The Sadies Embrace Of Diversity

Photo by Don Pyle
Photo by Don Pyle

Since forming in 1994, the Sadies have become one of Canada’s most prolific and respected bands.

Influenced by everything from country and bluegrass to garage rock and psychedelic rock, the Toronto band’s diverse taste for all styles of music has no doubt played an immense role in who they have collaborated and toured with over the last 20 years.

Neil Young, Blue Rodeo, Neko Case, the Tragically Hip and John Doe (leader of seminal punk band X) are just some of the acts with whom the Sadies have kept company over the last two decades. The spirit of constantly pushing themselves has consistently moved the Sadies forward.

The band is comprised of guitarist-vocalist Dallas Good, his brother Travis Good on guitar, Sean Dean on bass and drummer Mike Belitsky. As the sons of Good Brothers member Bruce Good, both Travis and Dallas could be considered members of Canadian country music royalty. It is a connection that the Good siblings are proud of but one they have not allowed themselves to be defined by. The Sadies have built their career on their own terms.

The past two years have been busy for the group. In April 2013, they released The Good Family Album, a collaborative effort with the Good Brothers in addition to other Good family members. The album was praised for its impeccable mix of country, bluegrass, folk and rock, and garnered much critical acclaim throughout Canada and the United States.

This past September, the Sadies released Internal Sounds, their eighth studio record billed to only their name. The group’s most recent release is a collaboration with Tragically Hip vocalist Gord Downie entitled Gord Downie, The Sadies and The Conquering Sun.

The Sadies’ Mike Belitsky says that the collaboration with the enigmatic Downie was something that was in the making for quite some time before actually coming to fruition.

“The Sadies have done a lot of touring with the Tragically Hip in the United States and so we started talking about the idea of collaborating with Gord. There was definitely a mutual appreciation of one another’s music but it was when we performed with Gord on the CBC show Fuse in 2007 that really got things moving along,” Mike says.

Mike says that the chemistry between the band and Downie was evident that day as they performed a musically diverse set of covers that included songs by Johnny Cash, the Stooges and others. They all agreed that the idea of collaborating further was appealing.

“We definitely thought that we should take the collaboration to the next step and we did although it was done over a long period of time. We all had hoped that we would come up with something that we could release but due to our respective schedules, it took a little while to come to fruition.”

Admitting that the group feels rather fortunate to be called upon as a collaborative partner so frequently, Mike feels it is their musical diversity that appeals to other bands and artists so significantly.

“I have never really thought about us as being musical chameleons in the sense that we are able to shift ourselves to accommodate others,” he says. “We have always felt that people choose the Sadies for what we are and what we offer but as well as what we can become too. One thing that is pretty unique about the band is that we have a very specific sound and take an individual approach to making music.”

Given their long-running experience in the music business, it should come as little surprise that the Sadies are completely comfortable being at the helm of their own records these days. Mike credits the experience of having worked with producers such as the Jayhawks’ Gary Louris and Blue Rodeo’s Greg Keelor on their previous efforts as giving them the confidence to oversee their latest records.

“In the past when we have worked with producers, I think each of us became conscious of what suggestions were going to be offered by the producers to help make the songs better. Making these last few records, Dallas became the conversation starter and was like what a producer should do for a band, which is to facilitate getting the best performances out of each member,” Mike says.

As the Sadies catalogue and their musical experiences continue to flourish, so does the critical acclaim that finds its way to the band. And while being on the receiving end of this positive feedback is something that the group will undoubtedly never tire of, the group has, to borrow from Frank Sinatra, done things their way. The fact that they never catered the sound to fit into trends or to reach a wider audience has and will continue to play a crucial role in their continued evolution.

“I really feel as though we get better with each record but perhaps the most important criteria is feeling like we are moving forward, not sideways or backwards. We are a group that wants to keep progressing and feel as though we are getting better at what we do.

“I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want people to like us and for the most part, we have been very lucky with the acclaim we have amassed from our peers, critics and music connoisseurs. We have yet to be booed off a stage so if that was a litmus test for the band, I would say we are doing well.”

What: The Sadies
When: Thursday, May 29, 8 p.m.
Where: McSweeney’s Dinner
 Theatre, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $15. Advance tickets are available at Spin It Records & Video, 
467 Main St., Moncton