St. Paul & the Broken Bones

Collective Concerts & Indie88 Present

St. Paul & the Broken Bones


Sun, October 7, 2018

Doors: 7:00 pm

The Danforth Music Hall

Toronto, ON

$29.50 - $46.50

This event is 19 and over

St. Paul & the Broken Bones
St. Paul & the Broken Bones
Sea of Noise, the second full-length album by St. Paul and the Broken Bones, marks a quantum leap in sound and style for the high-voltage Birmingham, Alabama-based band.

Produced by Paul Butler and recorded at Nashville's Sound Emporium, the group's sophomore effort features an expanded eight-piece lineup of the widely praised soul-based rock unit. Longtime members Paul Janeway (lead vocals), Jesse Phillips (bass, guitar), Browan Lollar (guitars), Andrew Lee (drums), Al Gamble (keyboards), and Allen Branstetter (trumpet) are joined by Jason Mingledorff (saxophone, clarinet, flute), and Chad Fisher (trombone).

The collection of new original songs is the group's first release on RECORDS, a joint venture of SONGS Publishing, winner of ASCAP's 2016 independent publisher of the year award, and veteran label executive Barry Weiss.

Sea of Noise is a successor to the Broken Bones' 2013 debut album Half the City, which introduced the group's blazing mating of '60s soul fire – daubed with latter-day influences like Sly Stone, David Bowie, and Prince — to Janeway's impassioned singing and writing. The new album witnesses a deepening and broadening of the unit's musical reach and lyrical concerns.

"It felt like it happened organically," Janeway says of the band's development. "With the last record, it was like doing things with your hair on fire – going in, recording it live. There's a sense of urgency to having a record like that. We were only a band for about five months at that point. I didn't know my voice – I'd never done this professionally. I was just learning more nuance, and about carrying a melody. You don't have to go for it 100% all the time. You can draw people in by giving and taking."

Janeway says that he and his close musical associate Phillips began to ponder the direction of the band's second album a year and a half ago. "If we had been forced to go into a studio a year and a half ago, we probably would have done a better version of Half the City," he says. "There would have been nothing wrong with that. But we started evolving, or changing."

Work began in earnest during last year's Coachella festival in California: "We rented a house in San Bernardino Valley National Park. The week in between the two weekends, we really started to hash things out. Then we rented out a very hot warehouse in Birmingham where we could write. And me and Jesse and a few of us would send stuff back and forth via Dropbox. That gave me the ability to work on harmonies on the vocals. I wanted to take it up a notch, in all realms."

Looking to such inspirations as Tom Waits and Nick Cave, Janeway was intent on lifting his game as a songwriter on material for the second album. "I'm married to a woman with a masters in literature, and I can't show her lyrics unless I'm pretty proud of 'em," he says. "I had to sit and think about what I'm saying – what do I want to say, is there anything to say? What's my perspective as this Southern kid who's watching the modern world and feeling very much like an alien in a lot of ways. This is more personal. If you're going to say something, say something, and don't waste your breath unless you feel like you're saying something."

Janeway adds that his reading of the book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, played a role in the direction of the work: "I didn't want it to be an overly political record, but I feel it shows up a little bit on the album."

With a full complement of new songs in hand, St. Paul and the Broken Bones entered the studio with Butler, leader of the British band the Bees and producer of Devendra Banhart and Michael Kiwanuka.

"Jesse was listening to one of his records and he said, 'Everything sounds great,'" Janeway recalls. "It sounded like a real record – everything had depth, and was expansive-sounding. Butler ended up being the guy that we wanted to use. Producer-wise, I think we knocked a home run. He is very meticulous."

On Sea of Noise, the band's brawny horn-driven sound is augmented – and displaced — by the use of a string quartet and a vocal choir. The strings – recorded at Memphis' historic Sam Phillips Recording by engineer Jeff Powell – were arranged by Lester Snell, a veteran of Stax Records sessions by Isaac Hayes, Shirley Brown, Albert King, and the Staple Singers, among many others. Janeway says of Snell, "He did all these classic, great records in Memphis – he did the string arrangements on them. The strings, for us, supply a darker tone. Horns sometimes can't portray a certain darkness. We thought that would be the best option, instead of horn lines. We have songs on this record that don't have any horns at all."

Employed on "Crumbling Light Posts," the recurring motif that appears three times on the album, Jason Clark and the Tennessee Mass Choir were recorded in another legendary Memphis facility. "The Stax Museum let us go in there after hours and record the choir," Janeway says, adding with a laugh. "We said, 'Well, hell, we're in Memphis, let's just see if they'll do it.' It was pretty neat, I'm not gonna lie."

He says of the finished work, "Sea of Noise is not quite a full-blown concept record. It is focused in terms of subject matter – finding redemption and salvation and hope. 'Crumbling Light Posts' comes from an old Winston Churchill quote, in which he said England was a crumbling lighthouse in a sea of darkness. I always thought that was a really interesting concept – that we're falling anyway. In this day and age, it is the noise that has defined so many things. We're going to fall to it eventually, but for now we feel like our heads are above water. It felt anthemic."

The album's lyrical and emotional richness is heard loudly in stunning new compositions like "Burning Rome" (which Janeway describes as "a letter to God, if I could write it") and the startling "I'll Be Your Woman," which knocks traditional soul music gender roles on their heads. Janeway says of the latter song, "I wrote that with Jesse, and he said, 'If I can write that song, I can die a happy man, because I've finally made something that I feel can stand up to my standards.'"

