Although there is no scientific proof of anything extra in the water in Yarmouth, the tiny Nova Scotia town whose 2011 population came in at under 7,000 people, the area is churning out a disproportionately large amount of acclaimed bands.
Wintersleep, The Stanfields, Brian Borcherdt and more have gone on to national and international acclaim, boasting one or numerous ties to Yarmouth.
One of the community’s latest offerings is rock band Lead Mule. Despite being a life-long Yarmouth resident, band vocalist-guitarist Mat Bridgeo is at a bit of a loss to explain why the area turns out such formidable musical talent:
“Back in the 90’s when the Seattle scene was happening, you heard a lot of artists blame the rain for the proliferation of groups coming from that corner of the world. I’m going to blame Yarmouth’s elevated music profile on people being bored,” Bridgeo laughs.
“I love this area, but there isn’t a whole lot to do. Yarmouth isn’t really a tourism destination, either, so you had to explore ways to keep yourself busy. Music became the go-to thing for a lot of people in the community.”
Bridgeo says that when he was a student, the principal of his school, a former band member himself, would often conduct Battle of the Bands-type shows at school. He acknowledges that while such contests may have been responsible for instilling a sense of competition amongst bands in the area, it also helped fuel a kindred, “Yarmouth versus the world” kind of mentality as well.
“We may have been in ‘competing’ bands but there was also an all-for one, one-for-all kind of attitude prevalent among us as well,” he continues. “We tended to look down upon trendy cities or places where a lot of bands were comprised of members that had everything handed to them. You never got that impression from bands from Atlantic Canada at all; we were all trying to prove ourselves, that we could stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other acts.”
Lead Mule came together approximately four years ago. Bridgeo had been playing with another Yarmouth rock band, My Friend Matthew, who ended taking a hiatus. During his down time, he began casually jamming with fellow Yarmouth musician Mark Durkee, also a member of acclaimed group Rain Over St. Ambrose.
Bridgeo says Durkee was adamant that he return to playing music.
“Eventually, we rounded up some other guys and began practicing. The difference with this group of guys, compared to previous projects I was a part of, is that I felt inspired by them. While I was taking a break from playing and making music, I didn’t feel compelled to write anything.
“I felt excited about the prospect of making music with these guys, and began wanting to really knock them out with the songs I was writing.”
Lead Mule would go on to release their self-titled debut EP in early 2013. Although the group had gone into the studio with nine tracks, they chose to put their best foot forward, whittling down the number of songs from nine to the five tracks that comprised the EP.
Following promotional efforts that took the group to all corners of the Maritimes, the group re-entered the studio to record their follow-up effort, Parts and Labour, due for release later this year.
Asked how their upcoming release differs from their debut, Bridgeo says there is a sunnier feeling permeating the songs.
“It is so easy to be cynical when it comes to writing songs. That being said, however, some of these new songs may seem upbeat, but the subject matter can betray that feeling as well. It’s ultimately up to the listener to decipher.”
Bridgeo shares that despite having laid down the essential parts of the record at a studio in Riverport, N.S. in a relatively short span of time, he feels that he gave himself too much leeway in which to record his vocals, something he hopes to steer clear of in future recording sessions.
“I wasn’t as stringent about recording vocals as I should have been, especially when you’re listening to yourself sing the same lines of the same song over and over. It’s so easy to be hard on yourself when you’re listening back to your vocals, that you continually go back and re-record your lines, optimistic you can better the performance.
“In recording my vocals for Parts and Labour, I found it took me singing four or five takes of the song before I started being happy with my vocals. By the time I had sung the song for the ninth or tenth time, I had a take that I was happy with,” he shares.
What: Lead Mule with Crystal Porter, FM Berlin and Kilmore
When: Saturday June 20, 9 p.m.
Where: Plan b Lounge, 212 St. George St., Moncton