Her name was Dorothy—or Dot to those who knew her well—and she’s the inspiration behind Scenic Route to Alaska’s new album, Warrington, named for the small community in England where she grew up. Her visage also graces the album’s cover in one of two remaining photos from her wedding day.
“She was just the coolest lady,” says guitarist and vocalist Trevor Mann of his grandmother, who died at 92, recalling her being the typical, funny English lady right up until her final hours. “She was a really amazing lady and I think my way of dealing with her passing was to write songs about some of the stories she told me as I was growing up.”
Mann mentions the track “For Dot” as an example of such stories. When the band performs the song, it’s usually preceded by a toast to Dot and a swig of beer before launching into a tale about her life during the Second World War.
“She had to sleep in a bomb shelter every night, and then one night she got so sick of sleeping in a bomb shelter that she went back into her house and a bomb had actually dropped like a block away or something from her house and blew all the windows out of her house,” Mann says. “She would tell us that story every time we asked about the war.”
Scenic Route to Alaska had focused much of its past writing on the trials and tribulations of relationships—a tried and true topic for most artists, regardless of genre. But the folk-rock trio felt it was time for a change of pace, and Dorothy’s stories seemed to be the right fit.
“It just seemed like it was time for me to try and write about something other than just relationships with girls, I guess,” Mann adds. “It was really interesting because in some ways family is almost a more vulnerable thing to write about than those relationships that come and go.”
Dorothy was also the one who introduced Mann to the Beatles when he was a child, a band that has remained a steadfast musical influence for he and his cohorts.
“She kind of pounded that into me,” Mann says. “Whenever we’d be over at her house for dinner there’d be a Beatles record on.”
The group has embraced more modern influences in recent years such as Wintersleep and Hey Rosetta—”technical indie folk-rock bands,” as Mann describes them, noting a proclivity toward bands that keep things simple, forgoing complicated-sounding recordings. This is the approach Scenic Route to Alaska takes with its own music, which often stems from a collaborative, intuitive writing process amongst its three members.
“I think it’s because we listen to such similar things and we hang out all the time and we all were influenced by the same things,” Mann explains. “So usually when we write it’s really cohesive and takes its own shape rather than any one of us having a huge influence over it.”
Fri, Jun 6 (8 pm)
With Lucas Chaisson, the Secretaries, Cayley Thomas, J Eygenraam
Bonnie Doon Community Hall, $15 (advance), $20 (door)