We called up Steve on a stormy day last week and took up some of his tennis-watching time to talk Sappy, poetry, the mechanics of a “Big Deal” reunion, and how it feels to come back home.
In a lot of ways, we’re going back to our roots this year. Sappy’s always been a family gathering, but this year features a lot of big reunions and returns. What do you think about the theme, Bring it on Home: does it feel like more of a homecoming than usual?
I’m glad to be included in those roots and to be thought of in that way. I’ve been to every SappyFest and volunteered a lot when I was in Sackville, I was on the Sappy board, and I’ve played a bunch of shows. I’m glad to be thought of as part of the theme: that’s how Sappy feels, like going home.
I remember we [The Constantines] played Sappy 2 way back when. We played at George's, and there was no big mainstage then. Things have changed a lot in the interim, but Sappy’s up for grabs in the sense that you can do whatever you want with it. It’s good to know the history and roots, and traditions are empowering, but traditions shouldn’t be burdens, they should be empowering.
Best Sappy memory or favourite Sappy year?
I’ve been to all of them, and loved them all in their own peculiar ways. I don’t know if I feel comfortable choosing a favourite. Well, actually, Charles Bradley and Arcade Fire: that was maybe the best festival that’s happened anywhere, ever. There have been different charms every year, and they’ve all been undeniably magical, but they’ve blended in my mind a little.
I had the most fun at Sappy last year, because I didn’t pull my weight. I was just enjoying being there, and it was fucking awesome. There’s always a lot of stuff going on in the background of everybody’s life, but what’s beautiful and important is that we’re there and bring it together each year.
There’s obviously a lot of excitement surrounding the Constantines’ show and reunion. You’ve already played at Field Trip in Toronto, how was that? Why did you guys want to come all the way down here?
When we talked about doing shows again this year, we decided it would be fun to play Sappy. A lot of the other tour decisions were based around bus schedules and that weekend.
We actually did a kind-of-secret show in Guelph a couple days before Field Trip in Toronto. It was at Kazoo! Fest, a small grassroots festival. It was great, it was the kind of context we’re comfortable playing in, like Sappy. It’s neat to see other festivals following suit. Sappy’s a bit of a trailblazer for festivals like Arboretum and Field Trip.
What can you say about your book, which is a collection of your lyrics? Do you feel weird about seeing lyrics as poetry or poetics instead of as lyrics? They’re the same words, obviously, but putting them on the page separates from the context of music and live performance, and I imagine that affects how you and others read them.
It’s a collection from the past few records. It’s concrete and done, I’m looking at a box of them right now. It came about through a friend’s small press, and I’m incredibly nervous about the fact that I’ve done it. I was dragging my heels on finishing my manuscript. If I had to do it all by myself I wouldn’t have had the nerves; it’s liberating and necessary to have someone else believe in something enough for you to do it.
It was an interesting project and process to think about songs in that context of poetry. This was kind of a learning project, and it’s really exciting to have done it, even though it’s all work that’s come out before. The process of taking lyrics from a song and putting them on a page is an interesting one: even though they’ve already existed as songs, they’re also poetry when you write them down.
In some ways the idea and structure of a song gives you a framework that’s easier to work with. When I write poems it’s hard to know when it’s done or finished, but with songs it’s done when it’s over, you know? Whereas on the page, obviously there are forms and structures to consider, it seems like it’s a lot more concrete. Playing with form, whether with music or art or writing, seems to be popular these days. It’s like, is that all there is? Only form? I don’t get it, I’m way too invested in living in the world and talking with people and stuff. Exciting things happened when we talk to each other. Communication is not isolated. And with songs in particular, I can use as many specific things from my life as I want, but at a certain point the only thing that matters is finishing is the song… It doesn’t matter if it’s a perfect reflection of my life or what I’m doing. Maybe 90 percent of the lyrics are from my life, but sometimes the voice of the song arrives at a conclusion or ending that I didn’t have or didn’t actually happen to me. I think songs have to have their own integrity separate from life.
Playing songs as musicians, we get to do it over and over again. Poetry doesn’t have the same frequency in my experience. I really like the idea of live performance and creating a work that can be reinterpreted and be a kind of living thing that you get to revisit and re-enact. And there’s not those apparent equivalences of being a folk singer or being punk rock if you’re a poet, it’s harder to do it on your own.
All this to say, I’m terrified of putting the book out.
What show are you most excited to see this year?
COOL. I put out a record for Apollo Ghosts, and I’m super excited to see them play. They don’t leave Vancouver very often. I also want to see Ought, who I haven’t seen before. And then there’s the usual faves: getting to see pals and stuff.
Steve hits the Vogue as Baby Eagle, Sunday at 5:00PM, and again with the Constantines on the mainstage at 11:00PM.
