Old Man Canyon psychs up

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      Before you listen to the new Old Man Canyon album, it might help to forget everything you know about Old Man Canyon.

      That’s a bit of an exaggeration—after all, Delirium is still a product of singer-songwriter Jett Pace’s fertile mind—but it’s not a bad idea to set aside any expectation that the LP will bear much resemblance to Old Man Canyon’s debut EP, Phantoms & Friends. That five-song release from 2014 was thoroughly indie folk, with all the songs centred on Pace’s voice and acoustic guitar. Delirium, in contrast, boasts an expanded palette of electric guitars and vintage synthesizers, with tracks such as “Back to the Start” and “Always Love” set to pulsating R&B grooves and swathed in pastel-whorled timbres and reverb.

      “It was a totally organic sort of transition,” says Pace, interviewed over a steaming cup at Commercial Drive’s Moja Coffee. “I don’t really know how or why it happened. I think I’ve always been more into this kind of music, listeningwise. My mom was super into Michael Jackson and Prince; the disco era, R&B and stuff, she loved. And my dad was super into the Beatles and Rolling Stones and all of that. So I think I was always drawn to pop melodies and faster rhythms and different instrumentation.”

      The material on Delirium would be a natural fit on a Spotify playlist that also includes cuts by Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Both of those acts—of whom Pace is an avowed fan—combine pop savvy and idiosyncratic arrangements with a heady dose of psychedelia.

      That last element is one of the keys to understanding where Pace is coming from. His chance encounter with a mysterious jungle shaman in Mexico, and the weeklong mushroom trip that followed (as detailed by Mike Usinger in a previous Local Motion column) are an important part of Old Man Canyon’s back story. In short, the experience helped Pace put a lot of things in perspective and allowed him to find the creative spark he needed.

      “It was traumatizing for me in a lot of ways, but that’s sometimes necessary in order to come to these deeper understandings,” he says, although it wasn’t so traumatic that it turned him off of mind-expanding substances altogether.

      “I’m a big fan of psychedelics,” Pace admits. “I think they offer a large insight into a dimension that’s kind of hidden from sober minds sometimes. Everything you can attain with psychedelics is possible with a sober mind, it’s just that sometimes it takes longer—certain experiences you have can trigger those understandings. I smoke a lot of pot. I don’t do mushrooms very much anymore after that [Mexican trip] because it’s so intense for me now. It’s not a fun little trip for me anymore, it’s like, ‘You’re gonna go through hell and heaven, and every experience you’ve ever had in your life.’ ”

      Drug-fuelled self-exploration aside, Pace says he also simply loves the trippy sounds of psychedelic pop. Fortunately, he’s found a crew of like-minded musicians to bring that love to life—on-stage, at least. In the studio, it’s almost all Pace.

      “Every part of it was just me,” he says of Delirium, which he recorded in the basement of his East Van home. “The only part where the band is included is in playing live. It just started with me writing songs. It’s always strange to try to transition that into bringing a band into it, because you want people to be stoked on it and be excited, when they’re not involved with the writing process or with the creation of it. It’s always hard to find the right people.”

      In drummer Josh Contant, bassist Alex Dobson, and keyboardist Andrew Rasmussen, Pace figures he’s done exactly that. “My band members are a lot better at some of the instruments than me,” he confesses. “Like, drumming and bass I can do pretty well, but these guys have expanded that ability a lot more. So I usually let them kind of expand the complexity of the parts a bit, but it’s pretty much based on what I’ve recorded.”

      One of the advantages of being solely responsible for the songwriting and recording is that Pace is also the sole recipient of any royalties. At a time when selling albums is no way to make a living and streaming services get away with paying artists fractions of pennies each time one of their songs is played, there are still a few ways to generate revenue with recorded music. Pace clearly has an impressively aggressive licensing agent in his corner, as Old Man Canyon songs have been featured in a long list of TV shows, including Awkward, Shameless, Suits, Pretty Little Liars, Catfish, Blunt Talk, Sons of Anarchy, The 100, and About a Boy.

      “I appreciate it so much, because it helps you get your stuff out there insanely quicker than you can without it,” Pace says. “It’s just been one after the other. It’s like, every show that I ever watch, I’m in it. It’s sweet. It helps. That’s the only thing that’s kept me able to pursue it with the intensity that I have, so let’s hope it continues.”

      Old Man Canyon plays the Fox Cabaret on Friday (January 15).