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|Written by Innika La Fontaine|
|Wednesday, 25 November 2009 00:00|
"When we are out of our element, that's when things happen to us," says Shaun Verreault. Things have been quiet for his blues-rock jam band, Wide Mouth Mason, lately. The trio - Verreault (vocals/guitar), Safwan Javed (percussion/vocals) and Earl Pereira (bass/vocals) - haven't released a studio album together since 2005. Could the band be over? Could it be rehab? Are they past their prime?
"It's not going on the road that will get you," says Verreault. "It's not travelling hundreds and thousands of kilometers, doing shows, and loading heavy gear." Verreault begins to laugh, on the phone from Vancouver. "Apparently, it's polishing hardwood floors or lifting heavy things that will really endanger the career of a rock musician!"
Pereira has hurt his back doing home renovations, so Wide Mouth Mason have had to push their tour dates back at least 6 to 8 weeks. While they wait for their bassist to be able to play standing up, the band is focusing on promoting their most recent musical offering: a CD/DVD package of past performances, Live! Montreux, Switzerland.
Released November 10, the combo is a visual and vocal collection of their performances at the world-renowned Montreux Jazz Festival in 1997 and 1999. There is a reason why they chose to re-release their past work instead of a new studio album, Verreault says. "It's been a while since we focused on touring in the east [of Canada] -- we've mostly been a Western-based band for the last couple of years. We have a new record in the works that we have recorded some songs for and we thought if we just put it out, we might not get everyone's attention in the same way it would if we put out an appetizer first. We thought it would be the perfect reintroduction to the band for us to put out."
The release marks the 10-year anniversary of the last time the band played the Montreux stage. Both performances were the biggest show of their lives at that point in their careers. Verreault suggests the band's natural state is on stage, and there is something immediate and exciting about a live performance that is hard to capture in the studio. Fans can expect to see a lot of synergy and interaction between Wide Mouth Mason and their audience on the DVD release.
"If I'm in the studio I feel like a recording artist," he says. "When we are on stage, I feel like a band. I really love the idea that what you create is there for that second and that moment and isn't meant to be necessarily captured forever. There is "We thought it would be the perfect reintroduction to the band for us to put out." something about that spark of urgency, of creating something for right now, then moving on."
He describes a scene from their 1999 show when a Jimmi Rogers (Muddy Waters) tribute pushed their show to 2:00 a.m. Revellers started filing out the door, but they took it in stride and used the remaining intimate crowd to their advantage.
"Safwan had a brilliant idea," says Verreault. "When people were starting to file out because it was so late, he invited the crowd that was still left to sit around us on the stage."
It worked. And this ability to improvise shines through in the video.
Verreault says at first the people didn't know what to think about the strange, foreign band inviting them to shimmy and shake on stage. Eventually, they warmed up to the idea. The DVD is evidence of the performance's "amazing vibe" with everybody up and dancing.
The band has been trying to capture this kind of electricity for their next album, Verreault says. And they have been recording in some "pretty unorthodox places" to try and find it.
Fans cans expect a preview of their new work if they make it to a Wide Mouth Mason show on their next tour; they still prefer to preview their new material on stage to a live audience, altering riffs and keys according to the response of the revellers.
"If people are into it, you know you have something," he explains. "And if you're playing a song and they choose to go to the washroom, you know maybe you have to shorten the bridge up or something."
With the band currently scattered across Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Ontario, and a back injury pushing back tour dates, we can't expect a live performance until at least January 2010. Verreault and Javed visit Toronto on November 16 and 17 for a promotional tour of interviews and acoustic performances.
And until they grace the Ottawa stage, this showcase CD/DVD package should tickle the taste buds of fans while they await their return.
For more info visit http://www.widemouthmason.com/ and http://www.myspace.com/widemouthmason
Innika La Fontaine is a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Australian expat.