Baby Eagle performing Rebel Crimes in St. Johns, NL.
We're slowly updating our Satellite Activities page with exciting things to check out during your time at SappyFest. We're happy to have Sean Michaels back for another year to recap the festival with the Sappy Times, City Mail out hand delivering your letters of love, Universal Dawn, the Kids Corner Power Jam, and Outlier Film Festival presenting the animated feature, Asphalt Watches.
More to come!
Our favourite weekend of the year is fast approaching and it's shaping up to be the one to beat. Tickets are moving very quickly and many side stages have a limited capacity (as does our mainstage) and there will be a cap on how many passes we can sell. We strongly recommend snatching them up!
We can't wait to see you all. xo.
Weekend and Day Passes are available here, via TicketPro.
Julie Doiron needs no introduction for anyone familiar with SappyFest, Sackville, or the last decade of the Canadian music scene. Doiron cofounded SappyFest in 2006 as an offshoot of the Moncton label Sappy Records. Since then, she has played nearly every year of the festival, appearing as a solo act and as a member in many other bands and collaborations. This year Julie plays with her newest Sackville supergroup Weird Lines. The band features a slew of both Sackville staples and recent imports. Weird Lines is symbol for Sappy’s own mantra: get all your friends together in one place, play music, have fun, and repeat next summer.
We sat down with Julie at the Black Duck Café last week to chat about Sappy's history, songwriting, and how to have a perfect Sunday.
SappyFest has always been a giant family reunion, even for newcomers. This year’s theme is “Bring it On Home,” which is suitable as it features many Sappy Record originals such as yourself and Michael Feuerstack, and reunion shows from the Constantines and Shotgun & Jaybird. What do you think this year will have to add to the family reunion kind of feel that Sappy is all about?
Last year had gotten big, and maybe it wasn’t going to happen this year. The first couple years were really small, and it doesn’t have to be big to be fun. In some ways we’re going back to the beginning, scaling back, returning to the original idea. And it’s always good to have a rebirth.
It’s good to do whatever feels right, to scale it back if it’s getting too big or out of hand. Sappy has always had a good gut instinct, and is good at doing what feels right.
You’ve always been very involved in Sappy, how has your relationship to the festival changed over the years?
I was more of a contact or ambassador at first. In the early years I didn’t even have a computer! I’ve played every year of the festival, except for last year, because Elsie [my daughter] was born a couple days before the weekend. I’m playing twice this year. I’m excited, I like performing.
Sometimes interviewers associate lyrics with artist’s lives in a way that can seem intrusive or assumptive. Do you ever feel that people are making assumptions about your lyrics?
I don’t know if guys get asked those things too. People have had that idea about me, because a lot of my songs are personal, though some that are in the first person are not necessarily about me, they’re about friends of mine. And I think it’s normal for people to ask about that, to want to know what songs are about. Usually if the artist writes about it they’re willing to talk about it. Maybe they write about it to talk about it more.
I tend to write in a very personal way, but I rely heavily on melody [to write lyrics]. I come up with a melody first, base lyrics off of the melody, and go from there. I choose the words somewhat carefully. I try to use simple language that people can identify with. I don’t want to make it too complex. Lyrics are there so there can be a melody.
There’s no particular formula. I feel lucky for being able to write songs at all, it’s a pretty natural thing for me to do.
What’s your ideal Sunday in Sackville?
A good Sunday involves taking a walk and maybe swimming. I love being at my house and in my garden, and if I’m lucky I get to go for a swim. Even in the winter, we go to the pool and swim inside.
Who are you most excited to see this year?
The Constantines. I don’t like picking favourites, but The Constantines. That goes without saying.
Catch Julie at the mainstage on Saturday night at 10PM, and later at the Legion with Weird Lines at midnight.
Check out the latest iPhone ad featuring Doiron's track Life of Dreams.
We're back at it for another week, folks. We have Steve Haley of Banded Stilts performing an acoustic set on Bridge Street tomorrow morning at 11:00am in front of Thunder & Lightning Pub.
We'll be out in full force selling passes and offering information on all fronts.
A limited number of Day Passes are now available for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Snatch them up while you still can or grab a Full Weekend Pass.
Purchase them here via TicketPro or at our office located on the second floor of 131 Main Street in Sackville, NB.
Our headliners Cousins and the Constantines are teaming up to play a few shows this fall. Cousins recently released their Polaris Prize Nominated record The Halls of Wickwire, while the Cons are reuniting to tour across this great land. We've managed to score the only foreseeable Eastern date.
You can catch them both on the mainstage this year. Don't miss out.
The Kids Corner Power Jam is back for another year! The camp will run from July 28-August 1 and is led by some of our very own local talent including Steve Haley of Banded Stilts and Jon Mckiel. During the week the campers will form bands, write songs, make posters and t-shirts, record their songs, and perform on the mainstage.
