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The 12 Weeks of Fate Line (aka Fate Line Friday) – A Story’s End

A Story’s End is the 9th song on our album and is culled from a childhood memory – or more accurately story. In fact, it is that distinction that is the very inspiration for the song. I became fascinated with the delicate line between “truth” and “fiction,” between memory and fable, and how burdensome, destructive and persistent these stories can be. But troublemakers though they are, they are the very things that can illuminate and liberate and then dissipate, once revealed or picked apart. The song ends with such a plea:

story’s older now
it’s hard to till or plow
a soil that never took the seed
but just a fragile weed
that undermined
your own drive
to be free…
so be free

I had already written the song when I saw Sarah Polley’s documentary Stories We Tell – a powerful film that touches on these same themes – the subjectivity of truth – and even involves people that were part of my world in Montreal when I was a child and my mother was working in the film business. I have always meant to send her the song – may still do!

Simon says: Story’s End is a campfire song! Well, perhaps not anymore….but its origins spring from a campfire on a beautiful balmy summer night on Georgian Bay, Ontario. Jen was strumming some vibey chords and a baseline popped into my head… The one that Astrid so beautifully plays on the record… beats wise, I was found a rhythm with the wood I’d gathered for the fire. Smoke rose through the trees, sweet inspiration paid us a visit!
There’s an old recording of all this somewhere…
Jon’s viola on the tune is really gorgeous as he answers the bass, and weaves in an out of the lyric. I’ve become a huge fan of the viola during the making of this record…its such a beautiful and warm, sonorous, rich sounding instrument.
We go all 60s Liverpudlian in the bridge and I pay special homage to Ringo with my best impression in the middle!
Where would music have gone without those four fellas?

The good Doctor John says:
A Story’s End has had an interesting evolution. The end of each verse was originally fairly simple – just two chords drawn out. Then Simon wrote an interesting ascending bassline, which changed the nature of the chords. We also wanted some interesting back-up vocals to fit in this section, echoing Jen’s last word. I originally arranged a slightly intricate set of vocal lines that ascended somewhat parallel to the bassline. I guess they were too intricate because by the time the band got back to these parts, they’d forgotten them. So they came up with a simpler, but still nice set of lines for the recording. I tried to recapture a bit of the complexity by adding in one more note that would provide a bit more dissonance.

The bridge was also originally pretty simple until we decided to really Beatle it up – not sure whose suggestion that originally was. So Astrid has a nice jaunty melodic bassline, Simon does a classic Ringo fill in the middle, and Jeremy let me put my Rickenbacker through a Leslie pedal to give a great swirly sound to my arpeggiations. All we were missing was some sitar.

The other change was Jon shifting from violin to viola. His original violin work on the song was lovely as usual. At some point he decided to switch to viola, which added a richness of tone that gives the song a bit more gravitas.

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The 12 Weeks of Fate Line (aka Fate Line Friday) – I Will

The eighth song on our album is NOT our prog rock song according to the good doctor but as far I’m concerned it is epic as prog rock, at least musically (quite a journey of sound and dynamics). Lyrically it is about a journey – to find yourself, by yourself, away from “absent ties that bind” and toward awakening.

I do love the drop D tuning and drone – and the sliding chords and how the band just rocks out on this tune – one of our almost instrumentals! Other than the dedication of the Shiners in developing this song, I feel fortunate that my good friend Arlene Bishop lent her distinctive voice to the recording – singing the oracle part I wrote just for her.

Simon says: I Will is a strange song for us to do in some ways, it has alot of mood changes ( despite being mostly in D with a drone like quality) But it then kicks along at a good gallop in the chorus and instrumental sections. There are fewer lyrics than in most of Jen’s songs but it’s not diminished by that. It has a recurring celtic melody section…jazz-like chords, and a sparseness in the verse and a big rock chorus, with Dr J’s Rickenbacker in full overdriven, jangly effect! The dynamics are all important in this tune.
The song had a long gestation over a few years: tempo, instrumentation, groove changes aplenty before it settled into its present form with everyone having contributed to its evolution.

