For local rock band No More Cries, putting together an album is a work of art.
In bassist Gary Hartley’s home recording studio, the band recorded each track instrument by instrument, layer by layer. Hartley and Joshua Blanc, who plays the keyboard and synthesizer in the band, then mixed, mastered and produced each of the tracks on the album.
It is a very precise process, and requires the musician to have their timing down perfectly for each recording.
It can also take days to mix a single track. Blanc and Hartley mixed each track three or four times — with each attempt taking up to six or seven hours — before feeling satisfied with the sound.
Each song is tested on a proper stereo system, and made to go best with headphones. The tracks are also checked on other devices, but are made specifically to sound best on a good stereo.
No More Cries formed in 2013, when Hartley met guitarist Eric Johnson. The two were fast friends, and would play music and jam together after work.
“Then one of our friends moved from out of the country back to Quesnel and we asked him to join us, just because we could use a drummer,” says Hartley. “And then it just kind of grew from there. We started playing and Eric and I started writing songs and we realized there was something there and ran with it.”
A few years later, they met Blanc and the band grew bigger.
Although the group has had a few drummers over the years, Hartley and Johnson and, more recently, Blanc have remained constant.
In the early years of No More Cries, the group held a weekly Friday rehearsal at Hartley’s shop, where they would invite friends out to have a potluck and enjoy the music.
“Everybody bought the crock-pot. We would play what we knew. It was new and fresh all the time and it just kept growing and growing and growing,” says Hartley.
Eventually, Hartley sold the shop and semi-retired, starting his own home recording studio, Wild Bill’s Studio. Now, the studio is the band’s home, but it also serves to provide a more affordable service for artists who want to record a track or album. Hartley and Blanc mix, master and produce each track together.
“It costs big money [to record in a studio], so we try to keep it doable because artists have no money … Kiss might, but we don’t. So we try to keep it really simple for other individuals to come in and hone their craft and do the things that they want to do without that super high rent cost,” says Hartley.
Nearly every song the group plays is an original. All three write songs, individually and together. And each song, regardless of who wrote the original version, is fine-tuned to its final sound by the entire group.
Hartley and Johnson wrote the song Forty Black Clouds, which appears on their new album, Seven, before Blanc joined the band. “After work one night, Eric grabbed his acoustic guitar and he says, ‘oh, listen to this.’ And then he plays these two or three chords and says ‘40 black clouds will not shade me’ and that was it … And in about two hours we had that song.”
But the song continues to evolve and take shape even once it’s been written. “And now, when we listen to that song — what Eric and I did there and what is in there because of [Joshua], we look at each other and think, ‘whoa,’” says Hartley. “We would have never thought of that because that’s not our mindset. We’re into the groove, right, whereas Josh has these ideas of layers of details.”
“It sounds really neat,” adds Johnson.
Something the band actively tries to do is keep their lyrics at least somewhat positive.
“I’m not a basher and I don’t like to say bad things about people,” says Hartley. “We try to encourage. We try to put a positive swing on all of the lyrics. You have to paint the picture where, yeah, reality sometimes can be dark. But there’s always this flip side to it, which is a positive side … So all of our songs tend to have that edge.
“If you listen to the stories and listen to the words, you’ll pull some positive energy out of it.”
With influences from Deep Purple to Kiss to Merle Haggard, the band has a bluesy chord progression with a heavier rock style. “But we’re pretty much open to everything. We have a couple slow songs that play a lap steel guitar in it — like a Hawaiian slide guitar,” adds Hartley.
The band released their new, seven-track album, Seven, on March 23 with a release party at The Lodge in South Quesnel. They had an audience of around 150 in attendance for the release concert.
Blanc says the album will be the first part of a double album, once the whole thing is complete. Anyone looking to buy an album can get in touch with Hartley on Facebook.
In the future, the group says they’re also looking at uploading music to iTunes, Spotify and other streaming services.