Limboland is a state of mind on the new album of the same name by the Stanfields, the middle ground of common sense and fair play where the silent majority is shouted down by the extreme ends of the political and social spectrum.
The Maritimes’ hardest-driving roots rock band finds a new well of fury to draw upon for its fifth release — creating its own Venn diagram of the righteous grit of the Clash and the rebel heart of the Pogues — which it launches with a show at Casino Nova Scotia’s Schooner Showroom on Friday night.
There’s also a Glasgow Square Theatre show in New Glasgow on Saturday, before the band hits the road for a show at Charlottetown’s P.E.I. Brewing Company on Saturday, Apr. 21, followed by dates in Quebec and Ontario.
Self-produced at Codapop Studio in Halifax and mixed at Iron Tulip Audio, the Chester production house co-owned by Stanfields singer Jon Landry and engineer Darren van Niekerk, the record was nearing completion last summer when the band received a summons to a real world Limboland, as far from civilization as you can possibly get while still within Canada’s borders.
Last June, the quintet got the call to fly up to CFS Alert, the Canadian base in Nunavut, that’s the closest settlement to the North Pole north of Greenland and closer to Moscow than to Ottawa. Two days later, they were heading over the Arctic Circle in a Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport plane, with a portable PA system that also had multi-track recording capability, in case they
wanted to capture some audio record of their trip for the new record.
Over 12 days, Landry and his bandmates, guitarist Jason MacIsaac, drummer Mark Murphy, and recent recruits Calen Kinney (fiddle, bouzouki) and bassist Dillan Tate, played music daily while embedded with a varied group of people who hadn’t seen it get completely dark outside for months.
They also talked to some of the resident scientists about the raw data and physical evidence of climate change, which was already subject matter on Limboland.
“Real point-of-no-return kind of stuff,” says Landry while sucking in his breath, and marvelling at the resilience of the soldiers and civilians who sign on for months-long stints at the listening station and scientific research outpost.
“It was serendipitous that this experience happened while we were making this very explicit sort of record,” he says. “We’re up there with scientists on one side of the spectrum and military personnel on the other, it felt like being on a Federation starship.
“The isolation alone was unsettling. We were out of the mainstream for 12 days, no data on your phones, just the company of these people who come from all sides politically and socially and otherwise. It was a very interesting experience, being forced to cohabitate that way. Everybody becomes a family, they find ways to connect with each other, despite what they might think about Pumpkinhead or Selfie Boy or whatever.”
Landry makes reference to characters in the first two new Stanfields videos — for the tracks Afraid of the World (an anti-Trump diatribe) and Desperation— about the pitfalls of online self-involvement. Both combine the band’s knack for blending social commentary and ribald humour, about ongoing topics that he says it was a relief to be far away from up in Alert.
While they were there, Kinney took advantage of the eerie landscape to capture some imagery for the album and future videos. They didn’t see any polar bears, but there was an Arctic wolf (named Rita by the base residents) prowling around the perimeter, and just before they left to fly home, they had the most amazing encounter of all.
“At the end of the tour we were awarded these medals by the base commander, which have the official seal of the base on the front, and on the other side is an engraving of a musk ox,” recalls Landry. “Probably about half an hour later, we looked out on the tundra, and a herd of musk ox turned up out of the blue, just like that. That was absolutely freaky, Calen went out on an ATV and got some images of them, and we put a picture of one on Murph’s kick drum.
“They’re bellowing beasts, and there were seven of us in our party and there were seven musk ox, six adults and one baby. I don’t know what sort of higher power is out there in the world, but that just added to the significance and symbolism around themaking of this record.”
Tickets for the Stanfields at the Schooner Showroom are $30 in advance (slightly higher day of show), available in person at the Casino Nova Scotia promotions desk, the Ticket Atlantic box office or Atlantic Superstores, by phone at 902-451-1221 and online at www.ticketatlantic.com