The good doctor John says: When we get it right, this song can be a good example of how the band can lock into a groove. It helps that the main refrain section gets repeated a jillion times, so we have lots of chances to get it right. Jen, Jonathan, and I are essentially all playing the same line mostly, giving it strength and richness of texture (I also overdub another acoustic guitar, furthering the layering). Astrid does some really nice work anchoring everything, while simultaneously adding some lovely melodic embellishments. And Simon is rock solid, giving a great push of energy.

This is one of two tracks on which I play my Rickenbacker 12-string (there is a brief cameo on A Story’s End). I originally bought this guitar several decades ago, after having saved up for it. I mainly bought it because I loved its sound in the recordings of The Byrds, The Beatles, REM, and Genesis. I enjoyed playing it at home, but never used it for live performance until I Will.

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The 12 Weeks of Fate Line (aka Fate Line Friday) – Your Touch is Deep

The seventh song on our album is “Your Touch Is Deep.” This was one of those pull-it-off-the-shelf songs that I had written a while ago and was uncertain about until it was fleshed out with the band and transformed! It is another little fave, with lyrics and a guitar duet with John that make this one special for me.

It is a bitter-sweet love song that is as much about human frailties and failings as connections and compulsions in love:

Don’t want a balm
A numbing salve applied in haste,
To soothe love’s sting
When left to waste
Don’t want mirages
These things are keeping me from sight
A blinding view
That blacks the light

That second verse and the use of “somnabulated state” in the first verse reminds me of the songwriting fun I had on this tune. Michael-taking bandmates are often heard asking: “numbing salve,anyone?”

Musically, the sliding guitar duet with John is always a sound and challenge I have enjoyed when playing this song. Carmen’s haunting piano part that book-ends the piece, written by John and realized by his wife, is another musical stand-out. That, Blair Packham’s moaning lap steele, and Jonathan’s double stop violin part that I ordered and he delivered makes this a lush musical soundscape. Top it off with the sweet call-and-response from the Shiners and what was a once neglected song idea has blossomed into a shining little country gem.

Simon says:

Your Touch Is Deep is a favourite song of mine from the album. The song has many dynamics and textures to convey the uneasy feeling of stumbling and faltering through love and life … as we inevitably all do.

Blair Packham’s extra guitars and Carmen Wieb’s piano in the chorus add to the bands instrumentation, there are some interesting and quite challenging to sing response backgrounds in the chorus, which I remember really crystallized the song’s creation when the band started playing it.

I remember it was one of the easiest tunes to come together in the studio… And always feels a joy to perform.

The good doctor John says:

During the recording of the album, Simon mentioned to me that he would like some kind of piano part in the background of the choruses and referenced Weather With You, one of my favourite Crowded House songs. In it, a piano tinkles away very simply, providing some atmosphere during the breaks between verses. With that in mind, I set about creating a part for the song.

The chorus basically alternates between an E chord and a D chord (with some embellishments in how we do the guitar parts). So I came up with an arpeggiated piano pattern that plays around these notes. It is actually closest to the opening of Springsteen’s She’s the One (so a nod to Roy Bittan), but there is obviously some influence from Tony Banks from Genesis, who also frequently used similar arpeggiated patterns.

Once I created the part, I realized quickly that I couldn’t actually play it, at least not accurately enough to record it (without a lot of heavy surgery to correct my flubs). So I asked Carmen, who with a Bachelor in Piano Performance has vastly better chops than me, to play the part. Unlike me, Carmen needs a part written out very exactly. So I laboured to create a few bars of sheet music for her, using some free software I found online. The result adds a subtle texture and colour to the choruses and also serves as an intro and outro (played backwards via studio trickery).

