If Great Big Sea was on 1998’s Big Shiny Tunes, you’d get Phill Hood! and the Exclamation. Melodic rock with a maritime accent, their debut release Detour has many ingredients that fuse Celtic alt rock with stunning guitar work and creative musicality. Just in time for Canada Day, this record is full of considerations in identity across our great nation, and would be equally at home on a road trip playlist as it would post-breakup. Catch their CD release LIVE at the AFL 2nd Anniversary show July 19th!
I know what you’re thinking. Jesse, isn’t this showcase for killer bands you’ve highlighted on the show? I have scoured every Feedback Loop episode and could recite them front and back in my sleep, but I’ve NEVER heard a review of Phill Hood and the Exclamation! You wily liar!
And you’re right. But you HAVE heard releases from every other band member in another form. PH&E!’s stellar bass player John William-Blakeley guest hosted our chat on two of his other projects and what it’s like to moonlight in real estate. Fiddler Jarred Albright is one half of the folk-romatics Rye & Fairytales. Drummer Charlie McKittrick’s (sadly defunct) TimeGiant was featured here. And doing double duty on June 30th is Jake Saenz also of Big Otter Creek. Phew!
So to gear up for this AFL all-star set, I got the scoop from the man himself on his upcoming record, working with his best friends, and what it’s like to produce your own album from the ground up.
Since putting the band together last year, they have been in and out of recording at Phill’s home studio, and working out the tracks at shows around Toronto. Their sound has been compared to other great Canadian Celtic-tinged rock acts, but with a bend towards late 90’s alternative. The debut album, Travel, focuses on Phill’s geographical changes as much as his personal ones. Born and raised in Newfoundland, moving to Toronto for university, traversing the U.S. as part of the Tartan Terrors (with Jake, too. Does that guy ever sleep?), it’s all in the mix. Think Spirit of the West featuring the Barenaked Ladies, getting a hit on Big Shiny Tunes 9.
Their second single, Nelly, was met with a huge response at a show in the spring. The clear influence of Jimmy Eat World and some high-octane emotional lyrics made for a powerful track. The band’s stage presence is also a shining example of what working with your friends can bring to a performance.
“It’s just fun. I look back and see JW and Charlie getting a groove together, and then Jake is right there with some crazy new guitar tone. He’s a gear head like me, so we really get some great stuff. And when it’s done, we stick around to check out the next band. Something people overlook, just stay and support each other if you can. “
On recording in his home studio, which has changed 3 times since the album began, Phill also had this to say:
“It’s freeing to have complete control. I can come home after a great set and ride that high, have the mics set up so I can lay down something whenever I want to. But it’s my first crack at producing such a large-scale record, [He produced a 4-track hip-hop EP last spring and the award-winning score for a children’s web series ] so there’s always new tricks to learn. YouTube tutorials really are a goldmine. That, and, just working at it until it has the feel you want.”
So when can we expect the record release? Phill, a savvy businessman but always an artist first, has decided the album wouldn’t be complete without a final track composed just weeks ago and inspired by a getaway to Northern Ontario. While it may delay the release of Travel, and his band mates have certainly teased him about getting it out there already, it’s certainly a fitting addition to a body of work already brimming with songs that capture what it means to explore and discover. Not just the scenery, but the self.
In the meantime, check out their first single, Obvious and don’t forget to swing by The Hideout June 30th to hear all their tunes live!
Another first for AFL, we dig into a bluegrass duo originally from Calgary and now based in the GTA. Described by fans as “Mumford & Sons but with chops,” the pair features versatile, gorgeous string work and classic bittersweet love songs. Forget everything you thought you knew about a wicked guitar solo, and check out the electric mandolin at work here on their self-titled full length record, and keep an ear out for more from these boys soon!