Imagine this: you’re a band with your debut album in the bag, and your new record label says it needs to be re-recorded. Sounds daunting, right? That’s exactly where the members of Repartee found themselves after signing with Sleepless Records in the fall of 2014.
“We had an album of 12 songs ready,” says lead vocalist Meg Warren while on the road from Ottawa to Sudbury. “And I met one of our managers now, Jeremy [White]. I met him in October of 2014, and we started a relationship with [the label] a couple of months after that. I had sent him a couple of songs from the album we were about to put out, and our other manager, Alex [Bonenfant], had a conference call with us and said, ‘Hey, the songs are good, but the production quality isn’t exactly what we’re looking for right now. So how would you guys feel about going back in the studio?'”
There’s no hard feelings, of course. Warren recalls all of this with a laugh, though it was admittedly a tough pill to swallow at the time. Most of the 12 original songs ended up being dropped, and the tracks that comprise the now-released iteration of All Lit Up span the past five years or so, the newest of which is the infectious sing-along anthem, “Dukes.” After signing with Sleepless Records, Warren says Repartee spent some time in Toronto (the band is originally from St John’s) during the past year working with different writers and producers in order to garner some constructive feedback on the group’s material.
“I guess a notable thing about the way we were writing our music was that it was kind of straddling a line between indie, like an indie-rock band, we’ll say, and a Top-40 pop band,” Warren explains. “So I think that in working with these different people, we found a way to mix those two different styles, because our background is indie, you know? We did everything on our own for years, and we were touring and doing all that on our own for a long time. And then in Toronto we were introduced to the more Top 40 style of writing, which is like writing with laptops and writing in writing sessions very quickly, so I think it’s a mix of those two worlds.”
All Lit Up feels as though it succeeds in bridging those two sensibilities, with plenty of radio-ready hooks and polished melodies backing lyrics touching on a plethora of personal experiences spanning the time period in which the songs were conceived. The tracks are generally written by Warren and guitarist Robbie Brett, both of which come from a classical-music background—Warren was an opera singer once upon a time and made the switch after being convinced to take part in a songwriting challenge put on by one of the local papers in St John’s.
“The technique is probably completely different,” she says, adding that her classical training does have its transferable aspects. “I know a bit about taking care of my voice—even if sometimes I have to ignore what I know and pretend that I can totally drink coffee and sit in a van and yell over music at the merch table.
“In terms of theory and stuff like that,” she continues, “Robbie and I both have degrees from the same university in classical music, so I find it helpful that we can talk in terms of chord progression Roman numerals and chord voicing and that kind of thing. The language definitely helps out a lot, and then when we’re in the studio with strangers or in a writing session we can still use that same kind of jargon. It’s really helpful.”
Fri, May 27 (8 pm)
With Brian Finlay
Mercury Room, $10 in advance, $12 at the door