If you've never seen Rich Aucoin live, to put it frankly, you're really missing out.
Originally from Halifax, the Crown Prince of the Parachute Party has been igniting stages from Toronto to New Orleans since around 2007, back when he was best-known as the brother of the Hylozoists' Paul Aucoin. He was part of a musical dynasty, especially through the vibrant scene of his Nova Scotia home. But in true phenom fashion, it took very little time for the soulfully unrestrained singer to make his own name.
Cycling around Canada to raise money for cancer research, his earliest shows were humble indeed—imagine the classic image of a touring minstrel, only with a bike and a backpack full of digital sound equipment. Pared down as he was, though, the choral, rhythm-heavy style of his first EP, Public Publication, spoke for itself. Before long, it would become all confetti and towering, life-affirming anthems for this tireless musical supernova.
It's nearly impossible to choose between the live performances and the packaged recordings of Rich Aucoin as the best testament to his work, which definitely says something. For example, there's the fact that Public Publication itself, independently recorded and produced in 2007, was written as an alternate soundtrack to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Or there's the jaw-dropping five hundred-strong roster of musicians who contributed to his latest EP, We're All Dying to Live. Like a show style that finds him regularly jumping off the stage, performing with the audience rather than for them, the character of his work is indelibly, unmistakably Rich Aucoin—a hallmark of greatness.
Tonight, Aucoin headlines What's in the Box at midnight, and we had a chance to catch up with him. Tickets are available at the door for a whopping five bucks.
Seriously, you haven't lived until you've seen this man at work.
1) You got your start biking your equipment around on tour back in 2007, supporting various charities. What were those shows like, and how have you approached performing in the years since?
Yeah, I thought combining a music tour and seeing the country in a non-blurred speed fashion would be a great way to start my love of traveling/touring after having just previously toured across the country in my brother's band, The Hylozoists. I obviously started with a very "mobile" approach and even though I love vintage synths and heavy as fuck Fender Rhodes keyboards, I have always chosen to travel as light as possible. Luckily, the MicroSampler has made me able to have whatever sampled keyboards I want with everything still fitting in a carry-on.
2) Do you remember your first Drake show?
Tuesday, Sept 9, 2008 during TIFF. I opened for Pirate/Rock, Madrid, and Off the International Radar.
3) You've really been making the rounds since the release of "We're All Dying to Live," and rightly so. Tours through the United States and Europe, even being featured on Hockey Night in Canada, if I'm not mistaken. How has it been going, and what challenges have you encountered so far?
Touring has been super fun for that record. I've gotten to go all over the US/CAN/EUR/SA. I have band members in various cities around NA/EUR so I've always kept changing my band and have a really easy-going relationship with everyone who plays with me so there's never any stresses that you hear of in a usual touring band situation. It also makes it fun to see friends all over as whoever is available for a gig can get flown in to whatever we're doing at a given time. This has made it so much easier than having a geographically fixed band in one place that needs to get in the van and slam it to tour. HNIC was a dream too; super glad I got to be a part of that. Tim who edits those is a genius.
4) When you do a show at the Drake Underground or Gus's Pub in Halifax, there's always a cinema-like roll of acknowledgements and credits, with that hilarious video of the dude dancing at a festival show. Where did that tradition come from, anyway?
The first show I did that for was NXNE at The Garrison in 2010 I think. I have always found that video really inspiring for showing that, for no reason in particular, if we all get behind the idea of having a good time, we can create a great moment and memory for ourselves and the people around us. I thought it was the perfect mental space to start a show with and knew I wanted to make some sort of intro with credits and people's names who were in the audience to start the experience. Originally, this was to the music of Inception which I miss now as I've written my own song to accompany these visuals now
5) You're also a cultural expert on all things cinematic, which is amazing. Who should play you in the Rich Aucoin biopic?
laughs I dunno. Hopefully he's not an adult actor yet or I'm dying young. I feel like there's still much more I want to do that will be more biopic worthy than the stuff I've accomplished so far.
6) What do you remember as your best Toronto experience? On the other hand, what, um... wasn't so great?
Best Toronto experience in terms of show was probably that Garrison show during NX. Just had a lot of energy and people danced hard and I was well rested enough to enjoy it even though that show went by like a blur. Least best experience would probably be the technical difficulties of my set opening for Lights at the Sound Academy once. Tech difficulties are a bummer because they spring up on you even after you've double checked something in sound-check and then you're just super stressed right before you have to continue on with the show as your brain works in overtime going over all the previous tech difficulties you've ever experienced looking for possible solutions in the shortest amount of time. After that show, I said goodbye to the laptop for a couple years too only re-trusting it at Osheaga this past summer with a second laptop at the ready.
7) Two words: parachute party. It's possibly the best representation of your dynamic, audience-participation-format shows, not to mention one of their most fun features. Can we expect the parachute to come out on the 30th? Also, what prompted that idea to begin with?
Of course. It's already waiting for us in TO as we speak. I was buying something on Ebay and there was that ad at the bottom that said "You might also like: ..." and one of those options was a parachute and I thought about how I'd like to do that again someday and then thought, "wait, I have a job where I could do that everyday". laughs
8) You worked with something like 500 artists on "We're All Dying to Live," all of them from across Canada. What role did Toronto play in that particularly phenomenal record?
I recorded with Henri Faberge and his crew who were all new friends at the time: Maylee Todd, Andy Lloyd, Julian Wilding and more at that sweet performance space and party house they used to have on Bathurst. I recorded at the now gone Halla Music Studios on the east end with my brother, and Doug MacGregor came in and slayed some drums, as did Jason Tait who together with Paul Keddy in Halifax were responsible for that drum break at the start of 1929-1971 (which is a reference to When The Leave Breaks by Led Zeppelin as it broke originally in 1929 and again when they recorded that jam in 1971). Taylor Knox also slayed some drums and also Will Currie and his crew came to the studio, as did The Golden Dogs before I biked up (I did all this on bike too) record with the FemBots, Wayne Petty, Peter Chapman (responsible for that synth bass on Brian Wilson is Alive), and Shaun Brodie. Then I went and got lots of synth times with Dan Werb at his place and then a dream come true for a young Haligonian getting Jay Ferguson to play some guitar and sing on the record at his place before heading over the Paul's Boutique where Andrew Scott and I went in early one more before it opened and loop-recorded P.U.S.H. while playing every synth in the shop.
9) Any favourite places, neighbourhoods, or things to do in T.O.?
Everywhere. I love TO. Just went to the Aquarium. It's a great one for sure. Love sitting out with a beer in Trinity in the summer. I loved that this summer it felt like a beach more than ever. I love playing rec hockey on the outdoor or indoor rinks in the winter too with the Exclaim! cup folks. Great people. Great city.
10) Hopes or plans for 2014?