Patrick Watson | Canada
Patrick Watson is a Canadian singer-songwriter and founder of the eponymous four piece Patrick Watson, whose members also include guitarist Simon Angell, bassist Mishka Stein, and percussionist Robbie Kuster. Patrick Watson have been playing together for over thirteen years, and in this time have released four studio albums: Just Another Ordinary Day, Close to Paradise, Wooden Arms, and – their most recent effort – 2012’s Adventures in Your Own Backyard. The members studied music at the same educational institution, where they met through ensemble classes. Watson recalls in an interview with Mojo:
The first day I met Robbie [percussionist] we were sitting on the steps thinking ‘what are we doing in this school?’… we went to our class, and our class ended up being ensemble class – which is where you play – and we have been playing together ever since.
Watson, Angell, Stein, and Kuster may have been performing together since a young age, but their present incarnation was not something any of them had planned for, in fact, two years prior to their debut, Watson released his solo studio album Waterproof9, in 2001. Although it may not officially be regarded as the beginning of Patrick Watson, Waterproof9 is in many ways the embryo from which the group developed. The album was an accompaniment to Brigitte Henry’s photo book Waterproof, with each track corresponding to one of Henry’s photographs; Watson explained:
How it started was that originally, some years ago, we were asked to do some music to accompany a book of photography. Having built a CD to go with all these images we thought it would be fun to do it live and it worked really well and people freaked.
Patrick Watson’s sound has been described as a blend of cabaret, pop, classical, and indie rock, which has evolved during the course of their career. Adjectives such as ‘magical’, ‘dreamy’, and ‘cinematic’ have become somewhat synonymous with the band’s repertoire, when asked if they agree, Watson humorously replied ‘I think we go to another place… It can take you wherever you’d like to go, and if you want to go with mystical creatures, that’s okay with me.’ These labels are understandable, in part owing to Watson’s distinct vocals, and the use of obscure objects and unconventional methods to make sounds, such as bike wheels and kitchen utensils – features which have remained part of their practice since early multi-media shows.
Debut album: ‘Just Another Ordinary Day’, released in 2003, has nine tracks which perfectly crystallises Patrick Watson’s cross-genre synthesis, with the album being piano centric, often in a pseudo-classical vein, accompanied by distorted guitar, as heard in Shame, and a classic 4/4 rock drum beat, heard in Silent City. 2009’s Wooden Arms earned the band their second Polaris Music Prize nomination, with The Wall Street Journal’s Jim Fusilli describing it as a ‘lovely folk album, a lovely chamber pop album’. Fusilli goes on to say the sound is ‘adventures in arrangement’, using ‘industrial sounds’ such as whip locks. This came about as a reaction against Close to Paradise, as when touring the record, the band soon discovered that they only had to use ‘triggers and stuff like that [samplers]’ to recreate the original sound.
Adventures in Your Own Backyard is musically simpler and more emotional, Watson wanting the songs to be more melodic than Wooden Arms’, and yet, as a whole, this is a more ambitious project – being accompanied by a web series. The first single, Into Giants, was released in February 2012, with an accompanying video, directed by previous collaborator Brigitte Henry, following in April. Patrick Watson have no immediate plans to tour or release new material, but if you would like to find out more information, head over to their website.
Words by: Tom Stephenson – TETO World Music Magazine