Cabin Fever

Jim Bryson recounts The Falcon Lake Incident

  • Feb. 24, 2011 4:00 p.m.

Jim Bryson recounts The Falcon Lake Incident

For many, being stuck with a bunch of guys in a Manitoba cabin during an extreme cold snap would be their idea of hell. But when that particular bunch of guys are the Weakerthans and you’re holed up in the lodge to record a new album, all of a sudden, the -40° temperatures don’t seem so bad.

That was the situation Ottawa’s Jim Bryson found himself in last January, when a lunch conversation with Weakerthans guitarist Stephen Carroll turned to talk about when Bryson would be releasing a new record.

“I said, ‘Well, I just started making one. Funny you should ask, I would love if you guys ever wanted to play on some stuff,’” says Bryson. “He said, ‘I think there’s a visiting artist program, but we’d have to do it in Winnipeg. How do you feel about coming to Winnipeg to record?’”

Well, they didn’t quite end up in Winnipeg, but about 150 kilometres east, in a lodge on Falcon Lake, Manitoba in the dead of winter. For six days, Bryson and the Weakerthans laid down the 10 tracks that would become The Falcon Lake Incident.

“What was really rewarding about this and hopefully comes across in the music is that, at the end of the day, we were together,” Bryson says of the recording. “When you record in the city, everyone goes about their days. Everyone has got to go to soccer practice or walk the dog or bring back their library books or whatever the case may be … The nice thing about being somewhere isolated is it’s a bit of a submarine life.”

Bryson says he spent some time before the recording session working on a few of the songs and trying to take them in Weakerthans-friendly directions. “It was fun to try and get inside their heads a little bit — but at the same time, I didn’t do that,” the singer-songwriter says. “I knew that when it came to arranging the songs, their stamp would be on them right away. The second they start playing together, they sound like they sound.”

Even though the two parties were very familiar with each others’ music — Bryson has toured with the Weakerthans in the past — Bryson says there were still a few surprises during that cold week on Falcon Lake.

“This wasn’t the type of record I thought I was going to make,” he says. “When I was writing the songs, some of the demos are just really intimate little cozy songs that we kind of blew open a little bit.”

And it seems Bryson and the band have been spending more time together in close quarters; they’ve embarked on a cross-Canada tour — minus frontman John K. Samson, who is up in Dawson City for a creative residency — which includes a stop here in Victoria.

“It’s not lost on me that this is a pretty rare opportunity and this time next year, we’ll all be off doing different things,” says Bryson. “We’ll have the memories, but for now, it really is pretty great . . . that we get to do this together.”

Here’s to hoping this isn’t the last we see of this creative collaboration. M

Jim Bryson and the Weakerthans Band8pm Sunday, Feb. 27(early show, 12am curfew)Sugar, 858 YatesTickets $17.50atomiqueproductions.com                                                   

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