Monday, May 14, 2012

The Sadies Discuss Working With Andre Williams For "Night And Day"

Canada's finest live band, The Sadies, have reunited with explicit soul singer and cult legend Andre Williams for a new record called Night and Day (Yep Roc). Night and Day is the result of sessions that began in 2008 at the Key Club Studio in Detroit, and it captures Andre, then 70 years old and at his most raw, honest, and immediate.

Andre Williams is aided by a stellar cast of musical friends who have earned the trust of the ancient hustler, including Jon Spencer (Heavy Trash, Blues Explosion, Pussy Galore) who directed these sessions, Matt Verta-Ray (Heavy Trash), Danny Kroha (The Gories), Jon Langford (Mekons), and of course, The Sadies' long-time line-up of Dallas Good,Travis Good, Mike Belitsky and Sean Dean.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to The Sadies about the making of Night and Day.

Can you talk about your own impressions and previous history of listening and working with Andre Williams before Night and Day?

Dallas Good: Well, we made a record with Andre in 1999. I've loved Andre's music since forever, and I was VERY excited to make a record with him for Bloodshot. It was to be a country and western record. But that record was made before we got to know him. Hell, most of the covers were recorded before he even got to the studio.

After touring together we became much closer and eventually figured out a formula that works. This record is inspired by our love for his past, present and future.

How did you connect with Andre Williams for this album?

Dallas Good: We've known him for a long time but we made this record mainly because we were falling out of touch with conflicting, busy schedules. We made time when we could and now six years later, here we are.

What was it about working with Mr. Williams again that interested you most about taking on this project?

Dallas Good: Andre is my friend, family even. We are not session musicians backing up some dirty old man. We are friends who idolize our dirty old, uh, uncle or something?

We were inspired to start this album because he wasn't getting any younger and to be honest, Andre was in a bad spot when we started and we felt we could maybe help. Of course, he's fine now... 

Can you take us through the history of the project?

Dallas Good: The project began in 2006 at the Key Club. We were on tour backing Heavy Trash with two days off, and Andre was in Joliet. I've known Bill and Jessica for a long time and they were willing to let us work there super cheap under 'the love of the game' clause. So it began!

Andre's back catalog was inspiring. We sure as hell didn't want to make Red Dirt again and with Heavy Trash it was all old-time country and rockabilly all the time. I listen to a lot of weird crap that didn't really come through so much. And who knows what Dre listens to. 

How did the collaboration begin to take shape?

Dallas Good:
The formula was determined by the players. We had the Heavy Trash orchestra with the Kelly and Sally singers. All the songs were brought in with Andre in mind and the sensibility and feel was all predetermined by the Gods.

Can you discuss how Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray (of Heavy Trash), Jon Langford, Sallie Timms, Kelly Hogan, and Danny Kroha all got involved?

Dallas Good: To be completely honest, we just asked them. Every person on this album has a long history with Andre. Making this record was like a summercamp reunion.

What would you say came most naturally to the band while working with Mr. Williams during the writing and recording of Night and Day?

Sean Dean: The most natural thing that came out during the writing and recording of the Andre record for the band is style and tonality. Up to that point we had built up an awareness of what Andre likes about rock n' roll.

Having done lots of shows over a decade with Andre, and especially the month-long European tour around 1999,  that made it an over-learned experience to know where he likes slow-downs/ speed-ups/ pushes/ pulls and pauses for those "Andre talks" or preaching rants.

Can you talk about the location of the recording. Specifically, how did the sense of place and the locality of the area play into shaping the sound and feel of the album?

Sean: Locality weighed very heavily on the political "feel" of this record. The angry and political quality that is tangible on this record not only comes from Andre's lyrical content, but also from the beats and timbre generated by us musicians who all come from punk rock backgrounds.

Driving around Benton Harbour and seeing boarded up, dilapidated houses, factories, and businesses across from the proposed Jack Nicklaus-designed Harbour Shores golf course is a very deep contrast.

I find it ironic and apropos that the racial, economic, and drug addiction issues evident in Andre's lyrics parallels what's happening in Benton Harbour now. Michigan has now gotten rid of their democratically elected officials and replaced them with non-elected emergency managers that rule the town like cruel overlords. I have nothing against golf, but the land that the managers sold off to make this private golf course was a free public waterfront park since 1917.

Additionally, the Benton Harbour community radio station that was actively giving off dissent NIGHT AND DAY towards these emergency managers was also annexed for a meager $5,000.  So it's very natural for Andre to yell out on this album "YOU GOT A PROBLEM AMERICA!".

How has making Night and Day influenced the band, and what have your experiences working with Andre brought into band's own sensibilities?

Mike Belitsky: There isn't a day that goes by where I don't think of something Andre has said or done. Whether it's funny, wise, practical, or profound, Andre's take on any situation is always worth heeding.

When we first started working with him back in the late 90's his imprint was immediate and indelible. He taught us the importance of performance and that any show, be it big or small, is always a show. There are no nights off in the world of Andre Williams.

Andre has had a very significant influence on The Sadies.

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