The Trews go acoustic

While they have come to be best known for their rousing, electric-guitar based hits like Not Ready To Go, Toronto-via-Antigonish band The Trews have found another spin to put upon their tried and true hits with an acoustic-based album entitled Acoustic: Friends and Total Strangers. Even though their acoustic record was released last fall, its enduring popularity has kept the band on the road promoting the record a little longer than they originally expected to be.

As a part of their national tour, The Trews will be performing at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre tomorrow at 8 p.m. Tim Chaisson and Morning Fold are scheduled to open the show.

According to Trews guitarist John-Angus MacDonald, the acoustic side of the band has always co-existed with the electric side even though there is little question that the group has become best known for the latter.

“Through the years, we would sometimes play a party or event acoustically and it would always go over tremendously well,” he says.

MacDonald said the catalyst to finally getting around to making an acoustic record was spurred by a trip to Japan where the band performed acoustically.

“We played two acoustic shows in Tokyo which were primarily industry showcases. The performances were so well received that we figured that we should make an acoustic-based record or at the very least do an acoustic-based tour when we were in between records.”

Returning to Toronto, the band booked the Glenn Gould Studio in the CBC Toronto building where they performed two sold-out shows for friends and fans. Those shows ultimately reinforced their decision to put down their electric guitars in favour of acoustic ones. The band recorded their performances each evening, liked what they heard and then made the shows commercially available on both compact disc as well as DVD.

MacDonald admits there was very little re-tooling that had to be done to render the group’s previously electric-guitar based songs to become acoustic.

“Truthfully a good song should be able to be played either electrically or acoustically. We were actually kind of surprised about some of the songs that didn’t end up working in the acoustic environment though,” MacDonald says.

“Our song I Can’t Say (from the band’s 2005 record Den Of Thieves) is originally an acoustic track but we haven’t played it once on this tour,” he laughs. “But then there are other songs like The Traveling Kind that never saw the light of day in one of our sets before this acoustic tour and we have been playing it constantly.”

For their acoustic concerts, The Trews have been in the habit of performing two sets during the course of the evening. The first set is the core Trews quartet on stage while during the second set, the number of people on stage swells up to seven.

“The first set we perform during the show is really as bare as it can get. But for the second set, we have our keyboardist Jeff on stage with us playing accordion plus we have Tim and Tian from the opening band (Tim Chaisson & Morning Fold) come join us on stage as well.”

With promotional activities behind Friends and Total Strangers finally set to wrap up in mid-December, the band will then be preparing to release a brand-new studio effort in April 2011.

Recorded at The Tragically Hip’s Bathouse Recording Studio, MacDonald says what was supposed to be an informal songwriting session with The Hip’s Gord Sinclair turned into a full-blown recording session almost by accident.

“We were all living under the same roof, would wake up in the morning, brew some coffee and then just get around to composing a song,” he explains. “We would work on it all day and then by dinner time, we would have a finished song to be put to tape. It was a first for us to record in that manner but for the stage of our career that we are at, we found it was a great process to let inspiration come in and just let things unfold organically.

“It was supposed to be an informal arrangement but before we knew it, we had a record completed. In the past, I think we have over-thought the songwriting process but this time around, we allowed things to be much more spontaneous.”

Before their new record hits store shelves however, MacDonald and band mates Jack Syperek, Sean Dalton and Colin MacDonald will be headed down under to Australia to help capitalize on momentum gained from their first visit to the continent last month.

“Our first tour of Australia was definitely a successful one,” MacDonald says. “We have a great team working for us there.”

MacDonald said the parallels between Canada and Australia are numerous, which definitely helped the band feel a little more at home.

“We found that people’s dispositions were very similar. You’ve got bands in Australia that are huge there but virtually unknown outside of their borders, a lot like at home in Canada. But the cool thing is that it doesn’t deter bands from doing what they love.”

Having their Australian tour coincide some of Canada’s relentless winter months is just a bonus as far as MacDonald is concerned.

“You don’t really have to twist our arms to go Australia to tour in February – the middle of their summer.”

Article published in November 19, 2010 edition of the Times & Transcript