Ryder Havdale made a name for himself on the Vancouver indie-rock scene with groups like Kids These Days, Second Narrows, and the Mohawk Lodge, but for the last couple of years he’s been living in the godforsaken land of the Leafs! When the Straight calls him in T.O. to chat about the latter band’s new release, Crimes, the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist explains that the move east has proven effective as far as touring and running his label, White Whale Records, is concerned.
“Half our bands are out here,” he says, “so it just makes a lot of sense. As far as the business goes, it’s kind of the heart of the entertainment scene for Canada—aside from the Georgia Straight and Radio 3!”
There was something else that gave Havdale incentive to hightail it out of Lotusland, that being a passion-provoked punch-up leading to criminal charges and a trip to jail.
“I was going through some dark times in Van,” he relates. “I did find a bass player in bed with a girlfriend, and that caused a whole buncha fun. I got dragged into a cell at the Point Roberts border and taken down to [the police station near] Main and Hastings. That was probably the worst day of my life.”
Havdale was able to channel that darkness into new tracks like “Bad News” and “Cold Heart”, which were respectively co-written by Vancouver’s Marc Morrissette (of White Whale act Octoberman) and White Whale solo artist Eamon McGrath.
“The whole record is all letting go for me,” says Havdale. “Playing these songs is very liberating because they’re done—it’s the past. But I did make a New Year’s resolution to write a happy song.”
The third Mohawk Lodge release, Crimes sees Havdale handling vocals, guitar, piano, and bass, with a core band composed of guitarists Arch and Cory Price and drummer Rob Josephson. Morrissette and McGrath make appearances, alongside such local lights as indie-folk tunesmith Dan Mangan, vocalist Leah Abramson, and trumpeter JP Carter. Crimes rocks out more than the group’s previous releases, 2004’s Rare Birds and 2007’s Wildfires.
“The first one was done in a cabin,” recalls Havdale, “and it was more folky. There was an effort to actually learn how to sing, which didn’t necessarily turn out that well. The last one was more sort of Fleetwood Mac–meets–Constantines, and this one’s a little heavier—it might even be a little bit like Swervedriver.”
When he’s not touring and recording with the Mohawk Lodge, Havdale keeps busy with his White Whale duties. There are currently about 10 acts on the label, half of which he says are “really making a go for it”.
“It pays the bills,” he points out, “and I love our artists. You know, with every great piece of press and things that happen, you just want more. Grey’s Anatomy placement came in the other day for Octoberman, and as soon as that’s in it’s like, ”˜Okay, we gotta get more!’ I have a never-ending list of to-do’s.”
The Mohawk Lodge plays the Biltmore on Friday (August 20).