybe?”
Kacy & Clayton perform September 21 at Amigo’s Tavern (Saskatoon), September 24 at the Commonwealth Bar & Stage (Calgary), and September 25 at the Needle Vinyl Tavern (Edmonton).Amigo’s Tavern, commonwealth Bar & Stage, Kacy & Clayton, Needle Vinyl Tavern, Strange Country