Edmonton based indie-rocker band set to perform at the Bailey Sept. 21
The Scenic Route to Alaska trio has been friends since childhood, growing up in the Riverdale community of Edmonton, and finding inspiration from classic bands like The Beatles. Bassist Murray Wood, drummer Shea Connor, and guitarist-vocalist Trevor Mann released a new album in March and have been touring the USA, Canada, and Europe for the last several months.
The dynamic indie-rocker trio will take the stage at 8 p.m. on Sept. 21 at the Bailey Theatre.
Mann said he is looking forward to returning to Camrose. “The last time we were there we had a pretty good turn out of people from campus. It was a bit of a rowdy scene,” said Mann. “Half of the crowd was sitting at the roundtables, and then there was this big influx of college kids right at the front of the stage making pyramids out of their empty beer cans.”
The Medium sat down with Mann to discuss their new album, their tour, and their upcoming show in Camrose.
Q: How has your tour been going?
A: On March 7 our new record, Tough Luck, came out and we went off for a three-month tour. We started in Western Canada and then made our way down to the USA for the first time. We started in Austin, Texas, and that was our first time playing in the USA, it was 32 degrees, and we felt pretty good.
From there we played more shows in Canada and then drove all the way down the West Coast of the USA all the way to San Diego. In April, we performed a hometown show in Edmonton, which was a big highlight. To be received at home after time on the road was great. The kind of energy and support helped reinvigorate us and help us stay on the road for the next month and a half when we did the Eastern USA and Canada. Then we flew to Europe and did shows in Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland. It was a blur, and it was the longest we’d ever been on the road for one consecutive tour. It’s been good to be home from that, and now we’re just doing little six or seven-day-long tours that are going really well.
Q: How did you choose your band name?
A: There’s this sign between Hinton and Jasper labelled “Scenic Route to Alaska”. We used to drive by that all the time when we were younger. We’d joke about how it would make a good indie band name. When push came to shove, we had our first show ever in Swift Current, Saskatchewan and we were playing as a cover band with a fourth member. He couldn’t make it to the show, so the three of us tried to work out some of the originals that I’d been writing and we did a handful of covers. While we were driving to the gig, we remembered we needed a name, so we went with Scenic Route to Alaska just for the night. The name stuck, and that was about eight years ago now.
Q: Have you ever driven the Scenic Route to Alaska?
A: We’ve played at the Wild Mountain Music Festival near Hinton, which is the farthest up the route that we’ve ever been. We feel kind of like posers, but we’re trying to get a plan in the works in the next few years to drive the route. We would take a busload of people and like-minded musicians and film the whole journey – kind of like an “Austin to Boston” type vibe. We’d stop at campgrounds along the way and play in front of waterfalls and grizzly bears. Then when people ask this question, we can say “yes” and they can watch the whole thing on Youtube.
Q: Who are your musical inspirations?
A: They come from so many genres. We all grew up listening to a ton of the Beatles, and 50s/60s inspired vibes. We all went through classic rock ACDC phases. Then Murray went to school for jazz performance, and he’s got a lot of influence from that. We also take a lot from hip-hop artists and what not. We try to blend all of those things without doing it intentionally. As far as current bands go, we look up to Wintersleep, Hey Rosetta!, and Big Thief.
Q: What approach did you take while writing Tough Luck?
A: For this last record, we were on the road so much for the last year and it kind of snuck up on us. We had booked studio time in August 2017, and we had just got home from the tour, and we were all super tired. We were living together, and we had a jam space, but we didn’t go down there as much as we thought we would. Push came to shove, and it was only three weeks before the record was supposed to be taped and we didn’t really have any songs. I locked myself in the basement of our band house and just tried to write and write and write. I tried to do things that were organic, and intuitive and inspired and I think the end result is a very honest record. I knew that it was such a beautiful experience to be able to play music and tour around and do this for a job. At the same time on the negative side, I was in a position of longing and loneliness—I was having a hard time finding some love in my life. That’s the theme of Tough Luck. Fortunately, I’ve had a girlfriend for the last couple of months now, so things have turned around. I might have to write a happy album if all goes as planned.
Q: How do you usually tackle the song-writing process?
A: We’ve never really had a strict step-by-step process for songwriting. I’ve always written the lyrics and some of the guitar parts. Murray and Shae have always written other parts and arranged the songs. We’re a very holism unit that has a lot of different personalities coming from three different instruments. I think it works in our favour.
Q: You worked with Howard Redekopp for the second time on Tough Luck, how did it go?
