The Olympic Symphonium take a chance on something new

"I should hope that most bands by their third or fourth album have something to say"



New Brunswick’s long-running folk-pop group, The Olympic Symphonium (Nick Cobham, Kyle Cunjak and Graeme Walker) has ventured into unexplored grounds and reached a new level of musicality and collaboration. Olympic Symphonium just released its fourth studio album, Chance To Fate, and Cunjak thinks it’s their best one yet. The band took the plunge and got outside people on board with the production and songwriting for this new record—in all their years, this is the first time they’ve teamed up with so much outside talent.

Cunjak shared his thoughts on this new album:

Q: You produced and recorded the album at the Salty Towers Inn in St. Andrews, New Brunswick. What made this inn the suitable place to record this fourth record?
A: It’s an old Victorian inn that’s probably at least 100 years old and was obviously used for many things so it just has a total vibe to it. And we know the folks who own it, so there was so many options: we could record there, stay there, eat there. It’s like a self-contained place that you could go for a condensed period of time, which is how we like to do things. It only took three days in this case to record the album, but that’s not unusual for us—the last one was done in about four or five days in an abandoned mansion in Fredericton. But that’s our preference, well, mine at least, for the way we work and record albums. It’s always a better result to condense the recording if you’re in a position to do that and if you’re comfortable doing that. Some people don’t work like that, but we certainly do.

Q: And it’s in New Brunswick, your home province.
A: Yeah exactly. And we didn’t want to go out to Nashville and make an expensive record—I think we’d end up with the same result or a worse result, honestly. So yeah, we mainly chose the inn for practicality and because we knew the place and the owners and we’ve always talked about recording an album there.

Q: Can you tell me a bit about the title track, "Chance to Fate"?
A: I’m not so much the one to comment on that because that’s a song of Nick’s—but I can try. So that song for sure is about the process of writing and how taxing it is on you sometimes and how it takes a lot to get that out of you and it can be hard to find inspiration. And this being our fourth album, we’re definitely writing about things that mean a little more—I think that the subjects are heavier, and justly so—I just think that with a band, if you’re on your third or fourth album, you’ve probably done away with all the niceties. Like, you’ve already explored the idea of love and all the pretty things and I should hope that most bands by their third or fourth album have something to say, have found their voice, and are kind of dealing with heavier and more important issues. And it’s not just coming up with stuff that’s harder. I think that a bit of your responsibility as a songwriter is that you have this voice and people listen to you. Especially after you’ve done a few albums, people are really paying attention to you so you don’t need to soak everything in metaphors. I really like when things are cut and dry, it’s a little more honest that way, right? Definitely harder to see through a song when it’s doused in metaphors and you’re not really sure what’s going on. I mean I really enjoy and respect when people have figured out a way to say something really simply that’s still profound or makes people think or challenges certain ideas that people have.

Q: And for some of these songs you collaborated with outside people for the songwriting and the production of the album. It was the first time you guys collaborated in that way, so how was it?
A: It was great and I think that it was the right time to do it. Like there’s three of us—myself, Nick and Graeme—who write the tunes, up until this point. Over the years we had enough variation that it was easy to not feel stagnant at all, because there were three different people writing so it didn’t feel warranted to have any outside people until this point. And for this album lap-steel player Dennis Goodwin wrote a song, another was co-written by Fredericton poet Christopher Goodwin and our friend Josh Van Tassel did a remix of one of our songs from our last album ("The City Won’t Have Time To Fight") and he just turned it into this really great—not techno like most people are thinking—reinterpretation with a lot of his own elements added in. When we gave him a couple of these new songs, he did the same thing. So we let him have the whole album, let him put his touch on it and he totally shaped it into something that we couldn’t have done ourselves. He brought it to a new level that we’re really really happy with.

You can catch The Olympic Symphonium at the Chance To Fate album release show this Saturday, May 3 at the Sonic Temple Recording Studio (1674 Hollis Street) in Halifax.

Doors open at 7pm and tickets are $16.99 in advance or $20 at the door). You can purchase them online here.


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