By Sarah Allen
CALGARY – These days, it’s damn near impossible to live in Calgary and not hear about indie-folk act Reuben and The Dark. Since signing with Arts & Crafts Productions in 2013, the band continued to grow beyond the local stage to find a national and international audience. Frontman Reuben Bullock says he took a very different approach to writing when it came to the group’s latest effort, Arms of a Dream, released last May.
“I was trying to figure out maybe what my process was. (I tried]) everything from writing super early in the morning to staying up late, every different kind of style. I think for me it was really just digging into process and seeing if I could unlock something. (Before) it was always just more the casual approach to songwriting.”
Bullock spent three to four years following the release of his last album, Funeral Sky (2014), writing every single day and working to discover what would make an album that “felt powerful and held a lot of weight.” He says, “It became really difficult to choose what songs would go on it and what wouldn’t and even what songs I would take to the studio and to the band. I went through periods where I had a hard time just really being able to self-monitor.”
Arms of a Dream is the product of Bullock picking 11 songs from a batch of 50 to 60, not including ones that went unfinished. “There were hundreds of starts,” he admits. “I got trapped in this strange process.”
As time went on, Bullock realized that he would just keep writing forever if he didn’t put a hard date on the table.
A date to get the job done. But even on the last day in the studio, the band wrote a complete song that snuck onto the record — “Realize”, that coincidently appears last on the track list. “What I learned is that I could have recorded and put out three or four records that I would have been really proud of over that time. Instead, it is now really concentrated and condensed onto this one.
Arms of a Dream begins with “Wildlife”, a song that Bullock acknowledges he knew would open the album before it was even recorded. “’Wildlife’ started by just being me playing around in sound check. I would just sing those opening lines with nothing else, it was just how I warmed my voice up … I always knew it would turn into a song, but I never really knew what it was about or where it went. I think I still don’t know what that song is about. It was just a conversation with my own subconscious.”
He adds, “I find myself writing a lot of repetitive lyrics that kind of put me into a trance. I’ll get down with the guitar and just sing the same thing over and over. Sometimes that turns into a song and sometimes just a really repetitive piece of music that is just therapeutic to myself.”
Bullock says the album’s title was also chosen before the song of the same name was actually written.
“It had been something that was in my head and psyche for a long time. There’s actually, on a solo album, a poem that was half turned into a song, on Man Made Lakes (2012). It was a poem called ‘Arms of a Dream’. It kind of represents an extension of a dream state, the place in-between being awake and asleep.”
On Twitter, Bullock stated that he had never been as excited for a tour as the one he has coming up this fall. Although the band has toured extensively across Canada and supported some big names along the way, he’s thrilled to be playing in bigger venues at upcoming hometown gigs in Calgary and Edmonton.
“We are playing the Jack Singer (Calgary) and the Winspear Centre (Edmonton) and those have been my dream venues to play. It is pretty surreal that we booked them and the tickets are selling as well as they are.”
In addition, Bullock is working to plan some special events in the communities he has been a part of for so long. He says the group is curating some events that will happen alongside some of the shows in Calgary and Vancouver.
“It’s going to be an emotional show. The first time we played in the Jack Singer, years ago, we played in the lobby before the k.d.lang concert. We were booked to play on the little busking stage … and I remember that being a really big deal. I remember being like, ‘Holy shit, we’re playing the Jack Singer.’”
Bullock says he will be remembering that moment when he takes the mainstage there later this month and will be taking a long stay in Calgary following the tour to get back to writing.
Reuben and the Dark perform October 27 at West End Cultural Centre (Winnipeg), October 29 at Winspear Centre (Edmonton), October 30 at Jack Singer Concert Hall (Calgary), November 1 at Broadway Theatre (Saskatoon), November 2 at Westminster United Church (Regina), November 3 at Southminster United (Lethbridge), November 7 at Capitol Ballroom (Victoria) and November 8 at Imperial (Vancouver).Broadway Theatre, Capitol Ballroom, Imperial, Jack Singer Concert Hall, Reuben and the Dark, Southminster United, West End Cultural Centre, Westminster United Church, Winspear Centre