By Keith Sharp
At an old church in the Quebec village of Mont Tremblant this weekend, The Box executed something they hadn’t done in nine years, perform tracks from a new recording. Titled “Take Me Home”, this five song disc contains four new compositions plus a revamped version of “Must I Always Remember” one of the first singles off their debut 1984 self-titled release.
Lead vocalist/songwriter Jean-Marc Pisapia reports that the initial idea was just to have a one-night gathering of local fans to stage test the new songs and perform a regular set but even he was taken aback that a capacity crowd of 200 people not only packed into the church last Saturday but the demand for tickets was so great, a second sold-out show was scheduled for the previous night.
And yes, the new material, especially the lead off single “Hey Little Rock Star” received an enthusiastic response from the band’s audience hearing the material for the first time.
The Box, comprising of Pisapia, guitarist Francois Bruneau, bassist Dan Volj, keyboardist Guillaume Jodoin, drummer Martin Lapierre and back-up vocalist Isabelle Lemay, have created an amazing comeback over the past three years, headlining at last year’s Kitchener Blues Festival, co-headlining at Toronto’s CNE and performing before 20,000 fans at last summer’s Stars And Thunder Festival in Timmins Ontario to list just a few of their key dates last year.
Yet the majority of Pisapia’s line-up never recorded the band’s early hits; “Closer Together”, “Ordinary People”, “Carry On”, “Temptation” although they have been performing these hits live for the past eight years.
Pisapia knew that instrumentally and vocally he fronted an incredibly tight band but what The Box didn’t have was any new material. So as the 2018 calendar year loomed with festival dates in Mattawa and the Fete Du Quebec on the band’s calendar, he decided it was time to record at least a couple of new songs. But when it came to penning new material Pisapia realized he suffered from a complete lack of inspiration!
“When I started working on “Hey Little Rock Star”, I had no idea what I was going to write about. I thought I had said what I wanted to say in the 40-60 plus songs I had previously written,” Pisapia confessed. “I didn’t have a clue what I was going to talk about so I had this idea about me talking to my younger self. “I went back to when I was facing the same situation when I was 24 and needed to write songs. I thought, hey that was a good concept.”
So good that he kept the same idea in writing “Don’t Do What I Do, Do What I Say” “It’s me looking back on who I was and it wasn’t always pretty,” allowed Pisapia. “Of course I get a little pompous and say “Do What I Say”
In that same reflective vein, “Endless Days” is a tribute to Pisapia’s wife Emillie, saying “I won the lottery with that woman. My life would have been a complete mess if it wasn’t for her.”
“Take Me Home” boasts a killer lyrical hook with “Air Canada take me home” but the song lyric is not so much about touring as it is a statement on the current mess the world seems to be in. “The world out there is crazy,” Pisapia notes. “Politics and politicians down the rabbit hole. You just feel like you want to go home and be with the people who really matter.”
Listen to Hey Little Rock Star below.
The EP’s final track is “Must I Always Remember”, one of the band’s first ever singles off their 1984 debut, and was selected by the band “because it had aged elegantly through the years and was something the band could give a new treatment to.”
The challenge facing Pisapia was to record a new release that retained the band’s trademark, guitar/keyboard sound, their melodic lyrics yet would also sound current. But he claims he never had any preconceived ideas about the material.
“I just recorded the songs in a very basic shape and said to the guys “just cut yourself loose and let’s see what happens. It was an exercise in “Go Ahead And Surprise Me”.
The Box will be further road testing their new material Friday May 11th when they headline at Oshawa’s Music Hall followed by a performance Saturday at the Seneca Queens Theatre in Niagara Falls. Then they will be back in Ontario Friday May 25th at the Peterborough Red Dog before performing at a charity concert Saturday May 26th at the Mississauga Bowl with Honeymoon Suite and Images In Vogue.