After spending much of last year on the road, Hey Rosetta! will be off again next week, planting seeds across North America.
The local indie band will tour the continent this month and next with its newest album, “Seeds,” and head to Australia right afterwards.
The tour was publicized as starting Wednesday in Halifax, and there was some question about a local show before the band hit the road. Late Thursday, the band announced two shows at the Rockhouse in St. John’s.
Then, the world.
“Being on the road is not an easy thing to do, being away all the time, but it’s kind of necessary,” said bassist Josh Ward. “If you’re doing something you love, you just deal with it, I guess. I think we’ve all gotten used to it, but sometimes it can be a bit difficult, being in a band for three months.”
After riding the success of their previous CD, “Into Your Lungs (and around in your heart and on through your blood)” — which earned the band three East Coast Music Awards (ECMAs) in 2009, landed it on the shortlist for the Polaris Music Prize and saw it named one of Billboard’s Top 5 new Canadian acts — Hey Rosetta!’s new recording contains what bandmembers say is their most personal music to date. Release day is Tuesday.
The songs on the album were written primarily by frontman Tim Baker, for the most part on the road.
“Tim is basically the songwriter, and I know he’s had a hard time,” Ward said. “It’s something pretty personal, you know, you can’t just sit down in a van and put it together right away. After that, there’s the arranging and rehearsing process when we all have to come together, and that’s not something you can always do on the road, either. Sometimes we’ll have a really great session, but then it’ll be three months before we ever play the song again.”
The CD’s title track is sort of conceptual, Ward said, although it’s not a conceptual album. It came about while the band was out on the highway, and is a metaphor for a number of things: ideas that sprout and grow, as well as the what the bandmembers lives had become, floating into different towns and cities, planting roots in each one.
The other tracks explore everything from depression to the birth of a baby. Baker wrote “Young Glass” after reading J.D. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey.”
“It’s sort of directed at the novel’s main character, Franny,” Baker said in a written statement. “It describes a sleepwalking scene that didn’t actually occur in the book, but one that I imagined. We spent a lot of time flying and sleeping on planes and in airports and I was always finding myself in half-waking states, feeling, as one does, all alone somewhere between dream and reality. When I’d wake up, I was always surrounded by people, going about their business. I like that; a sort of evidence that even when we think we are completely alone, we are not. So I wrote Franny, a character who is plagued by such thoughts, a song about it.”
"Maybe we nitpick, but we do spend a lot of time on every song. We're never really happy with it, and it's always subject to revision." - Josh Ward
The arrangements for Hey Rosetta!’s music is a collaborative effort, and the songs on “Seeds” were even more of a joint project than in the past, Ward said. The bandmembers — Ward, Baker, cellist Romesh Thavanathan, violinist Kinley Dowling, drummer Phil Maloney and guitarist Adam Hogan — work together to try to perfect the songs, but many times, perfection never comes.
“Maybe we nitpick, but we do spend a lot of time on every song. We’re never really happy with it, and it’s always subject to revision,” Ward said. “Someone says, ‘OK, time to record,’ and you’re like, ‘I guess that’s it for now.’ Even for this tour right now, we’re pulling out some old ones we haven’t played in a really long time and trying to put some new twists on them.”
Five thousand copies of “Seeds” have been produced as a first run, and every one contains a seed packet, each hand-stamped by the bandmembers with their logo. The inserts were made by the mother of a friend, using recycled paper and seeds. Fans can plant the paper and grow two different types of flowers.
The inserts were included not only as a marketing tool, but as a way to encourage sustainable agriculture, Ward said.
“We’re into sustainable food and we’re all a little bit concerned about the direction (in which) everyone’s going. It’s something people should at least be mindful of,” he explained. “We thought it would be cool to reflect that in some way, especially since the album is called ‘Seeds.’”
Hey Rosetta! has been nominated for a 2010 ECMA for Fan’s Choice Video of the Year for “A Thousand Suns” — a live concert video, filmed at Holy Heart Theatre in St. John’s during Christmas 2009, and directed by Noah Pink. The band is up against St. John’s-based Pathological Lovers and its video, “Best Served,” for the award.
Instead of being competitive, Ward hopes if Hey Rosetta! doesn’t win, the Lovers do.
“They’re great friends of ours and it’s an amazing video,” he said. “There’s only positivity there.”
While any award is flattering, ones chosen by fans are particularly important to the band, Ward said.
“That’s when you know you’ve made a direct connection with people. If you grab 100 people and say, ‘Hey guys, what do you think is the best video?,’ that’s just straight-up, honest opinion, and I think that’s really great.”