There’s a certain image conjured up by the idea of a full-on Christmas album, and it’s something that maybe doesn’t fit with Hey Rosetta!’s latest release.
“Don’t get me wrong, I like Kenny and Dolly as much as the next guy, but there’s this whole thing that I feel our (record) doesn’t suit, exactly,” explained bass player Josh Ward.
Last month Hey Rosetta! released their own version of a Christmas album called “A Cup of Kindness Yet;” a collection of holiday covers and 2 1/2 original songs. The half is “New Year Song,” which morphs into a version of the traditional “Auld Lang Syne.”
There’s also a sullen interpretation of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” a hymn.
“Of all the Christmas stuff we do, (hymns) tend to be the more serious and in some way, more up our alley. We really like that one,” Ward said.
The album is centred around “Carry Me Home,” written by Hey Rosetta! frontman Tim Baker during the band’s Australian tour about three years ago. The tour saw the musicians leaving for Australia on Dec. 23rd, and arriving on Christmas Day, minus one band member.
“Our violin player had gotten stuck in a snowstorm in Charlottetown, and by the time she got out, she had to spend Christmas Day by herself in Toronto airport,” Ward said. “There were no flights leaving and she couldn’t get a hotel room.
“I feel like that’s where ‘Carry Me Home’ comes from; being away and yearning to be home.”
Hey Rosetta! had a repertoire of holiday songs, thanks to their yearly Christmas performance in St. John’s, and decided to build on that to create the record. They began the work last winter, but finished in the heat of August, which Ward admitted felt a little bizarre.
The finished product is more Christmas-themed than a straight-up Christmas record, he said.
“A Cup of Kindness Yet” is Hey Rosetta!’s first recording since “Seeds,” released early in 2011, which garnered the group a JUNO nomination and several East Coast Music Awards, as well as a spot on last year’s Polaris Music Prize shortlist.
The six-piece collective has been away from home for much of the time since then, touring the record around the world.
Most recently, they returned from a stint in Europe, spending half of their time in the U.K., the other half in Germany, with a few days in France at the end.
Their music is played on the radio in Europe, and Ward said he was surprised to see even non-English-speaking fans singing along with Hey Rosetta! tunes.
“Understanding the lyrics, I don’t think is really a problem,” he said. “I think when people come to see us, even if they don’t necessarily understand what they’re hearing, they like the words. I think people feel something — at least hopefully.”
The members of the band — Ward, Baker, Adam Hogan, Kinley Dowling, Romesh Thavanathan and Phil Maloney — are home now for the foreseeable future, and plan to hole themselves up in a studio to get some work done on a new album as soon as possible in the new year.
Click on the “tour” option on their website, and there are, for the first time in a long time, only four dates listed, all of them in this province.
Hey Rosetta! is bringing their annual Christmas show to Grand Falls-Winsor tonight and Corner Brook Sunday night, before doing two shows at Mile One stadium in St. John’s Dec. 19 and 20.
They were originally set do to just the one show at Mile One’s half-venue, but a second date was added after the first sold out.
“We’re humbled by the response we received to the holiday show in St. John’s, and even more excited to be taking it around the island,” Baker said in a written statement.
Ward said he’s excited to take the show across the island for the first time.
The home-province gigs will be a little different; a little more special and familiar and less restrictive than what the band plays on tour.
Concert-goers can expect material from the Christmas album mixed in with songs from the previous three records, as well as something extra-special for the die-hard Hey Rosetta! fans.
“There are people who were at our first show at Roxxy’s who want to hear the old stuff,” Ward said, laughing.
“If not for St. John’s, I don’t feel like we would be anywhere near where we are today. I feel like something happened in St. John’s and people really appreciated us and pushed us in a way to go out and be able to tour and do the things we’re doing, and there’s a strong foundation of people who are really there for us and support us.”
Baker alluded to more Christmas music in the future.
“I don’t think I’m done with the challenge of writing a song about Christmas without it being all fake-plastic-cheesy-yule log-happiness, for that matter, all angry-anti-establishment protest, but something in the middle, like the real thing,” he wrote.
“Like sitting by the tree, mildly hungover, staring at a pile of gift-wrapped overconsumption and feeling overfilled with dinner and love and mythic joy.”
Tickets for Hey Rosetta!’s Christmas shows are $30 in advance and $35 on the day of the show (including tax, plus surcharge).
Tickets for the Grand Falls-Winsor and Corner Brook shows are available at the local arts and culture centre box offices, and online at www.sonicconcerts.com.
The Dec. 20 show at Mile One is sold out. Tickets for the Dec. 19 show are on sale now at www.sonicconcerts.com.