Saturday, September 06, 2014

James O-L & The Villains On The Banks Of The Detroit River & Show # 525

On August 28th 2014, James O-L & The Villains released their new album On The Banks Of The Detroit River. Prior to meeting up with James O-L to discuss the album, I pass the Detroit River. It is unseasonably cold this day and the water in the river is a strange blue-green colour. The night before there was a large thunderstorm, the weather seems to be warming up the closer I get to my interview location. We first start talking about recording, James O-L is a man of many hats, he has recorded and produced every album he has released with the Villains himself. He is also a musician and songwriter, but today James is not wearing any hats. On The Banks Of The Detroit River was recorded in Kingsville, with Brett Humber at Sound Foundry Studios and overall the album has “More of a bigger sound” and “In general the songs have gotten more aggressive”, as James tells me. Lyrically, this album pulls inspirations from its surroundings. Songs on the album seem to evoke a certain tone, one that comes with living in Essex County. Musically the album draws from the folk/country dynamic that James O-L & The Villains have displayed in the past, but it also mixes with the aggressive, punk/90s rock edge that has developed within the band’s dynamic recently.

The album starts off with “The System”. It begins slow and is melodically folk-like before launching into furies of feedback. These two dynamics battle each other much like a vicious summer storm that follows a period of intense heat. This also applies to not only the song’s lyrical subject matter, but to the album’s overall dynamics. “Manquest” follows next, this song was as James tells me inspired “By a road trip with Caleb (The Villains drummer) to Owen Sound”. It is also the album’s first single. Musically the song features mostly clean guitar, melodic basslines and steady drumming with a Jazz-like beat. The song builds into a slow burn as it picks up with guitar solos before fading out. “Late Night Drive” follows next bringing down the pace with its folk elements, mixed with electric guitar and strong vocal harmonies provided by the band in addition to Kaitlyn Kelly. The song which has been a staple of the band’s live set for a few years now, moves along like a slow drive through back roads of Essex County. At the album release show for James O-L’s solo album last year at the Capitol Theatre near the end of The Villains set a few friends shouted out “Kill The Devil” from the back of the theatre. Only a select few people in their vicinity heard this request. I asked one of the Villains guitarists, Boh, after the show about this and he told me “It’s a new surf song we wrote”. While I did not hear the song that night, this instrumental surf song does not seem out of place on this album. The song along with the Jazz-like instrumental “Kissed At The Loop” adds a smooth dichotomy to songs found on this release.

“Arts Degree” is a song that James tells me “Hits something really unique. I think it just sounds like us. A lot of people have responded it to it. “ With lyrics such as “Born for a love with the strange and the absurd/Dreamt of the colours behind this translucent world/But they’ll rob you blind” this song seems to be convey finding a voice and artistic freedom in today’s “Post modern age”. The words also help to make this one of the strongest moments on the album. “Collective Ignorance” features guest appearances from Jim Meloche (Orphan Choir/Worry) and Kelly Hoppe (Big Sugar), they blend in amongst the bands aggressive folk sound seamlessly.

Other strong points include the weary beat of “Till The Morning Light”, which echoes elements of Neil Young’s 1972 album Harvest and the album’s ending track. “The Old And The New” ends the album in a symbolic way for the band. The song intensifies with a maelstrom of guitar, bass, and drums before it nears its end and fades out. James tells me of the album’s inspiration during our interview “I was living in a house on the Detroit River… it was like 3/5ths of the band living together and jamming and stuff at that house on the water and I think that had some influence. So we named the album kind of after that time.” He also mentions midway through the interview: “I think this album might eventually be like kind of a transition album in some ways. It seems more aggressive than anything we’ve done before, but I think we’re going to go even more in that direction. “ The songs that make up this album portray the subtleties of a band mixing elements of folk, country and the heavy rains of aggressive feedback. With On The Banks Of The Detroit River, James O-L & The Villains find their voice during the in-between moments of the album, not unlike the album’s cover image which looks outward from Windsor revealing the water between Windsor/Detroit or after a summer storm.

Another version of this article first appeared in The Windsor Independent.

Saturday Night Play List:

1. James O-L & The Villains - Collective Ignorance (CJAM Session)
2. James O-L & The Villains - Manquest (CJAM Session)
3. James O-L & The Villains - Arts Degree (CJAM Session)
4. James Bond & The Agents - Wild Angel
5. Flesh Rag - Bug Man
6. Shonen Knife - Dance To The Rock
7. Elephant Stone - All Is Burning
8. The Vindicators - Hate
9. Double Naught Spys - One More Beer
10. James O-L & The Villains - Kill The Devil (CJAM Session)
11. James O-L & The Villains - One Horse Town (CJAM Session)
12. Pokey LaFarge - Central Time
13. The Gories - Train Kept A Rollin’
14. The Rolling Stones - Do You Think I Really Care
15. Sloan - So Far So Good
16. The Exploding Hearts - Sleeping Aides & Razorblades
17. The Adverts - No Time To Be 21
18. The Mongrols - Plastic Girl
19. The Junior Raymen - The Rat Fink
20. Guitar Army - I Wanna Be Like You
21. Ty Segall - Tall Man, Skinny Lady
22. Jaill - On The Beat
23. Lowlife - Thinking Naturally
24. The Sinners - No Brains Required
25. Apache Dropout - Constant Plaything
26. The Subs - Gimme Your Heart
27. X - Soul Kitchen
28. The Boys - You Make Me Shake
29. The Marching Girls - First In Line
30. The Clash - Garageland

To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for September 6. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.

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