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

Ottawa Citizen - - ARTS & LIFE - SAN­DRA SPER­OUNES

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.

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