The frosty bitter cold felt on a January evening in Saskatchewan is enough to chill to the bone, prompting many to hunker down indoors near a cozy fire.
The seven men who make up Bombargo did just that in early 2020. The result — a list of tasty tracks ready to be pressed into vinyl.
Nearly a year ago the group locked themselves inside a cabin at Emma Lake and recorded what is their second full feature album, the experience, a first for the band, was an enjoyable deviation from simply recording in a studio, they said.
“When you’re at a studio there’s a time limit where it’s like, it’s time to go home guys, we’ll sleep on it and come back,” lead vocalist Nathan Thoen said. “But, when you’re up there and you turn this cabin into the studio, it’s just forever breathing and living,” he added.
“When you’re singing in a studio by yourself, just; dah, dah, dah… it’s a bit different than having six guys just cheers-ing beers, being like ‘(you’re) nailing it man, incredible,” guitarist Anthony Thoen explained.
Lead guitarist Spencer Chilliak summarized the experience rather succinctly: “When you’re in a cabin with seven boys and a limited supply of water, weird things start happening,” he chuckled.
One of the band’s most enduring qualities is their ability to establish a deep connection with their audience during a live performance, a kind of lightning that was important to bottle on the record.
“One of the hardest things about recording is to capture that energy of a live show,” Chilliak explained. “We just wanted to make sure that our brothership that we have (for each other), (that’s) floating through space, that energy was captured sonically.”
“I think that’s something that we do so well,” Nathan added. “We just build each other up as we’re doing this.”
While recording in an unconventional studio the band got both creative and cold during the process, sometimes simultaneously.
“It was like -25, -30 when we were recording, and the heater would be making noise,” Anthony explained. “So when we were tracking vocals we’d have to kill the heat. So, it was always a battle of, should we take a break and turn the heat back on, or keep going.”
Moments like that didn’t deter the band.
“The vibe really did contribute to the record though,” saxophonist Connor Newton added.
As did some less than typical instruments, including lamps and even dice.
“We rolled dice onto an acoustic back of a guitar for a sound effect, which, I would say is a pretty unique aspect,” Chilliak said.
Even the classic game Yahtzee made an impact on the recording process.
“At one point Niall was drumming this track, and there’s a break in the drums and as the break happened Rich, our producer rolled a Yahtzee and we all started freaking out,” Nathan said.
The commotion caused drummer Niall Cubbon to pause, but, the group had decided the Yahtzee ‘chorus-line’ would be necessary for the track.
“Rich was like ‘ it’s alright I’ll just roll another Yahtzee,” Nathan explained. “To say that, with the recording, and timing, and everything… and sure enough, Niall starts drumming again, and then back-to-back Yahtzee’s,” he concluded.
“And you bet we kept those cheers on the final version of that song,” Chilliak added.
The long-anticipated album was scheduled for a release to coincide with their spring and summer tour, which was cancelled after one show due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic the band has looked for ways to get the album pressed, ultimately turning to an online fundraiser, which is essentially acting as an album presale.
“We’ve been sitting on this thing for so long, we’re just like, we want to get this out to the people. Then that was kind of the epiphany of like, maybe the people can help,” Nathan said.
“When we have that kind of support roll in from our fans it’s just such an affirmation that we’re in this for the right reasons and people see that,” Chilliak added.