Shuyler Jansen bucks genre confines on The Long Shadow

// Jill Kinaschuk
// Jill Kinaschuk

Common phrases recur when discussing the music of Edmonton ex-pat Shuyler Jansen. Genre-bending. Genre-hopping. Genre-mash-up. But these phrases seem over-stated while listening to his latest release, The Long Shadow, and especially when considering his musical roots. The Long Shadow is sometimes driving and loud, sometimes mid-tempo folk, and at many other times an eerily calm and atmospheric record, replete with sparse guitar work and Jansen’s familiar voice paired with synth lines and other treatments washing over the album. As a member of revered Edmonton bands the Naked and the Dead and Old Reliable, Jansen cut his teeth both going to and playing shows that routinely gathered up any available miscreants around town, musical styling be damned.

“Maybe it’s just a ‘being from Edmonton’ thing,” Jansen explains. “So much of our past is informed with—I mean, if you start with SNFU and then go through to Mac DeMarco or the latest biggest band to come out of Edmonton—all that stuff is really diverse in its ways, and the shows that we all grew up seeing would be a punk band, a metal band, a math-y kind of band, a songwriter—so for me it’s not weird at all. But if you hand it off to some of the more traditional kind of people, and they’re hoping for a more straight-ahead kind of approach to it, maybe it seems strange. But I don’t understand it either, because bands like Wilco have already knocked down those barriers again and again. I mean, John Cale was doing it in the ’70s.”

The process of recording The Long Shadow involved gathering a pile of equipment and co-conspirators and heading to the isolation of a Wakaw, SK cabin in the dead of winter. The crew set up a makeshift studio with whatever could be transported from Edmonton’s Riverdale Recorders, which was further augmented by long-time collaborator (and Deep Dark Woods band member) Chris Mason’s rare microphone collection. Luckily, the cabin was already acoustically treated with “some shitty carpet and wood panelling.”

“It was sunny and beautiful, but there was a ton of snow,” Jansen says. “The only people out there were ice-fishermen and people skidoo-ing on the lake. The band had all played together a lot before, so we were already pretty familiar with each other. Being away from the eight-hour studio day and everyone being so relaxed made it happen pretty fast. And the way the cabin was laid out, we couldn’t even see each other—the drums were in one room, I’d be up in the kitchen and Chris and Paul [Rigby] would be down in these little camp-style bedrooms, so it was like being a teenager sitting in your bedroom and playing, but actually recording a record.”

The Long Shadow was produced by David Carswell of Vancouver’s JC/DC studios. It’s a partnership that goes back years, and one born from Jansen’s appreciation of having a new perspective on the material he writes.

“John [Collins] and Dave have made lots of records, and they definitely love a whole other genre of stuff than I grew up listening to. They’re really into Nick Lowe, Bryan Ferry, Steely Dan—it’s not stuff I dislike, it’s just stuff I didn’t spend a lot of time listening too. Dave has a totally different perspective, which is a great thing to have as a musician, because if you have a whole bunch of people around you who are going to take you down the same road every time then you’re probably just going to keep making the same record. That may lead to success, but it would lead me to be totally bored and want to kill myself,” Jansen laughs. “I’d rather try to diversify things and strive for new things every time and not get stuck.”

Thu, Apr 28 (8:30 pm)
The Almanac, $15


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