Q&A: Colin MacDonald talks to…us!

Original TUTFN content!

Before heading out west next week to start the Time Capsule tour, Colin graciously took some time to answer some questions for us.

TUTFN: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us, Colin, it’s appreciated. So it just came out the other day that “Beautiful & Tragic” is now in the Top 10 on the Active Rock chart. It’s your 17th Top 10 single?
Colin MacDonald: Yep! 17th top ten at rock radio here in Canada! Still feels great to see a single do well for us. πŸ™‚

That’s a pretty amazing thing to accomplish. Congratulations!
It was a bit of a curve ball for single choice, it was definitely much more pop leaning. I’m glad it’s picking up steam!

You’ve said recently that the band has been writing for a new album for quite awhile. Is that still an on-going thing or has that been put aside for now to get ready for the tour, promoting Time Capsule, etc?
Yes, we’ve been writing for awhile, making phone demos and real demos. We’re gonna hunker down in the new year to further flesh out the ideas. Right now everything’s on hold cause we’re going into tour mode. We plan on playing new stuff on the road though. πŸ™‚

And how hasΒ the writing been going? You must have quite a lot of material on the go now.
Writing’s been good, there’s plenty of good ideas floating around. We just need to arrange them, finish the lyrics and dig into the riffs and grooves a bit more.

Sugar Beach, 102.1 The Edge, Toronto, ON. Corus Entertainment.

Sugar Beach, 102.1 The Edge, Toronto, ON. Corus Entertainment.

Are you a harsh critic of your own work? Are you able to listen to your finished recordings with any measure of comfort or is it something you’d rather not do if you don’t have to?
I’m a very harsh critic; I want to change everything all the time. I try not to get too far ahead of myself, it’s always good to step away from stuff because I have a horrible tendency to overthink everything. It was fun going back and listening to the stuff on Time Capsule and The Vault, I am quite proud of all of it – it stands up. But my main focus is always on the new material; it’s what keeps me motivated to keep making music.

Is the time-frame for a new release still roughly the spring of next year or has that changed at all? Has the hunt for a producer started or will that be in the new year?
We’re still torn between using a producer and self producing. Depending on how quickly it all comes together in the new year, it’s possible that we’ll have new music as early as the spring. We’ll see. [Ed note – Not that you asked us, but – we vote for self-production!]

In terms of Time Capsule, are there any songs you’re particularly proud of, including the new ones?
I really like all of the new ones, they have a good vibe. They feel new and fresh. I feel “Paranoid Freak” is one of our better recordings.

WTFest 2015. Taken by us.

WTFest 2015. Taken by us.

Those three new songs really showcase how versatile the band is, as others have also said recently. Do you find any particular type of song easier to write than others, ie. the heavy riffs of “Lotta Work/Little Love”, the pure rock sensibilites of “Chinese Kites”, or something poppier like “B&T” (although that’s super-pop-py even for you guys)?
“Chinese Kites” came quickly; that was a riff JA demoed using a drum loop he created in his basement (don’t worry, on the recording it’s live drums!). I wrote the melody pretty quickly and we finished the words with Gordie Johnson shortly thereafter. “Beautiful & Tragic” was a joke song I wrote with Serena [Ryder] – we finished it in about 20 minutes. It was never going to be anything but when I played it for the boys in the jam space, we started having fun with it and it turned into a great Trews “pop” song. It’s still got enough bite to it to fit in with what we do but it’s definitely the “pop-iest” thing we’ve ever done. “Lotta Work” was the first riff we wrote for the last studio album The Trews. It took forever to find a home for that one – the riff is so big, it was hard to write words and melody over it. JA came up with a great line when we were showing the riff to Gavin Brown in the spring of 2015: “It’s a lot of work for a little love.”…once we had that, the song wrote itself.

Which of those three songs is the most fun to play live? They all translate to the stage so very well, although it’s really great fun to have our faces melted off with “Lotta Work/Little Love”… πŸ™‚
“Beautiful & Tragic” makes its way into the set the most out of all the new tunes. It’s unlike anything else in the set which makes it a lot of fun for us; it really catches fire in the bridge. “Chinese Kites” was hard to play live at first but we’re settling into it, and “Lotta Work’ is a no brainer – we’ve been riff raffing like that for years. πŸ™‚

Anthemic, sing-along songs seem to come very naturally to the band; one pass through Time Capsule shows that. What do you attribute that to? Are you conscious of writing songs like that when you’re creating? Have you ever written a song and thought, “Wow, I can totally hear a room full of people singing that back to me!”? πŸ˜‰
Yep, we like the epic sing alongs for sure, it makes our job a lot more fun. We like bringing the audience along for the ride as much as possible and having songs that are easy to sing along to is a big part of that. I guess it comes from our east coast kitchen party/pub culture roots. We always know when we stumble on something that’s really gonna work in a live setting; if we’re excited about something chances are the fans will be as well.

