The Salteens scratch their seven-year itchSeven years is a long time between albums. To wit: Not only did Facebook not exist when the Salteens, the Vancouver-based indie-pop group led by singer-songwriter Scott Walker, released its second album, 2003’s Let Go of Your Bad Days, neither did MySpace.
So, where did Walker & co. go? And how did they morph from a relatively traditional guitar-driven pop-rock band to the 10-piece chamber-pop collective that made the Salteens’ long-awaited third album, Grey Eyes?
I have a very soft spot for the Salteens — as, I’m sure, do many Vancouverites who are in their early thirties — so I’m happy you’re back.
Scott Walker: We talked about how... this record is so different, maybe it should have been a new band. Especially because we’re not teenagers — we never were — so the name’s getting sillier and sillier. But there’s still something about the aesthetic of what we’re doing, the group of people; we’re the same group of friends, still... It also seemed like the albums were natural progressions. The first album [2000’s Short-Term Memories] was more of A Hard Day’s Night — wait, I’m not going into a Beatles reference; that’s no good. (Laughs) The first record was very guitar-driven, and the second record we tried to incorporate more instruments, and this record it’s just all instruments — there are no guitars. We started the band as a bunch of music nerds trying to figure out how to play rock ’n’ roll, and maybe the less we play rock ’n’ roll, the better we’re getting.
What went on between the last album and this new one?
There was just a lot of growing up; a lot of the real-life things that happen take away from the time and energy you might have to be working on the things you might have been working on. We actually almost finished an entire album in that time span, but — ugh! — I just hit a writer’s block. The lyrics weren’t really all there, and the record just wasn’t coming together. And I’m kind of glad it all fell apart to some degree, because then we had to put it all back together.
Do you feel that this album is an accurate document of what was going on in the interim [during which Walker’s father died and his mother’s health declined due to Alzheimer’s]?
Yeah. I think lyrically it’s much more black-and-white. I used to be really obsessed with the grey area of relationships, constantly looking at two points of view and how do you know what’s right and what’s wrong... The band’s always been some kind of affirmation of trying to make life more interesting, or trying to do things that are more exciting or have more meaning, and that’s come under attack to some degree in my personal life. So, questioning myself and reasserting my position’s been an important thing for me.
Did you think at any point that you were done with music?
Yeah. It’s funny how you work a day job and you get home and you’re like, “Well, I could go out and make music or I could watch TV.” Now I know why people watch TV — they work all day and they’re tired, and it’s really easy to not try harder. But, ultimately, I realized that for those brief moments I was playing music, I was happier than when I was doing anything else, so that has to be there still.
Seven years is a long time and there have been some huge changes, be it in social media or technology or Canada’s place in the music industry.
I think any changes in technology, the music industry’s inherently closer to [them]. I don’t think they’re shocking or disarming. Bands and porn probably do more for how the Internet changes than anything else — and maybe people who make crafts at home.
The Salteens play Saturday, Oct. 9 at Biltmore Cabaret (395 Kingsway), 8pm. Tickets $10 from Ticketweb, Zulu, and Red Cat.