The registration deadline is July 25th. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 506 536 4878 for more information.
Currently split between Sackville and Halifax, Banded Stilts deliver comforting and astute folk that oscillates between contemporary pop, piano-heavy ballads, and lyrical narration that wouldn't be out of place in a Canadiana short story. Their sound has been said to "reach back to the grand old folk traditions within a contemporary alt-roots sound" (Toronto.com).
Earlier this week we sat down with our good friend Steve Haley to talk about his Sappy history, what he's had on repeat for the last while, the predatory habits of seagulls on the band's namesake bird, some influences on the latest album, and the effects of young children on Mad Men binge-watching.
Who are you most excited to watch at Sappy this year?
Ooooh… so hard to choose. Cool's bandcamp page is pretty killer, Dusted put on one of my favourite live shows of the past year, Michael Feuerstack is a treasure, The Constantines? All of the above?
What’s your best go-to insult?
I'm not great with insults. Unless you're that guy who wouldn't lower the price of his ridiculously over-priced comic books after I spent a lot of time digging through dusty boxes thinking I was going to get a sweet deal. He knows who he is. I might call him an idiot.
Best Sappy memory?
My first B.A Johnston show was at Uncle Larry's during a past Sappy and, no, I was not warned and, no, I was not prepared.
Have you ever cried during a set?
Does a set of Full House episodes count?
What's a good Sunday like for you?
Before Sam (my son): too much food and binge watching Mad Men. After Sam: lighter meals and actually going outside.
What have you been listening to lately?
Chad Van Gaalen's Shrink Dust, Feuerstack's Singer Songer, Jon McKiel's new record and I've been re-visiting some "oldies" in preparations for this year's Sappy.
What was on repeat when you were working on your last album? (i.e. did you have any particular influences in mind, whether musical, literary, or otherwise?)
I was definitely on a bit of a Jayhawks kick during the recording. The Band's live album Rock of Ages was also getting a lot of spins.
In terms of influences, the album is a bit of a mish-mash of influences. Fred's Record's in Newfoundland (my fav record store), likened it to CSNY, The Band and Fleet Foxes and that's pretty apt. But influences are all over the map. For instance, I wrote the last song on the album as soon as I got home from a Weather Station show.
As for literary influences, I sometimes get ideas for lyrics while reading novels and comic books. If I see a line or phrasing that really stands out to me, it can inspire a completely different narrative in my head. The ending of Ernest Buckler's The Mountain and the Valley, for instance, sparked the idea for the song Cold. I won't spoil the ending of that book, but if you know it, my song makes a little more sense.
How long have Banded Stilts been playing together? How has the Halifax/Sackville split affected you guys?
As crazy as it sounds to me, Banded Stilts has been playing together in some capacity for about 3 years, I think. Before I moved to Sackville, I spent a lot of time in Halifax just hanging with my buds and practicing some songs. We played a couple of shows as a three piece before moving to a 5 piece. For SappyFest this year, I think we're going to be a 7 piece. It's fun. The downside, of course, of having the rest of the band in Halifax is that practice time becomes a bit of an ordeal. We make the most of it and usually practice around shows or when we get together to hang. We're all close friends in the band. I am eager to start something new and fresh in Sackville though. Stay tuned.
This might be a bit of a throwback, but can you remember your first introduction to SappyFest?
When I first left Newfoundland and landed in Amherst, Nova Scotia, I knew nothing about Sackville or Sappyfest. I remember the fall of 2009 (I think) seeing a video of Wax Mannequin, who I'm a huge fan of, performing at SappyFest and realizing that this was literally just next door. We began to slowly trickle across the border for shows after that and haven't missed a Sappy since.
A lot of people are attracted to Sackville because it fosters so many different kinds of cultural communities; do you think the town’s inter-dependent nature is part of the draw for you as a musician? I suspect that this sense of community may have attracted you to live in Sackville in the first place: how has your relationship to the town changed over time?
Like I was saying above, I knew nothing about Sackville prior to visiting. When we started venturing across the border to see shows, I was blown away. That first Sappy with Wintersleep and Timber Timbre combined with my first time seeing Daniel, Fred, and Julie later that year solidified that Sackville was where we should be living. Since living here, I've come to love Sackville, for so many more reasons besides music. I love seeing the same people everyday, I love how the community supports art and culture and I just really want to raise Sam here. I think he will be his best possible self having grown up here.
You hold a unique position as both a performer and a board member for Sappy this year; why were you interested in being a part of the inner workings of the festival?