Colin onstage

Pool deck, the Rock Boat 16, 2016. Taken by us.

The tour starts soon, and you’re going to have a whole LOT of people singing your songs back at you then. What do you do to get ready physically and mentally? That’s a lot of time away from home.
I don’t really change my routine anymore, I’m always ready to play. I’m surrounded by music at home, I’m surrounded by music on the road. I don’t think any differently, dress any differently, drink any differently. I’m always ready to launch into playing.

What do you look forward to most when you’re about to start a tour?
The comeradery, the jokes, the band getting really tight, the rapport with a great crowd, the vast Canadian landscape.

Is it any easier for you now to embark on such a long haul or are any aspects of it still kind of tough, the long drives and crappy Canadian weather notwithstanding? What do you do during one of those long hauls between cities?
Touring Canada isn’t for the faint of heart. You’ve got to be tough, especially in the winter. To pass the time out there I read a lot of books and listen to a lot of music.

What is the process of deciding what cities you stop in? What part does the band play in that process?
Our agent and management book the tours. We try not to over-saturate any markets. This will be our second time through a lot of cities this year as we started 2016 with an acoustic run. The electric show is a different thing, we’re lucky that we can change it up and still get crowds across the country!

Colin onstage.

The Sanctuary, Ridgeway, ON, 2014. Taken by us.

There’s already been snow in some of the western provinces (and some here in Ontario now too!), are you ready for that??
A Canadian is always ready for snow.

What’s a typical gig day for you when you’re on the road?
Travel, eat, sing, sleep, repeat.

Have you changed the way you warm up or is it the same now as it was when you first started? How important is it to warm up before a gig?
I warm up every night – I learned that the hard way from years of not warming up and hurting my voice. Warming up has conserved and strengthened my voice. I warm down after shows now as well.

How long does it take you to wind down after a show? What do you do to wind down when you’re on the road?
I used to drink a lot to wind down after gigs. I don’t drink anymore so the best way to wind down is to leave the venue as quickly as possible and get back to the hotel. A hot shower works.

Colin onstage.

Casino Rama, Ramara Township, ON, 2016. Taken by us.

Do you know if there will be any new merch available on this tour and what it might be? Will the vinyl that was available during the Pledge Music campaign be for sale?
There’s new merch and I’m pretty sure the vinyl will be available – you’ll have to ask the office. πŸ™‚ [Ed note – the office has confirmed that the vinyl will be for sale!]

Will you be digging into the catalogue at all for material for these shows? There are some songs on The Vault that were amazing live the few times we heard them – “Mistress Misery”, “Don’t Let Me Fade”, “Mandy”…
Yes we’ll be playing songs from The Vault – we’ve rehearsed five of ’em for the tour. A song or two will be making its way into the set every night.

We would like to request opening with “Fire Up Ahead” again, if you’re thinking of going back at all…that was SUCH an amazing song to open a show with. πŸ™‚
I’ll see if JA is into it, he writes all of our set lists. We haven’t played that song in over a decade.

Strellson times 4.

Strellson Canada

We hear all the time from people who’ve seen you for the first time and are completely blown away by your live show. When you’re onstage, are you conscious of the fact that some of the folks in front of you have seen you a couple hundred times, while for others it actually might be their first? Do you change the way you perform at all when you think about that?
Yep, we’re aware of the newbies and the diehards. We try to make it interesting for the fans who’ve seen a hundred shows without confusing those who are new to the Trews. πŸ˜‰ It’s always nice to hear that we’re blowing people away up there.

Well, whether it’s their first or 12th or 75th time seeing you, TUTFN’ers are really excited for the tour. Thanks so much for making some time for us, we’ll see you on the road!
Thank you! See you on the road.

Band at Gilda's charity event.

Gilda’s Club.

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About TUTFN

For the fans, by the fans. Since 2005.
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