SURREY — Good for Grapes is a little more country, a bit more rock ‘n’ roll on its sophomore record, called The Ropes and released on Oct. 2.
Exhibit “A” is the album’s raucous, honky-tonkin’ first single, “Waiting on a Ghost,” which signals a slight change in musical direction for the Surrey-rooted band.
The high-energy, indie-folk vibe is still very much in play, but chief songwriter Daniel McBurnie’s growing love of pedal steel and Ryan Adams records has apparently led the band down a different path.
“I kind of became obsessed with that instrument (pedal steel) between this album and the last one (2013’s Man on the Page),” McBurnie told the Now.
The singer-guitarist had written a bunch of songs (“more than enough for an album”) that were all but replaced in favour of the ones heard on The Ropes, he said.
“As it goes, you kind of elaborate on the songs, dig into them and, as time goes by, sometimes you set them free because you can’t relate to them as much anymore,” he explained.
Pedal steel player John Sponarski guest-performed on The Ropes, augmenting the joyful, harmony-filled sounds made by an expanded band, now a septet and ready to roll across Canada on a fall tour that includes a Nov. 12 date at Vancouver’s Imperial.
It’s been a big year for Good for Grapes, which in 2014 earned $102,700 for winning the Peak Performance Project talent contest.
The prize money gave the band the luxury of time to tighten The Ropes’ 11 songs, recorded at The Warehouse (Bryan Adams’ Gastown-area studio) and produced by Howard Redekopp.
“We were on a timeline already, to get things done, and I really don’t know how that would have gone had we not won the Peak (prize), because it just helped so much,” McBurnie elaborated.
“Like, it funded our entire record and took the stress out. We were thinking we’d have to crowd-fund it. It took the stress out of the uncertainty of going into an album, where you have bunch of songs and you believe in them, but the money is always an issue and you have to stress about exactly how you’re going to get the most bang for your buck.
“For me,” he continued, “I always like to spend time on stuff in the studio, to take care and not rush things, so it was really nice to have all those days in Howard’s (home) studio just kind of digesting and thinking about the soundscape. It was really valuable.”
On the new album, that soundscape is improved by the addition of trombone, cello and violin on many of the catchy tracks.
McBurnie, who recently moved to East Vancouver, was among Good for Grapes band members who spent time mentoring teens at a day-long Band-Aid music camp at Surrey Arts Centre in September. Topics included “tour survival” and songwriting.
“We got to talk to a bunch of youth who are doing their thing, at a few different stages of their careers,” McBurnie recalled. “Some were just thinking about starting a band, doing music, and others had been songwriting for awhile.… A lot of them were kinda far from the whole tour-survival thing so we just talked about all sorts of things, our stories, and tried to help them as much as we could.
“Those events are cool,” he added, “because they kind of bring us to the other side, because we’re still getting taught ourselves, learning things, so it’s about trying to be a good example.”
The Ropes can be heard online at Beatroute.ca/2015/09/25/album-premiere-folk-rock-troubadours-good-for-grapes-show-us-the-ropes.