It's kind of surreal that I'm even part of the team, to be honest. I'm a huge fanboy and I'm still just an excited SappyFest fan. It was already super cool to move from fan to performer, but now board member? It's weird. I was late to the game and only became part of the board like a month ago, but I'm stoked to be helping organize and run the festival. Knowing that my family and I are going to be living here for the foreseeable future, it just made sense to want to be involved with something that I have a deep love and respect for. I'm probably most excited to be helping out with the Kids Corner Power Jam/John Cougar Bandcamp.
This might be a question you've gotten before, but I was curious about the band name. Any good stories about picking it out? Also, did you know that banded stilts were once categorized as a vulnerable species under the 1972 Australian Parks & Wildlife Act because of heavy predation from seagulls? I think they’re doing okay now.
The story is not that good. I literally just googled bird names and wrote down a few that I thought sounded like a cool band name. This was due to the fact that, after leaving Newfoundland, I was particularly fascinated with the different varieties of birds on the mainland. I spent a bit of time hiking around the area and visiting the Amherst Bird Sanctuary and the Waterfowl Park in town, just scoping out the birds. So I was into "birding" for awhile. I'm glad to hear the banded stilts are doing okay now, although I definitely feel like part of a vulnerable species sometimes.
Banded Stilts play the Mainstage on Sunday at 1:30 in the afternoon. We can't wait!
Cool is the hottest new band to hit the West Coast, though they certainly aren't strangers to the scene. The band is made up of Apollo Ghosts (You've Changed Records) ex-pats Adrian Teacher, Amanda Puzzetto, and Shawn Mrazek.
Earlier this year they released their debut LP entitled Paint and quickly followed it up with their EP Best New Music.
"Cool's chromatic corpus comprises a quest for the quintessence of colours ranging the spectrum from pearlescent pink to glimmering gold, a seen-sound synaethesia wrapped in irresistible funk rhythms and punk franticity." -- Weird Canada
Check them out on August 2nd at the mainstage and listen to their latest release here.
We are pleased to present the SappyFest 9 schedule. Of course things are always in flux and this will likely change between now and August 1st.
We've also added some more wonderful artists to the mix including: Baby Eagle, XXX CLVR, Greasebeast, Rose Melberg and a solo acoustic set by Shotgun Jimmie.
Let us all begin planning our beautiful summers together. See you soon.
SappyFest and the Tantramar Heritage Trust are proud to present Sackville favourite and JUNO award winning Old Man Luedecke.
It's been far to long since Luedecke graced the marsh with his banjo-driven folk tunes. This time Luedecke returns with his band in support of his 2012 record Tender is the Night.
The concert will take place on July 5th at the beautiful and historic Campbell-Carriage Factory Museum located at 19 Church Street in Middle Sackville.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door (children under 12 get in for free) and will go on sale Monday, June 16th at the SappyFest headquarters located at 131 Main Street.
For more information please call: 506 540 1327 or email: email@example.com.
You can also visit the Facebook event here.
Things have apparently shaped up here in Sackville. New Brunswick and we are pleased to present the (always, maybe) complete line up for SappyFest 9. We know that you were worried about us and that you wondered how we were. We thought of you too:
Banded Stilts, Basia Bulat, Bry Webb,Constantines, Cool, Cousins, Dusted, Duzheknew, El Ron Maltan, Eons, Freelove Fenner, The Grubbies, JOYFULTALK, Julie Doiron, Michael Feuerstack,MOON, Motherhood, Nick Ferrio, The Olympic Symphonium, Ought, PS I Love You,Rae Spoon, Shotgun & Jaybird, Spencer Burton, The Weather Station, Weird Lines, and Wet Denim.
Read Pigeon Row’s official press release for more details.
Attention past loves & future friends—
Spring is coming to a close and Sappy is just down the summer road. Now that you know who’s playing you may be interested in heading our way in August.
We are looking for folks to get involved through volunteering and billeting. This is a great chance to become part of the magic and contribute to the inner workings of the festival.
Volunteers are needed for security, hospitality, transportation, selling merchandise, bartending, recycling,stage production, and for the box office. These jobs and an array of others keep us afloat. Volunteering has many perks, including free festival passes. Working one shift gets you a day pass for the day you work, and three shifts gets you a full festival pass. Some crews are 19+, but youth volunteers are welcome with signed permission from a legal guardian.
We are also looking for residents of Sackville who are able to host performers during the festival weekend and provide them with a comfortable place to sleep. Anyone who can offer a bed, couch, floor, or yard to any of our performers, please let us know. We would appreciate any and all places you have to offer.
If you are interested in volunteering, please head over here; if you are interested in billeting, head over here. If you’re interested in volunteering AND billeting (we love you), please complete both forms in whatever order you think is best.
If you are looking for more specific information, have questions, or want to say hello, please email Karissa at coordinator (at) sappyfest (dot) com or call the office at 506 232 7597.