by Fraser McCallum
When The North Lakes went into studio to record their first album, their drummer, Carver, was keen to be given a nickname by sound engineer Charles Austin, who is known to affectionately dole them out. Austin’s response was, “I don’t know if I like you yet” but before long, Carver found himself with a handle to be proud of—”Fat-head.”
Over a beer at Baba’s, Carver laughs it off but underlines that this was all part of a great experience recording with Austin. “It was excellent, really laid back. We spent two packed days recording at Echo Chamber in Halifax and came away with nine tracks…more than we planned for.”
The North Lakes play a punchy brand of blues and folk rock that sounds like Jack White, Velvet Underground, and Bob Dylan crammed into a sports car together. Heavy on rock guitars and busy drumming, they are just as much a lyrical band however, with a poetic, Dylan-style of prose.
In addition to Carver on drums, Nathan Gill fronts lead vocals and plays rhythm, CF Francis plays bass, Gillian Arsenault sings backup, and Chris Robison plays lead guitar. Local man-about-town, Roger Carter also adds keys at some shows and contributes on COBRA, The North Lakes’ forthcoming EP.
The nine-track album draws its name from a defunct blues record company from Chicago. “It’s just a handsome word,” laughs Gill proudly, “but yeah, we’re really pumped to put this out. We think it sounds great and are proud of the team and methods behind it.”
Some of the choices the Lakes made at Echo Chamber were to distort the vocals and to have Austin mix the album to tape. Sound mixing to tape fits the band’s throwback sound and was done to give their album a warmer, nostalgic quality. “Mixing to tape is just…kind of romantic,” laughs bass player Francis.
The group started in early 2009 when Carver, Gill and Arsenault, who all had other bands, were each looking to start another project. Carver and Gill were both members of String Theory and Carver (a man with as many projects as Charlottetown has Murphy’s restaurants) was playing drums for Arsenault’s band, The Barnkats. “We’re not sure where Francis came from,” Carver laughs, “but we’re keeping him.”
Robison and Carter came on as supporting members for a lively Hunter’s show opening up for The Novaks and it stuck. Other highlights to date include gigs with Cuff the Duke and Caledonia.
Gill is the main writer for the Lakes but Arsenault is also starting to write some songs now and is enjoying a different role than in her own band “Its cool to play with this kind of sound, it opens your mind musically. The Barnkats is more pop and glam so this is a change of writing style. It’s a bit nerve-wracking and there’s a lot of trust placed in the other guys, but its great.”
Jay Lapointe (mastering for Museum Pieces, Buck 65) mastered the album and in addition to Carter, Stratford’s Kinley Dowling plays violin on select tracks and Pat Deighan lends guitar to the song “All over you.” Local artist Rebecca Ford has designed the artwork for COBRA, which will be released April 16 at Hunter’s.
The North Lakes are at Baba’s March 25.