Written By: Hayley Bradbrook
Interview By: Hayley Bradbrook
Photo: Sam Roberts Official Facebook Page
The Sam Roberts Band is a Canadian favorite that has stood the test of time. The Juno Award and Music Music Video Award winning rock-group is loved by thousands of fans around the world; performing at world-renown music festivals and events including the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Lollapalooza, and for Prince William and the Duchess Of Cambridge Kate Middleton on Canada Day.
The band released their sixth full-length studio album Terraform last October which followed up their amazing 2015 EP Counting The Days, and 2014 album Lo-Fantasy.
JossBecause sat down with lead singer Sam Roberts in Toronto to discuss Terraform, their chart-climbing hit “If You Want It”, The Tragically Hip, and of course, Canadian heartthrob Ryan Reynolds.
You recorded your new album at Tragically Hip’s Bathouse Recording Studios, what was that experience like?
Anytime you get a chance to go to that particular studio, it’s just a very special place because of the history. Because of all the music that’s been made there, because of its ties to The Tragically Hip. It’s a strange feeling, the way that the history sort of inhabits the place and is built into the walls themselves.
You kind of feel the spirit when you’re there. When you go in with your own music it’s like being a part of that history. It’s not just a motivating force, but inspiring as well.
Also, everything that is happening with the Tragically Hip and with Gord was obviously on our minds. I think everybody in Canada is deeply affected by it, but again you have to use this as an opportunity to draw inspiration and hone from it. You have to make sure that you do the most with the opportunity that you have because that’s what life is about, that’s what these kind of things remind you of.
How did you come up with the title Terraform for this album?
It’s science fiction but, it’s this whole idea of going to another planet and making it livable for human beings. I kind of saw it being this whole idea of renewal; starting over and being able to rebuild when things break down is being something that we can see or apply to our own lives. The idea of terraforming or the idea of starting over doesn’t just apply to going out and colonizing Mars, but a process that we can use in our own lives whether in the long term or the day to day as well.
As a musician it can definitely apply to reinventing yourself from one album to the next. I think that’s something a lot bands think about like “what is this next chapter, where are we going to go from here?”
What was the writing/recording process like for this album?
There were moments of tension for sure (with band members) when you want things going one way and that person says “no you should play it like this” that’s just part of making music. Sometimes the friction is good. I wouldn’t want it to be any other way – if we didn’t have those kind of debates about how things should be then I kind of think we would maybe be taking it too easy on ourselves.
(Recording and writing the album) becomes this boiling part of creativity. Us as a band we really enjoy that kind of experience where you’re sort of writing a chapter. That record represents a chapter in your story, and you go and live through something together and you have all these memories that you shared together. So it’s not just one guy pitching at the studio – it’s everybody there all the time, everybody is fully committed and invested in making the record.
Every time you sit down to write songs for records, you always have that moment of not necessarily pressure, but it’s a realization that you are embarking on a new journey – and these songs are going to take you wherever they take you. You have to be willing to give your future over to the music that you make.
If you felt like you were just on the same path all the time I think it would become very difficult to find a new way to yourself creatively. But to feel like you got a blank slate – that’s a very freeing feeling.
Your lead single “If You Want It” is amazing! How did you come up with that hypnotic techno sound?
It just kind of grew out of the piano riff that you hear in the song. It’s just sort of something that’s been kicking around for a long time and every time I went into the basement in my house that riff was something I kept on coming back to.
I just finished tour and thought okay new album – you kind of go back to those ideas that have been coming back into your life periodically and this was one of them. So we started recording this piano riff and then all of a sudden it was time to put a drum beat underneath it and at that point of the process once you have two things that start merging together you just have to get out the way of the song and let your imagining just take you.
Photo: Sam Roberts Band Official Facebook Page
You partnered with Plus 1 so that $1 from every ticket will go to support War Child. Why was it so important for you to partner with this organization?
It’s an organization that is just such a pleasure to be associated with. This program is such a simple way of contributing what ends up being something quite substantial and meaningful to their efforts.
The whole idea of (our) show creating a community in that moment and this other dimension that brings people together and knowing that you’re not just there to share music, but through a small gesture that gives a wider greater purpose.
What’s your favorite song to perform on tour?
On this record so far it’s “Roll With The Spirits” – which was a problem child in the studio. But for whatever reason it’s come to life on stage! It’s always nice when the black sheep starts to behave itself.
Who is one artist you can’t stop listening to?
I’ve been into a band called The War on Drugs and really enjoy every single record that they make, and I’m always looking forward to the next one. Kurt Vile record is another one that keeps coming back.
Ryan Reynolds or Ryan Gosling?
That’s tough! I’m going to say Gosling – sorry Ryan Reynolds, I love you man!
Drake or The Weeknd?
Stranger Things or The Crown?
I love The Crown so much because I love reading history! But at the same time I grew up in the 1980’s, which was the heyday of that sort of kid buddy movie and science fiction. It really reminded me of that era so I’m going to with Stranger Things but reluctantly just based purely on the nostalgia factor.
Poutine or Beaver Tails?
Poutine- I eat poutine all the time. I just love it.