The Blood Lines
Providing Musical Transfusions
by Levi Soulodre
August 7, 2009
There happens to be an interesting paradox surrounding The Blood Lines, one of Saskatoon’s newest pop & rock musical purveyors (formed about a year ago). The fresh-faced group has already scaled many mountain-sized music industry peaks, and are unfailingly looking to expand their tonal odyssey into uncharted territories.
The Blood Lines’ sound stems from a variety of influences, including anything from laid-back, breezy pop melodies to psychedelic ‘60s-era sonic waterfalls, to all-out classic rock jams, all animated with the individual band members’ brand of breathy, sex-enticing vocals. Most amazing is the speed of the band’s success: In less than a year, they’ve recorded a self-titled debut album (which has received considerable airplay around Saskatoon, and is now turning heads on the worldwide broadcasting wings of one of Canada’s fastest growing music programs, CBC Radio 3). The band has toured to New York City twice, with their second visit including a showcase at what may be the most prestigious music festival in North America, the annual CMJ (College Music Journal) Music Marathon held in Manhattan. “CMJ was nothing short of amazing,” bassist/vocalist S.J. Kardash recalls. “The experience was absolutely worth it - so many industry people as well as general music lovers around. It was pretty hectic, and we got to meet a lot of people.” If that weren’t rewarding enough, the group then found itself in a van trekking across Western Canada, opening for beloved Montreal-based romantic pop/rock balladeers The Dears on their Winter 2006 tour. Musical visionary S.J. (also of the newly-reformed Junior Pantherz) recalls, “It was simply a matter of sending (Dears’ frontman Murray Lightburn) a MySpace message asking him to check out our songs. A few weeks later, their manager contacted us, saying that Murray had personally requested our band to open for them. What an honour!” Attributing the opportunity to a mutual respect and admiration of each other’s music, guitarist/vocalist Paul Ross adds, “The Dears’ audiences were surprisingly receptive - we sold a lot of CDs.” If that tour didn’t top it all, The Blood Lines also enjoyed a successful in-studio session at CBC, where they recorded a few of their songs and were interviewed for a special upcoming feature (likely to be aired in the spring). Should The Blood Lines continue at this frenetic pace, award nominations may be in the cards by 2008.
In all fairness, The Blood Lines is not a supergroup of robotically-programmed musicians or music industry experts. However, their excellent musicianship and individual experiences within the local and national music scenes are immediately evident and sharply relevant to their meteoric rise. In The Blood Lines we find the ever-underestimated tactfulness and fluidity of music-making within the ties of family - they’re comprised of four members from two families (brothers Paul and Barrett Ross; sister and brother Maygen and S.J. Kardash). Four young, extremely affable and goofy people who simply love, above anything, getting together and playing music. Or, as Paul puts it (while taking a break from unleashing jokes), turning ‘jams into gems.’ The Blood Lines are one of those rare bands that possesses natural and exciting musical abilities, while being able to interweave the traits of general goofiness and camaraderie, with a razor-sharp sense of professionalism with regards to the music business itself.
The authentic origin of their band name remains somewhat mysterious, as if the band members are trying to elude focus on one particular meaning. They emphasize that the words ‘Blood’ and ‘Lines’ are defined as two separate words, characterizing the band as a three word entity; "Three words just look better," Maygen says. She adds that by capitalizing the L in Lines, it ‘commands respect’, and negates the notion that the name is simply derived from 'bloodline'.
The band has already experienced many successes, it is the opportunities and contacts made as a result of their gains that are helping them win over fans across Canada and beyond. More specifically, the band has partnered with Patrick Leyland, an interning law student who practices at none other than one of Canada’s most successful entertainment law firms, Taylor Mitsopulos Burshtein. The band commends Patrick’s professional manner and dedication. Adds Maygen, “Patrick’s a definite asset to the team!” Unsurprisingly, the band met and established a working relationship with Leyland whilst at CMJ.
The Blood Lines’ debut album is available through MapleMusic’s distribution outlet, although through online distribution only. When asked whether Maple has approached them about furthering their working relationship or vice versa, the band doesn’t reveal much, saying that they "are talking with a few labels." Maygen summarizes their various answers by saying, “We are amassing a team that we trust.”
