Scenic Route to Alaska’s Tough Luck documents the toll and success the band has strived for
Scenic Route to Alaska has found musical success in a fashion similar to that scene where Drew Barrymore finds E.T. It’s astonishing and all sorts of magical—but my God, it’s looking at her, and everyone is screaming, and can we please just get a second to process this?
Life is already complicated.
Touring life can hit you like a brick dropped from a plane. But when properly harnessed, it can also coax out inspiration. That’s sort of what happened to bassist Murray Wood, drummer Shea Connor, and guitarist and vocalist Trevor Mann, on their fourth and latest studio album, Tough Luck.
“I think I was a bit tired and a bit burned out,” Mann says a day after celebrating his 27th birthday. “Like the main theme was a kind of self-inflicted loneliness. You know, choosing to be a musician who’s on the road all the time is amazing and it’s a lot of fun. But, especially at the level we’re at, there’s still a lot of trial and error, and there’s still a lot of hardships. It’s kind of about not being able to explore new relationships and really invest in things.”
The vocal vibrato, harmonies, bright melodic chord progressions, and steady drum and bass work carry all the hallmarks of past Scenic Route to Alaska albums. Sombre tracks like “Slow Down” and “Lonely Nights” are balanced by tongue-in-cheek, if still bittersweet songs like “How It Feels.” It’s representative of the sorrowful-fun dichotomy that permeates many of the band’s material and live appearances.
Having played across Canada, Europe, and Australia, the boys from Scenic Route are now steadily creeping across the West Coast of the United States for their first ever tour south of the border. They even landed a stint at South By Southwest, suggesting that with this latest album, they’re starting to pass through the Canadian airlock and out into the biggest music market in the world.
“With Long Walk Home, we’d been on the road a ton and made it work,” Mann says. “But we’ve all been kind of doing the music thing full time for the last couple of years. [We’ve] fended off day jobs and have been touring around exploring such beautiful places in the world. I think all of our goals with Tough Luck was to just be able to keep doing that on a bigger and better scale.”
Scenic Route to Alaska might technically have started in the summer of 2010 when they began performing, but the trio have been together since childhood. Mann and Wood have known each other since age five and started hanging out with Connor at 12. Honing their sound in their parents’ basements, the band eventually travelled to Montreal to record their first demo.
Having lived most of their lives together, in one capacity or another, they’re about as tight as a band can get. For the last two years they even lived together in a house they christened The Jazz Café, partially furnished with dartboards, a foosball table and everything else a group of twenty-something guys would need to relax. Unfortunately, the lease came up just before this last tour and while sad to be leaving the place behind, Mann says there’s a bright side.
“Not to be cheesy, but it’s the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one,” Mann says. “Last year, we were on the road like six or seven months out of the year, and when we were home, we were all under one roof as well. We’re three best friends and it is kind of like a brotherhood, but spending every second together in all walks of our lives is kind of oppressive for three 27-year-olds.”
With the Jazz Café behind them, it’ll be interesting to see how the band proceeds forward in its career. Though pressure is certainly mounting, Scenic Route to Alaska has done an honest and admirable job dealing with it, even transforming it into an entire album. And as long as the ride they’re on has a few good stops, they don’t seem to mind piling this wonderful and alien success into the front basket and peddling.
“Sometimes it’s a bit overwhelming like you said,” says Mann. “I remember standing in The Warehouse studio, the three of us in this huge place, thinking like ‘Holy shit. What have we done?’ But in a beautiful way.”
Sat., Apr. 7 (8 pm)
Scenic Route to Alaska
The Starlite Room