It may have taken a little longer than they might have expected, but Newfoundland folk trio The Once is confident they have finally honed in on what they are happy to define as “their” sound with the group’s latest release, We Win Some We Lose.
This isn’t of course to insinuate that the group was unhappy, creatively unfulfilled or hadn’t found success with any of their prior efforts. In fact, since the time of the group’s 2010 self-titled debut, The Once has wracked up a trio of Canadian Folk Music Awards, as well as numerous East Coast Music Awards in addition to two Juno Award nominations.
Formed in the former fishing village of Trinity, Newfoundland last decade, The Once – a term used in their home province to mean ‘imminently, but not necessarily so’ – has built their career on a string of good fortune and, of course, memorable songs.
A stranger who was so taken by the group’s live performance funded their debut album, while in 2013, another chance encounter led to a collaboration and friendship with musician Mike Rosenberg, who performs under the stage name Passenger. Rosenberg invited The Once to appear on two of his albums, including his most recent effort Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea.
It’s been a hurried past few years in the world of The Once. Not surprisingly, band multi-instrumentalist Andrew Dale says the group found itself in a different mindset in the time leading up to the recording of We Win Some We Lose.
“We came into the making of this new release feeling more focused and confident in what we were bringing to the table,” Dale says. “The ideas were all there and seemed to fit where we are as a band in terms of our evolution. We knew the approach we wanted to take with these songs when we landed on the doorstep of [Producer] Dan Ledwell.”
According to Dale, it was Ledwell – a Nova Scotia-based producer that has worked with the likes of Jenn Grant, Justin Rutledge and Australian duo Oh Pep – that helped add some flair to the songs on We Win Some We Lose.
“Dan is this wicked, talented visionary when it comes to music and isn’t afraid to give you the space you need to express your ideas. That being said, he also isn’t afraid to wear the producer’s hat with authority.”
While the group entered the recording studio feeling confident in the material they were about to put to tape, Dale says Ledwell encouraged the group to consider different approaches to the songs.
“Our previous album, [2014’s] Departures, had a lot in the way of bells and whistles; there was a lot going on with some of those songs. We spent so much time on the road these last couple of years, we went into the making of We Win Some We Lose with the idea that we would record these songs live off the floor. Dan was up for whatever we wanted to do, but he also wanted to take the time to experiment with different sounds and different approaches to the material.”
Dale says the end result is one of the group’s starkest efforts to date. But while the record basks in a specific degree of minimalism, the group also took advantage of Ledwell’s idea to enhance the material with atmospheric nuances including piano, organ and percussion.
“When I listen to the finished version of those tracks, there is a lot of space given to the sounds that were incorporated into the songs. That’s not always an easy thing to accomplish, but Dan was an absolute master of it.”
This coming week, The Once will perform shows in Fredericton, Saint John and Riverview, before embarking on a series of shows through Ontario and Alberta that will bring the group through the end of November. Dale can’t recall the exact year when the group last performed in New Brunswick, but is looking forward to reacquainting himself with audiences here soon.
“If memory serves me well, I believe one of the last times we played a show in Saint John, we were on a bill with Ashley MacIsaac,” he says. “It has definitely been awhile since we’ve got to Fredericton and the Moncton area though. We are definitely anxious to revisit the province with this tour.”
What: The Once
When: Saturday Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Riverview Arts Centre, 400 Whitepine Rd., Riverview
Tickets for seniors and students are $15 plus tax and service charges; tickets for adults are $20 plus tax and service charges. Advance tickets are available at Jean Coutu (438 Coverdale Rd., Riverview), Sobeys (1160 Findlay Blvd., Riverview), and Frank’s Music (245 Carson Dr., Moncton)