Tony Dekker from the Great Lake Swimmers – Interview

Vancouver Weekly: What was it like putting together New Wild Everywhere and how does it differ from things you’ve done in the past?

Tony Dekker: We’ve been working with Andy Magoffin now for about 8 years. He’s made all of our records, I think except for the first one.  I wanted to give [Andy] more of a role as a producer. He really wanted to hear how we would sound in a proper recording studio.

In the past we’ve done these pretty elaborate location-recording setups.  I kind of put the project in his hands and we had a talk about how he’d like to run it.

We decided to go into a proper recording studio, which doesn’t sound like a big deal except for that this is our fifth record and it was kind of a big deal for us because we’ve never actually recorded in the studio before. That was one of the main differences in the recording process anyway.

Vancouver Weekly: Were there any goals that you wanted to accomplish from a writing perspective for this record?

Tony Dekker: I think the writing for the record has continued in the same way I’ve always worked on songs throughout all of the records. With this one, I really wanted to make it more of a band effort.  The band that plays on it is basically the touring band from Lost Channels.

I think that there was a really great chemistry that was happening with these members. I really wanted to try to capture some of that chemistry and some of that great energy that we had built up playing together from the last record.

Vancouver Weekly: I read somewhere that the Great Lake Swimmers started off as a solo project.  How true is that today?

Tony Dekker: I still write all the songs. I think that’s the core of it and it’s kind of like the consistent thing. This band and the project as a whole has been such an evolution. We’ve really been able to function as a touring band and as a result, we have more of a forceful presence on the stage.  It’s been a real evolution from that first record.

Vancouver Weekly: Does the band have much say on the arranging process? How did that come about?

Tony Dekker: Everyone was able to input his or her ideas. When it came right down to it, it was Andy that was steering the ship on this record and me as well obviously.  Some songs I had very specific ideas about how it should go.  We generally worked on the arrangements together and everyone was able to bring their input and try out different things.  We really set aside a lot of time to play the songs together and demo them before we went into the studio. We really spent a lot of time on the songs trying out lots of different parts when we played them together.

Vancouver Weekly: Are there any standout tracks for you on this album?

Tony Dekker: I’ve been really enjoying The Great Exhale live.  For some reason, every night it feels really good to dig in to that one.

Vancouver Weekly: Did you find that once you listened back to the album, there were certain songs you now liked more than you had before?

Tony Dekker: Yeah, in a way, I guess. It’s a strange thing you know.  It’s kind of like  ‘You don’t want to choose between your favorites among your children’.  But that one feels really good to play live for sure.

Vancouver Weekly: How long does it take you to write songs? Do you write a lot or do you usually take the time to write when inspired? How does that work?

Tony Dekker: That’s a tough one. I think that every song is written in its own way. Sometimes it’ll start with a few words or sometimes I’ll put a song away for a while.  For example, the song Easy Come, Easy Go. We went in to do some demos and right after we got off the road touring Lost Channels.  I had this song sort of half written.  I had a verse and a chorus and it was Easy Come, Easy Go.  We had so much fun playing it.  I basically put that away for a year or so and didn’t even really think about it too much until it came time to record the [album]. It was one of those songs where it didn’t change much from the beginning but the energy was still there and it put such big smiles on everyone’s faces. Of course we have to include this one!

But generally speaking of the songwriting process for me, it is a pretty solitary thing. I try to write a little bit everyday if I can. I have some periods of more intense writing especially when I am not on the road because I find it hard to write while we are touring because it’s hard to find that alone time. It’s like an exercise.  The more you write, the better you get.

Vancouver Weekly: I noticed that you have quite a few upbeat songs on the last few albums in comparison to the previous records.  Is this something that you are consciously steering towards?

Tony Dekker: I bring the songs to the band and they are just solo acoustic guitar and vocals and then we build them from there.  I think it’s a result of playing with the band.  It’s a result of their input into things. It’s how the songs transform.

Vancouver Weekly: Are you going to mostly be playing songs from the new album?

Tony Dekker: We are playing some older stuff too but the focus on the tour is playing the new record but really we’re playing songs from all the records.  So, we are doing a cross-section of our work for sure.

Check out the Great Lake Swimmers live @ The Commodore Ballroom on May 11th.

Photo Credit: ASLI ALIN

Ricardo Khayatte

Ricardo Khayatte