In 2019, Shaun Verreault and Safwan Javed, the two surviving members of Wide Mouth Mason entered the recording studio to release their seventh studio album, `I Wanna Go With You’, a blues-based album recorded live off the floor and geared towards a live performance.
This album also introduced Verreault’s new guitar-playing technique, a tri-style lap steel technique in which he wears three slides with rounded tips on his left hand which allows him to simultaneously play chords and melodies on a dobro or steel guitar. Of course, the release of this album could not have come at a worse time.
COVID-19, which was ravaging the globe, virtually shut down the entire music industry, forcing Wide Mouth Mason’s latest project into mothballs. But, according to Verreault, this enforced layoff allowed him to perfect his new guitar-playing technique and he is now set to resuming the band’s career with a new studio album, ‘Late Night Walking’ and book live dates which will see the band performing at Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern on Friday November 3rd.
Calling from his Vancouver home base, Verreault acknowledged that COVID had put a halt to his recording and touring plans for ‘I Wanna Go With You’ but also gave him time to “wrap my head around playing this lap technique.”
“I was digging into my playing in a way that I hadn’t done since I was 14 and I was filling my notebook with pages and pages of lyrical ideas.”, Verreault noted. Working with producer (and Age Of Electric/Limblifter bassist) Ryan Dahle at his Vancouver Island Mayne Island studio, Verreault and Javed worked on developing his new style with new ideas plus material he had previously recorded on his ‘Daggerslip Sketches’ solo album which was more acoustic oriented.
Verreault and Javed recorded their guitar and percussion parts live and then sent the tracks to Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson to add bass parts to the production. “We didn’t send him any instructions, we just allowed him to add his own input and did he ever come up with some great ideas, proving you can make a band of few pieces greater than the sum of its total past.”
Johnson is no stranger to Wide Mouth Mason having toured as a member of their band in 2011 and produced their ‘No Bad Days’ album.
Noting the new album’s 10 tracks are simplistic in nature, Verreault explained that Javed and Johnson worked well together in not stepping on each other’s toes either sonically or rhythmically, “we just let Gordie find his own place to develop the arrangements.
The new project allowed Wide Mouth Mason to rework previous Verreault solo recordings; “Obvious”, “Long Distance Love” and “The Other Side Of Midnight” while adding some fresh lyrical input. “Ryan’s farm studios had an Airstream trailer, so we’d go feed his hens and talk about what we were going to do that day, discuss new ideas and what we had in the archives we could revisit,” he explained.
The album title `Late Night Walking” is the opening line of the album’s first track, “Habitual” and was prompted by Verreault’s habit of walking around downtown Vancouver late at night during COVID. “I would see all of these buildings with their lights still on, each reflecting a cinematic feeling of life still going on and that created a lot of the vibe we created on this record.”
“We had a bit of a grace period during COVID”, he continued “but ultimately there’s this feeling of getting out there again and sharing our songs with our fans. Re-experience that feeling of people singing along with you, songs that we had made up in our basement becoming a part of the fabric of their lives. All of that creativity ended up in a bottleneck and that added to the excitement of making this record.”
Launched in 1995 in Saskatoon, Verreault, Javed and original bassist Earl Pereira released a debut album, ‘The Nazarine’ in 1996, which created a strong enough buzz to be picked up by Warner Music Canada and rereleased as a self-titled album in 1977.
Although the album featured three hit singles; “Midnight Rain”, “My Old Self” and “The Mourning”, that debut came out at the tail end of the Grunge Movement and there was an existing feeling that Warner Music didn’t quite know how to market the band’s blues/jazz/rock hybrid sound. “At that time, record companies were tailoring music to specific genres and radio formats, and we didn’t tailor anything specific to those factors,” Verreault noted.” “I grew up liking Prince and Jimi Hendryx, artists who were eclectic in their output, so we probably caused a lot of confusion with their marketing plans. The record companies would feel there was a lot of poppy songs on our albums but then they’d see us live and remark there’s a whole lot of other things going on here.”
“Safwan and I are realistic enough to know we are not going to knock some kid off the pop charts but we are fortunate enough to have retained our base and we have fans that like our adventurous spirit and that we are not afraid to go all over the place,” Verreault noted about future plans” We set a place at the table for happy accidents and magic to happen and at the end of the day we will be happy going on stage and making some noise in front of people after the drought.
For further information on Wide Mouth Mason, visit widemouthmason.com
Upcoming tour dates
Nov 1 – London @ Aeolian Hall
Nov 2 – Paris @ Dominion Telegraph
Nov 3 – Toronto @ Horseshoe Tavern
Nov 4 – Burnstown @ Neat Cafe