It’s been a year since the Interstellar Jays recorded their debut album, and they’re getting ready to celebrate its release this weekend.
Recorded in Cottonwood and self-produced from concept to pressing, Musasabi Madness is described as “55 minutes of groove-driven good times.” Fourteen tracks boast an upbeat blend of ska, klezmir and old tyme fiddle designed to brighten up your day.
The Interstellar Jays embrace instrumental music by exploring all that a melody and a rhythm have to offer. Original arrangements of obscure and familiar old tunes mix with traditional gems to fill a large and growing repertoire of music for any occasion.
The Jays are a true North Cariboo band, with members spread out from Bowron to Tibbles Lake. Sean Scallion lays it down on drums alongside Joel Stern’s inventive bass playing. Leila Sumi rocks the fiddle with her husband Birch Kuch on piano, Rhodes and clarinet.
The Interstellar Jays have been playing together as a four-piece for about two or three years while playing at Troll Ski Resort.
Such and Sumi had been playing at Troll weekly when they met Stern, and he started sitting in with them and learning their songs. Stern had played together with Scallion in the Joey Only Outlaw Band, and Scallion began playing with them as well.
“When Sean showed up, Joel and he locked so easily because they’d played together a lot and had some pretty crazy experiences playing awesome music, and so instantly, we were like ‘woah, there’s our rhythm section right there,’” recalls Kuch. “So Sean came up for a gig at Troll, and then we were all like ‘this is a lot of fun,’ and it kind of took off from there.”
Kuch says they had a great time recording the album together.
“It was just a matter of having a lot of really fun songs that we really liked, and then I have some gear and the drummer has some gear, and we found a house in Cottonwood where we could actually take the entire house over for about two months,” he said. “We set up our gear and left it there for a long time so we could actually have a different person in a different room of the house, and we could all play at the same time, but we had good separation between everybody. It was pretty awesome. We did it all ourselves, which was a lot of work but totally worth it.”
“It was a matter of picking our favourite tunes and then working them over and making them really nice and polished and getting good sounds, which is nice because we’ve all got good ears, so it was really awesome with the drummer helping out too to get the best sound that we could out of each instrument so it’s a full-sounding album.”
Once the album was recorded, it took so long to release it because the writer of one of the songs on the album had passed away, and they had to get a licence for that song from the Copyright Board of Canada. It took nine months to get that licence.
“That’s why it’s particularly exciting for us, because we’ve been waiting for a long, long time,” said Kuch. “But it’s worth it. I love that song, so it’s worth it in the end.”
A year after recording the album, Kuch still loves it as much as he did when they were first working on it.
“It feels really good a year later — through the mixing and mastering, I’ve probably listened to it 10,000 times, not even exaggerating, and a year later, I put it on, and I still like listening to it,” he said. “It’s one of our favourite CDs to put on in the car still. I’ve recorded lots of demo albums and little albums before in my life, and this is the one where I’m actually really happy with how it sounds a year later.
“It’s been many years of figuring out how to get those good sounds without having to spend tens of thousands of dollars on things, and what parts are important and what parts do you have to spend on and what parts can you kind of make do with what’s laying around, and it feels like all that effort is finally paying off.”
The Interstellar Jays’ three-city CD Release Tour sees them performing this Saturday (April 13) at the Occidental, May 17 at the Sunset Theatre in Wells and May 18 at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 43 in Prince George.
The CD Release Tour will be followed by a busy summer festival schedule, which includes the vALEmount Craft Beer Experience, Performances in the Park in Williams Lake, the Midsummer Festival in Smithers, Arts on the Fly in Horsefly, the Bella Coola Music Festival, and the Robson Valley Music Festival.