Interview: The Sadies’ Sean Dean on collaborations, online streaming, and staying versatile over a 20-year career

 
 

A band that keeps to the rhythm of their own beat, stays original, and is never afraid to mix it up, Toronto quartet The Sadies have a unique brand of rock and roll that comes at you from all angles.

The revered psychedelic alt-country band will be enjoying a little trip through New England starting tonight at Cuisine en Locale in Somerville before crashing Roots Hoot House Concerts‘ sold-out Swamp Stomp 8 Saturday afternoon in West Kingston, Rhode Island, alongside Steve Wynn & The Miracle 3, The Silks and more. Spreading the love around, they’ll also be at The Press Room in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, this Sunday, and opening for Father John Misty at The State Theatre in Portland, Maine, on Monday.

Before their illustrious expedition, Vanyaland connected with upright bassist Sean Dean to discuss the band putting out their latest release with The Tragically Hip’s Gordon Downie last year, some of the differences between playing in Canada and the United States, dabbling in different musical styles, and artists getting their fair share.

Break down those country borders and dive into the Q&A below…

Rob Duguay: For your latest release, last year you guys worked with The Tragically Hip’s Gordon Downie on the And The Conquering Sun album. What was it like being in the studio with Gordon and how did it all come together?

Sean Dean: It was good, nice and easy. We worked over the course of a couple years just slowly working at songs, laying them down and then having to meet. We’re all so busy so we basically did it at a pace in which busy people can hack away, that’s why it took so long. We toured last year in the summer for that record. It’s good for us to branch out and do collaborative projects that expands our horizons and takes up our lag period which is pretty good as well.

The Sadies have also done projects with Randy Bachman from Bachman-Turner Overdrive and more notably The Guess Who along with Jon Spencer. Whenever a collaboration is going on, do you feel the band learns something different when it comes to writing your own songs?

I think it’s a pretty cool experience to be put on the spot and having to work with people, seeing how people work and what people are comfortable with. We see the differences but also the similarities and the shit that people talk about when you’re just trying to get a project off the ground. It’s pretty interesting but it’s been pretty beneficial to our band with being versatile but also being put on the spot to come up with something. There are no guarantees that it’s going to work out, something that you thought might work in your head becomes complicated at times when you all get together and sometimes it just flows. We always tend to have friendships first where we meet people at gigs, at festivals or chummin’ around at shows and stuff. Then we just go further and develop a musical relationship.



I can see how beneficial it can be, especially when you’re working with all sorts of different talents. When The Sadies go out on tour, being a band from Canada do you discover any differences between playing in front of the crowds that you play to in your home country versus when you cross over the border to play in the States?

It’s all different, but we play Europe, too, and even playing in multiple countries over there it’s different. It’s rock and roll at the end of the day, every different town and every different bar in a town is a different experience so it’s whatever the rock and roll community throws at you. You just have to be versatile and we’ve learned that from touring at a young age with other bands and being in the punk scene. Going out and playing in all ages clubs and bars and sleeping on friend’s floors and stuff like that so we’ve seen a lot but we’re grateful just to still be working musicians. It’s a tough business but it’s all about persevering.

Speaking of being versatile, you guys refer to yourselves as a rock and roll band but you always push yourselves when it comes to songs. Each one has its own identity, there’s always a lot of things happening when I listen to a Sadies record. Some tracks have a bit of a country twang, some have a little bit of a blues thing going on, some are straight up garage rock while others have a slight punk influence. When the band has ever jammed out while starting to write new material and just screwing around for a bit, are there any other styles that the band has considered writing songs in but they haven’t been ready to be unleashed to the masses yet? Have The Sadies ever thought about writing something with a little bit of funk or with an r&b, Motown style?

Me and Dallas [Good] love to dance, I’ve seen Travis [Good] dance around in his bathing trunks around a pool drinking champagne. I know we do love dance music and gettin’ down. We love Motown a lot and when we were working with Andre Williams we thought that we were going to have to study all of the r&b and Motown that we love to try to conjure up that feel. We’re just an amalgamation of stuff that we love and you never know what’s going to come out of us. We’re probably not going to use a drum machine ever and any keyboards we’re gonna use are going to be a Hammond or a Rhodes or something, not a synthesizer. It’s our personal taste and what we love. We’d love to expand the genres in our own personal listening. I don’t know if we’ll pull out a reggae song ever but we’re not dead yet.

Maybe play a Bob Marley cover live or something for an encore.

We’re similar to Bob Marley in our love for marijuana so you never know, you might catch us pulling one out and playing one,

It’s all relative right?

[laughs]



A big topic in the music industry lately are the issues with crowd sharing streaming outlets like Spotify and artists not getting paid enough for how many plays they get. Acts on Spotify barely get a penny for each time someone plays their song. The Sadies have been around since ’94 so how valuable do you think the crowd sharing idea is to bands what do you think it’ll take to properly improve it so artists are compensated fairly?

It’s useful to be able to hear a band when your friends are talking about them and you can go right to your computer or your phone to check it out, I do think that has improved the world a great deal. For instance, if a band comes to my city and I’m looking to go out because I love to go see bands in whatever situations like bars, clubs, theaters or stadiums I can check them out online and make sure that I’m going to enjoy myself and not be disappointed and waste time. I don’t really care about the money, it’s the time you’re taking to going out. I do believe that these mechanisms have improved the world. I don’t dig that Spotify probably have some people who are making big money and they’re going to cheap out on paying the bands.

That reality is going to exist with people making large amounts of money and not paying the raw material and the labor. That’s going to exist until the end of time unless we do something drastic. It would be nice if we could somehow get down on these people who make a ton of money off of other people’s material and say “Why don’t you pay the bands more fairly?” Having said that, I think that once people realize that their hard drives, their computers, their phones, their storage and their CDs aren’t going to last they’re going to go out and try to find the hard copy of something that they love. That’s the hope for streaming, YouTube, or whatever you use to try and find out about music.

We love to go out and buy records and own the hard copy. That’s the hope I think for what the situation is, people get addicted to music and they can’t live without it. You gotta go out and buy a copy which is between 15 to 20 bucks for a slab of vinyl.

There’s still a quality of humanity where people still like the physical aspect of things. To be able to hold a vinyl record in your hand, look at the album art and look at the inside cover makes it a whole new experience that beats out the regular old mp3s.

It’s a ritual too, you hang out with your friends and you’re like “Hey everybody look, I’m gonna put this platter on” for everyone to enjoy, pass it around and look at it. Yeah, you’re right. Hopefully the end result is that people will get addicted to the music and want to get it for themselves.

I hope for the same thing. After this little tour The Sadies have going on, can we expect another album in the works?

Yeah, we’re working on it right now. We’re writing songs and we’re thinking about it. We’ve done so many records and we’ve been around for so long it’s easier for us to map out what we’re going to do. It’s easier and cheaper and we understand the process much, much better so we’re going to be working on it in the next couple of months and putting it out hopefully within a year.

THE SADIES :: Friday, July 31 at Cuisine En Locale, 156 Highland Ave. in Somerville, MA : 8 p.m., 18-plus, $15 : Facebook event page :: Saturday, August 1 @ Swamp Stomp 8, Great Swamp, 277 Great Neck Road in West Kingston, RI :: 1:30 p.m., all-ages, sold out : Facebook event page



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