A: The whole album was written very quickly, and we went into the studio with Howard Reddekop after working with him on Long Walk Home in 2016. The nice thing about working with him is that we usually spend a week doing pre-production which is just kind of picking through the songs with a fine-toothed comb and making sure that they are arranged as strongly as they can be and that they communicate the right message. Working with him for the second time was fun because it was really intuitive. We already spoke each other’s languages—because Long Walk Home was a feeling out process and we learned that we communicated really well. He’s able to take our weird visions that we don’t know how to explain, put them onto a record and make it sound like us. The whole experience was great. He’s a brilliant person with a great personality and perspective. There were many times when things would get stressful in the studio, and he would tell a cool story about running through the jungle in South Africa and hanging out with gorillas. All of the sudden everyone would be back on the same page and ready to make some weird music again.
Q: What are your favourite songs to play live?
A: I like to believe it’s all of them because I feel like they are all heartfelt and honest but I guess when it comes to playing them live every night sometimes it’s the ones that you wouldn’t expect that end up being your favourite to play. I feel very in the moment when I sing the slower more emotional songs. On the new record, I’d say “Find My Footing” and “Lonely Nights” and “Hibernating Heart” are ones I enjoy playing live. But, that’s tough. I love playing the rock and roll ones especially when people are getting excited and dancing. It varies every night, and it depends where we are and the vibe of the place.
Q: Have you had any mishaps on your tour?
A: We’ve had pretty good luck. Our crowd is never too crazy. Everywhere we play usually has good energy and positive vibes. We have such a cool fan base. Yet, on our last tour, we ran into a few snags, I think that was because we called it the “Tough Luck Tour” which was a bad idea to go into it with. There was the time when we played a show in Chicago, and it finished at 12:30 and then we had to drive 16 hours to New Jersey to play the next day. We didn’t realize how far apart they were. Around 8 a.m. when the sun came up, Shae was driving the van, and he saw a wild turkey in the distance, and he thought “this is going to be fun”. It was keeping to itself just pecking at the grass on the side of the road, and right when he got close, it decided to jump up. We were in a 15 passenger van that was pretty tall. The turkey somehow jumped up and got its head right on the front of the driver’s side windshield. Unfortunately, we watched it explode while Shae swore extremely loud and woke everyone in the van up. That wasn’t a happy story, but it was a jarring moment on the last tour. It was just one of those things that you don’t expect to happen, and it was a bit of a mess.
Q: When you’re on tour, does the dynamic change between the three of you?
A: I think it comes in waves. We are very lucky. We have all known each other for so long. Musically we don’t actually talk about it when we’re writing songs or just jamming things out. We all speak the same language. We just let each other be creative. On the road, during the last tour, we spent a lot of time together, and before we left, we actually lived together for two years. We moved out of our band house and into a van and then spent three months on the road. I don’t think we got into a single fight. We individually got cranky and tired from time to time, but we all managed fairly well. It’s reassuring to know that we do have each other. It’s kind of like a brotherhood—of merry men.
Q: Are you planning on keeping Edmonton as your home base?
A: Yes, and we’ve talked about it lots. Unfortunately, we’ve known many bands that have moved to the big cities like Toronto and burned themselves out trying to stay afloat and still play music. I think that we’ve been super lucky in Edmonton. The community is extremely supportive of all the genres. It’s a very unique place where you can run into people from all walks of life, and everyone is rooting for each other. Edmonton has a cool underdog mentality when it comes to the music scene. We’re extremely proud to be part of it. Also, the Alberta government provides so much grant funding that it actually makes a lot of sense to stay here and rent is way cheaper than out in Toronto. We can still afford to fly out to big places without having to put down roots. Plus, we love the Edmonton Oilers a lot, and they’re about to win the cup. We have to stick around while the hockey is good.
Q: What’s next for Scenic Route to Alaska?
A: We’re already working on some new songs. That’ll be our focus for over the winter. Between now and then, we still have a West Coast trip, and we’re going to dip down into the USA to do Seattle and Portland. Then we’re heading back out East to play Ottawa, Toronto and New York in November. We’ll be home in Edmonton for the rest of the winter so we’ll hunker down and try and write as many songs as we can and make a plan for the next record. Then we’ll put it out into the world. We might leak a couple of things between now and another full release, so no one has to wait too long.
Q: Is there anything else you want Augustana students to know?
A: We hope everyone comes and has a really good time. We’ve been looking forward to it, and it’ll be a great show. The Bailey is gorgeous. We’ll make a polite mess of that beautiful venue.