The Cousins interview – Part 2: Kevin Hearn
The Cousins – Harland Williams and Kevin Hearn – release new album Rattlesnake Love on March 17th. Last week, Harland Williams spoke about the duo and their upcoming release. Now you can read Kevin Hearn’s exclusive Get Barenaked interview – enjoy!What are your earliest childhood memories together with Harland?
Well obviously there’s the family get-togethers. I remember at a family dinner once he was asked to say grace, and he said “God is gracious, God is good, let us thank him for our shoes”. He got in trouble – he was making fun of the roast beef because it was so dry. He said it tasted like shoe leather!
Harland was someone that I looked up to – he fascinated me because his bedroom was full of mad magazines and comic books. He had a collection of skulls – racoon skulls, and an octopus in a jar – I dunno, he was just a weird kid. Also, down in the basement of his house he had a drawing table set up. He used to draw on a pad and I really liked that – and it inspired me to start drawing.
Harland mentioned he hung out at your house because “your family were cooler than his”…
Oh yeah? Well, my Mum was very hospitable with all the kids so people would all come over to my house and hang out.
How about your early musical memories together?
I remember the first synthesiser I bought was a DX7 and I had it in the basement. One time, Harland came over – we had a microphone down there and he wanted to sing, so he said “Let’s play!” I think we made up a song called “Teen Urchin” – oh gosh! We used to just start getting together like that and making up songs.
So coming up to the present day with Rattlesnake Love – how different is this album from your own stuff and what does Harland bring to the table?
Well, Harland writes all the lyrics. Also, he dictates the parameters of where the music goes. They all come out of improv, so I’ll play a chord progression and he’ll start singing. I kinda know what key his voice works well in, and I know what rhythm he likes – and I know if I make the chords too challenging he won’t latch onto them. It’s sorta his thing really – I play what I think he can sing to and he’ll come up with something, and we’ll have a recording. Afterwards, we’ll go “Oh, that one’s good” and “That one’s really good” and we’ll take it from there.
He’s a good frontman, he’s so funny. But I think he also likes to try things that aren’t funny and mix it up a little, because he doesn’t get to do that as much. I just kinda let him do his thing and I always trust at the time, whether it’s funny or serious, it’s at least interesting in some odd ways.
What would be your standout moments on this new album?
I really like “Attention Earthlings”. It’s the premise that Harland was an alien landed on earth. I set up a musical loop and said “Just go in there, go to town on it”. It was pretty funny to see what he came up with.
Another highlight was Carole Pope coming in and singing on “Rattlesnake Love” and Blaise Garza driving down from San Diego and playing flute.
Awesome! Harland mentioned that Carole strolled in and he was taken aback because she’s this iconic Canadian musical figure…
I’ve worked with her before, and she wanted to drop by. I didn’t realise Harland was a big fan so that was kinda cool. They just started improvising together over the beat that I laid down, and Gavin Brown (co-producer on the album) – he got on the floor and was laughing and said “I’ve done a lot of sessions in my life, but this is by far the weirdest one I’ve ever done!”
Kevin, you keep very good company don’t you – all these talented friends and relatives – must be cool!
I’ve very lucky, blessed and grateful for it.
Thinking of The Cousins in the context of all your solo stuff and projects outside of BNL, which stuff are you most proud of from across that catalgoue?
Gosh, it’s really hard to pick. There’s certain projects that I’m just quite fond of – Snacktime comes to mind as one of my favourite things.
Anything I did with Lou I’m really proud of.
I love the song “Chancellor” from Gord Downie’s Coke Machine Glow record.
And this new Persuasions record that we put together with BNL I’m really proud of.
So I put a call-out for questions on Facebook and Twitter and here’s what came in —
Annalena has asked, “How much do your different collaborators influence what you write?”
I’ve learned something different from all of them. Certainly from Lou, I learned that it’s important to be honest in your writing.
With Harland – oh, I’ve learned so much from Harland over the years.
I can guess all I can say is there’s something to learn from everyone you collaborate with and that’s why I love doing it so much. What you learn from one collaboration, you can take to the next one, or take back to the band you’ve been in for 20 years – it helps you to keep growing as an artist.Mel Lewis on Facebook has asked, “How does this even happen?! With all the BNL gigs and the new album – where the heck do you find the time to come up with these projects?”
Well some of them, like The Cousins project, have been something that comes from years of getting together and improvising songs. There’s one song called “The Clown” that we recorded back when Barenaked Ladies were recording Maroon. Tyler and Jim are playing on it and Steve sings the back-up vocals. “Behind The Glass” – that’s Tyler on drums, Jim on bass.
In this case with The Cousins, it’s something that I’ve been working on over the years but really put my mind to it last year and brought everything together.On that note, Chrissy has asked “When will your instrumental album be coming out?”
I’m hoping to have it out later this year. If not, then early next year. I’ve just shot a video for it for a song “The Chemical Valleys” – I shot it with this award-winning dopcumentary film director Jennifer Baichwal who worked on Manufactured Landscapes.
I’m working on that and hopefully I’ll put that out real soon. What’s funny is, that’s the opposite of The Cousins – that’s not funny, it’s just beautiful.
There’s an instrumental track on Days In Frames with Lou’s input that I love… [“Crossing Over”]
Yes, the instrumental record is sort-of an extension of that. That instrumental song on Days In Frames, I thought I’d like to go and be in that world for a whole record, so that’s kinda what I did.
I really enjoy Jukebox The Ghost and they came out with a piano/instrumental version of their last album – it’s really lovely…
That’s cool. That would be Ben I guess, right? The piano player. I like those guys. Good energy!
The next question says “Why haven’t you called me for weeks?” and that’s from someone called Boothby Graffoe…
You don’t have to answer that one!
You can tell him he gave me the wrong number! I tried.
Andrew Gibney asks “Have you ever stolen one of Harland’s jokes and used it on stage?”
Oh! There’s something Harland used to do where someone said something – and whatever it may be, Harland would say “Security!”, like calling for a security guard. I use that joke quite a bit – and then Ed stole it from me!
You made me laugh on one of the clips from the studio – Ed’s filming and you turn to him and go “And you are?”
I’ve been enjoying the quotes on the social media accounts for The Cousins – here’s one:
— The Cousins (@TheCousinsBand8) February 3, 2017
I asked Harland this question so the same one to you – what music is making you krinkly at the moment – what are you enjoying?
The new record by a band called Lambchop. They’re a band from Nashville – and the record’s called FLOTUS – it’s really great.
They just released a new compilatiion of Sun Ra music and it’s a collection of all his songs that have vocals – which are my favourites – so I’ve been loving that. Yeah, those are my two favourites right now.
Oh, the new Keith Richard record I really like too. His solo record, he put it out last year, it’s great.
Nice! On that note, if you could have a dream festival line-up with three headliners, who would they be?
Oh jeez, Liam! You know, the last few Last Summer on Earth tours have kinda been dream festivals, so I’m gonna say OMD, Violent Femmes and the Velvet Underground. And the Travelling Wilburys!
I remember you being really into a Scandanavian band…
The Nits! I’ve actually just co-written a song with Henk, the lead singer.
That’s great. Thanks Kev, that was all my questions!
I hope I gave you some good answers and you can have fun with it! Did my answers match Harland’s?
Well, Harland spent a lot of time talking about the all-night rave song that you did – “Power Pound” – so I was intrigued by that because he said it was so far out of your comfort zone that you’d never make a rave song, and he enjoyed your reaction to that.
Oh, what a goof!
It was a pleasure as always to speak to Kev – thank you!
You can pre-order Rattlesnake Love at this link – the album drops tomorrow.
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