Although The Blood Lines operate as a cohesive unit - without a single 'front person', it cannot be ignored that S.J.’s experience and unrelenting work ethic has helped the group gain momentum a lot quicker. The band (including S.J.) notes a spirit of cooperativeness among members, including an equal division of labour, as the real key to its strong foundation. Obviously, The Blood Lines' insatiable drive for attention and recognition is enabling a natural process for their music to spread and be heard – and being heard is the group’s main goal.
A unique element of the band is their ability to swap instruments. In fact, when it comes to their primary instrument arsenal (comprised of voice, guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards), every member is fairly competent in operating each and any other’s respective instrument. Paul explains, “It changes our perspective. We do it for fun, and it takes us out of our comfort zone, which allows us to look at something differently than we might otherwise.” S.J. agrees, adding that, “We all have input into other people’s parts.” This makes it fair to assume that the usual destructive, egotistical tendencies are, thankfully, non-existent in this band. Certainly, the ‘family atmosphere’ offers a lot in terms of strengthening the band’s cohesiveness and mutual understanding of one another. “We do things for the betterment of the band - not to write something for one person,” Barrett offers. “If you don’t work together, it just falls apart.”
For their debut effort, recording processes were pursued to capture the nostalgic nature of crisp, dense, true-to-the-room tonal capacities, in the fashion of Blood Lines influences such as classic Rolling Stones, Beatles, Radiohead and Spiritualized. Most of the record was tracked on pre-1980s gear. In particular, Paul is in possession of a beautiful Vox AC-30 guitar amplifier, while S.J. employs a sonically monstrous Music Man tube-powered head through a 2x15 speaker combo cabinet. Maygen uses a 1978 Rhodes Seventy-Three, and Barrett plays 1960s Slingerland drums. The album was tracked on S.J.’s 16-track Fostex reel-to-reel, then mixed on a ProTools console. While S.J. is busy talking about the group’s steadfastness in recording the music live off-the-floor, with vocals following after, Paul is suddenly caught plucking at the strings of an old, comfortably forlorn Harmony guitar suspended from S.J.’s guitar wall with what the band refers to as the ‘claw’ - a long stick-like tool fitted with an operational handle and two clamping fingers on the end, which has been passed around randomly from band member to band member throughout our interview. Gaining back the band’s attention after attempting to play with the ‘claw’, it’s surprising to discover that most of the album’s songs only required a few takes, even the dazzlingly Bowie-esque track ‘Orcana’.
While the band’s aspirations continuously push past Canada’s borders, the band is happy to call Saskatoon their home base. The band notes how the Saskatoon independent music scene itself has seen a definite rise, in terms of album releases and touring schedules from local groups over the past few years. The Blood Lines are simply glad to be a part of this formative building process. Paul feels that the scene’s expectant boom is overdue. He also explains that, “Although (we) are nowhere close to Canada’s major media metropolises such as Vancouver and Toronto, Saskatchewan’s geographical location offers, at the very least, the advantage of centrality. It allows for easier travel towards both coasts of Canada, incidentally making trips to Vancouver and Toronto more feasible from a central vantage point.” Also, evidently enough, Saskatoon’s population is fairly small compared to the aforementioned cities. Paul continues, “Although we have received noise complaints, the cop who shows up at our door might know us, and will just give a warning. Maybe they’re more understanding here.”
What will follow next for The Blood Lines? They are keen on recording their second album, and have been writing prolifically and further developing their sound. Conveniently, The Blood Lines have the ability to record their practices, given that their rehearsal space is also home to S.J.’s recording headquarters, Living Space studios. (Other Saskatoon-based bands such as The Deep Dark Woods and From Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z recorded their albums here last year.) The band isn't worried about the "sophomore slump" stigma they're up against next, affirming that "We can’t wait to put out a new album." For the band’s future sound, drummer/vocalist Barrett says, "Consider the unexpected possible!" According to brother Paul, in their latest jam efforts, there has been ‘a lot of everything, sound-wise!’
*note as of February 2009 The Blood Lines have disbanded*