What: Great Lake Swimmers
When: 7 p.m., Thursday
Where: Cedar Cultural Center, 416 S. Cedar Ave., Minneapolis
The Ontario folk collective Great Lake Swimmers has been together for nearly a decade. In that time, the band has released five full-length albums, three EPs and seen various lineup changes. But until the recording of the recently released “New Wild Everywhere,” one thing that had eluded them was time in an actual recording studio.
That never bothered frontman Tony Dekker, though. Previous efforts from Great Lake Swimmers have been recorded in subway platforms, churches and castles.
“It’s just something that has always come about pretty naturally for me. There’s never been a time where I’ve wondered, ‘What are we going to do?’ or ‘Where are we going to go now?’” Dekker said. “It started with the first album. I grew up in this really small farming community in a suburb of Ontario, and I knew there was a big concrete grain silo around there. I had a friend of mine help me record it out there, late into the night, trying to get the right acoustics out of that location. And we ended up picking up so much more. That’s what started the whole locational recording thing for me.”
Like fellow Ontario native Fred Eaglesmith, who recorded his most recent album, “6 Volts,” in a barn with minimal post-production, Dekker has found that going on location to record songs changes the way he and the band approach and sound on them.
“There’s also a sense of urgency, like, ‘This is the only shot we have at this,’” Dekker said. “For me, it really always pushed me to be at my best. And I think it draws a certain performance out of you.”
With this in mind, the dangers of bringing their sound into a recording studio are obvious. If the recording technique is as crucial to the final product as Dekker suggests, the safe and secluded professional studio could have been fatal to Great Lake Swimmers’ incredibly intimate and sometimes raw music. But Dekker made clear that the difference between the process on “New Wild Everywhere” and previous albums was not as big as it may seem on paper.
“It’s not like recording in a studio didn’t have that effect on me, too,” he said. “It was nice to go the other way and be in a more closed environment. That was a very unique space, too. It definitely wasn’t any less special.”
This is not something he would have to explain to anyone who has heard the album. It is probably the best of their career — full of well-crafted, lush and thoughtful folk rock. Well-crafted, lush and thoughtful folk rock is not all that difficult to come by these days, but few bands do it as well as Great Lake Swimmers have and continue to. Even still, Dekker was slightly apprehensive about the release of the new album.
“I was talking to my sister about it recently. She said, ‘You can tell right away that you didn’t change things too much.’ Like, we didn’t let anyone down by going and changing the sound of our music,” Dekker said. “As someone who watched the whole process, she had been curious to know how the songs would turn out given the different approach to the recording process. I was really reassured by that, like I was still on the right track.”
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