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The 12 Weeks of Fate Line (aka Fate Line Friday) – The Snatching of Hannah Twynnoy

This is it – our tiger song! Doesn’t every band have one? I have to say it is one of my favourites both musically (quirky as it is) and lyrically as a re-telling of the first woman to have ever been killed by a tiger in England. The off-centre subject came to me when Simon was travelling to the UK and visiting Malmesbury Abbey, a medieval monastery in the west country of England. I learnt about a famous gravestone that marks the resting place of Hannah Twynnoy – an 18th Century (pregnant) barmaid who was fatally maimed by a tiger from a visiting travelling circus. Inspired by the mysterious bit of poetry engraved on the stone (“In bloom of Life, She’s snatchd from hence”), out flowed this cautionary tale and allegory for testing boundaries. 
Another tiger-obsessed artist sent props about this song after my book publicist mother shared a copy of the record with him – I was well chuffed to get the message from Yann Martel. He could appreciate the lure and potent symbolic nature of the tiger.  And in this tune, that ominous presence is recreated by Sarah Foster’s bass clarinet. Perfect!
Simon says: This song is the most daring on the record in instrumentation and production. I wanted to bring out the strangeness and haunting quality of this odd story from the 1700s. There is an old beautiful Roland space echo treatment on my Rhodes part which floats around a bit like Hannah’s ghost and the creepy sound of Sarah’s bass clarinet is the predatory tiger’s thoughts. We also put on Jon’s violin parts in the chorus, which were definitely influenced by David Bowie’s Starman – we covered it at some gigs at the time. It’s kind of like Hannah Twynnoy’s wafer-thin state of bliss.
The Good Doctor John says: This song started off with a fairly stark and sparse arrangement – mainly Jen’s finger-picked guitar and a shaker, with Jonathan and me providing some call-and-response commentary. In the studio, it was transformed into something lusher, with spacey keyboard tones from Simon, shimmering strings in the chorus from Jonathan, and of course Sarah’s menacing bass clarinet. The other interesting feature of this song is that it can’t really decide if it is based in G major or G minor, keeping it sounding a little off-kilter throughout.
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The 12 weeks of Fate Line (aka Fate Line Fridays) – Seventeen Years

Seventeen Years is another one of the older songs on the record – written a few years ago during a trip to Virginia and very much influenced in contentby my time spent living in Ohio. In part the song is an homage to those 17 Year cicadas that emerged outside my home up on Angel Ridge the summer my daughter was born (an allegory to cycles of life for bug and human!)  The song is also a recounting (with much artistic license) of a moment in the life of a teen mom I represented in Athens when working as a State Public Defender on child welfare cases.

We wanted the song to have a kind of epic quality, the 17 year cicada emergence is biblical in its scope …. So in addition to Bob Foster’s mighty Hammond parts, Dr John’s gritty loud electric, and the maiden voyage of my mandolin playing in the bridge, I am most chuffed that Jeremy Darby helped us loop and integrate a recording of the male cicada’s mating call into the start and finish of the song – that and a cameo appearance in the outro by Lord David Attenborough no less! The famous British naturalist, unbeknownst to himself at the time, conveniently quoted a lyric from my song in his BBC documentary on this most extraordinary insect which demanded sampling: “…after seventeen long years.”

Simon says:

Yes, we did try and make it a bit Ben Hur-esque!
There’s rather bombastic drums and a certain sword and sandal swagger to the whole affair! On the big riff that starts the tune everyone piles in: Hammond, heavy distorted guitars, bass, drums… Then Jon’s violin emulates the two note mating call of the male cicada , who has seventeen years of pent up
ardor to release!!

It’s a great a song to play live… And I wanted to capture that energy in the studio. It feels unifying and defiant… The heart wrenching struggle and catharsis of this young mother. As the song comes out of the bridge into the third verse there’s a long drone note on Hammond, Bass and Jon’s tremolando violin that supports the mother’s call:

“She’ll use her strong new voice to call her one true love back home,
He may hear it rise above the cacophony so grand.
But it ain’t no siren’s song, the jagged rocks reduced to sand,
And after seventeen long years he returns to take her hand…”

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