3 years, 500 musicians, 8 recording studios
Indie pop musician Rich Aucoin may not know when to quit, but he says recording his new album was a glorious education
What started off as an album with a few friends and fans turned into a three-year marathon of 500 musicians (including You Say Party!’s Becky Ninkovic, Rae Spoon, and Sloan’s Jay Ferguson), eight recording studios, and countless bedrooms, bars and jam spaces.
We’re All Dying to Live is the payoff: 22 tracks of symphonic pop, robo-electro rhythms, Beach Boys-flavoured harmonies, campfire ditties and celebratory choirs. Rich Aucoin prefers to look at his second album as a collection of seven songs with their own intros and extros — which adds up to 21 — plus a finale of hubbub, 500 People Talking, including Edmonton popsters Cecil Frena and Calvin Mcelroy of Born Gold.
“Originally, I just wanted people to be on it; I didn’t have a number, and then it quickly spiralled out of control, as I started recording across the country,” says Aucoin, who hails from Halifax.
“I messaged people on Myspace and emailed friends, then it would be friends of friends, and, in some places, I was able to work out of studios and have people come in every hour, on the hour. The actual organizing of people was probably harder
than anything else. I’m never going to do anything like this again.”
Yet Aucoin, who released his first EP in 2007, considers We’re All Dying to Live a music school of sorts: “I learned from as many people as I could.” Some of his favourite courses include P: U: S: H, a Daft Punk-ish cut that samples from 30 drummers — “A lot of them play for only four to eight beats” — and Brian Wilson is A.L.I.V.E. (All Living Vanquish Instantly), a glorious symph-pop number with a children’s choir.
“To have a bunch of elementaryschool kids yelling out your lyrics feels awesome,” says Aucoin.
“It was a really funny experience, too. We couldn’t possibly give them all headphones (in the recording studio), so the kids never actually heard the song they were performing.”
‘To have a bunch of elementary-school kids yelling out your lyrics feels awesome’
“We gave the headphones to the choir directors and it was awesome to see them listen to electro music, nodding their heads, and saying, ‘All right. All right. All right. Come in here. No, tighter,’ ” says Aucoin.
If the musical portion of We’re All Dying to Live wasn’t enough, Aucoin decided to make an accompanying movie, using scenes from 40 public-domain films. There’s also his live show, with visuals, singalongs and other elements, which he’s always tinkering with between gigs or during phone interviews.
“I’m actually trying to redo some stuff for my set,” says Aucoin, as he sits in the back seat of a van on his way to Yarmouth, N.S. “So I’m balancing my laptop/work station on my trumpet case. I’m always trying to redo the set so it’s like a new experience each time.”
He doesn’t want to become one of those artists who plays the same set of songs from city to city. He wants to give fans an element of surprise — and a reason to attend his gigs.
“I don’t want anyone to ever walk away and say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen that show.’ I don’t think of it as finite,” he says. “I guess you can re-watch movies that you like, but I like to keep it fresh and feel good, for me, as a performer, too.”
Halifax’s symphonic-pop artist Rich Aucoin says organizing the musicians for his song 500 People Talking was a tough job.