St. Paul and the Broken Bones, which toured extensively in the U.S. and Europe behind their debut album, will put their take-no-prisoners live show on the road this fall. Their most recent concert work included arena dates opening for the Rolling Stones in Atlanta and Buffalo. Some acts may have been daunted by such a task, but not this one.

"It was pretty neat, it was pretty crazy," Janeway says. "I love the Rolling Stones, but my train of thought is, you gotta try and blow 'em off the stage. And that's still my goal."
Watching her onstage, that brown bob of hers whirling like a cyclone as she unleashes her brash and husky riot of a rock voice, it’s hard to imagine Mattiel Brown was ever anything but a natural-born performer, a tried-and-true self-empowered presence. “Honestly though I never even believed I could do this all,” Mattiel, one of rock’s most thrilling young talents, says. Still, dig deep and she’ll admit to those times when she’d let herself dream: of one day stepping onstage, gripping that microphone and showcasing her
skills. Then, she imagined, could at last let it all go, unleash that deep-seeded passion of hers for melody and rhythm and intricate storytelling and channel her pent-up ferocity into something real and palpable and powerful.

“But,” adds the soft-spoken singer, whose youth was shaped by an eclectic range of Music - from folk to punk and rock to hip-hop - and who for years only sang for her mother in private, “I remember thinking all along, “Yah, I would love to do that but it’s out of my wheelhouse, right?”” Mattiel pauses and smiles as if to say she now knows she was capable of becoming a masterful rock frontwoman all along. “I guess I just really had to break out of my skin.”

It’s a damn good thing she did: following encouragement from Jack White during a chance encounter in Nashville with her chief musical inspiration and eventual touring partner, Mattiel made the crucial decision to jumpstart her musical journey by writing and recording with her now-longtime songwriting partners, Jonah Swilley and Randy Michael. Less than five years later the band stands as one of the most singular and buzzed-about acts in rock music. Mattiel is no longer a teenager so unsure of her talent she was afraid to sing in front of strangers but rather performing for rapt audiences across the globe in the wake of the band’s acclaimed eponymous 2017 debut LP,
released via Burger Records; wowing viewers with their fiery TV shows like last year on “Later… With Jools Holland” and more recently “Last Call With Carson Daly”. And now, they’re gearing up to release their highly anticipated second album, Satis Factory.

“It’s all still wild to me,” Mattiel admits with a laugh of her whirlwind past two years. “It’s so incredible knowing I’ve invested my time in something that has really started to work.” Swilley chuckles when hearing of the singer’s typically humble take on the present day. Having become Mattiel’s most trusted musical ally and bandmate since they first began writing together in 2014, he’s seen her evolution firsthand. “I believed in her from the get-go,” Swilley says. “Because when you hear her sing” - a grizzly blend of Grace Slick and Screamin' Jay Hawkins with the ferocity of a punk-rock head-
Thrasher - “you instantly know it’s for real.”

Mattiel, for her part, is hardly one to sing her own praises. But having seen their debut album (released on iconic indie Heavenly in the UK and Europe) be so embraced by such well-respected outlets like the BBC’s Radio 6Music , even she can let herself admit her collaborators may have been right all along. “Randy and Jonah were so confident about how well my debut would be received,” she recalls. “They were like, ‘The real music fans are going to get this.’ And they were right.”

While she may be patting herself on the back, Mattiel’s recent success has most importantly given her the confidence and creative ammunition to go for broke on Satis Factory. To Swilley’s ear, the album is “a true rock n’ roll record,” with timeless influences ranging from The Clash to The Velvet Underground and even hints of Roger Miller. “It was a completely different experience than the first album,” he says. “It was a lot more about trying new sounds out and putting weird keyboards through amps. It was a little more experimental where we’re having fun playing with different sounds.”
Mattiel acknowledges their new LP is a hard-hitting and occasionally bruising affair, what with her voice regularly sizzling above searing, serpentine guitars (“Heck Fire”). But on a deeper level, she says, the album is a collection of highly personal and thematic stories. Satis Factory, she explains, is an exploration of the never-ending search for self-gratification. And until recently, having worked full-time as a graphic designer for
technology firm MailChimp while simultaneously pursuing her musical dreams, it’s a struggle she knows well.

“I spent about a solid year-and-a half juggling both jobs full-time,” she explains, and the idea of finding pleasure in the process of self-discovery is a concept she directly explores on the reverb-drenched “Millionaire.” The first song she penned for the album, the droney jolt of self-reflection directly wrestles with her love-hate relationship with the voyage to personal and creative fulfillment. “Some people become satisfied doing one thing for a very long time, and don’t have the impetus to pursue anything else,” Mattiel
says of the impetus for “Millionaire.” “But I’m happiest when I’m continually searching for that satisfaction even though I may never reach it. Because if I’ve totally reached it, I know I’m doing something wrong. It means I’ve become too comfortable.” Moments later, a similar sentiment is dished up on the garage rocker “Berlin Weekend,” with Mattiel snarling, “And when the time comes to get down and invest/Get the same house and the same yard and a white picket fence/What now and what then when you’ve got a means to an end?/What are you gonna do then?”

For Mattiel, learning to honor her achievements remains a work in progress; it’s something she admits to only acknowledging when onstage and hearing her lyrics sung back to her by her ever-growing audience. “I wish that I had more time to enjoy the “It’s all happening” part,” she says, “but I’m busy doing so many different things.”

Yes, despite her growing profile the self-admitted perfectionist has remained extremely hands-on with all facets of her career. “It’s very hard for me to give someone free creative reign on something unless I know them very well,” Mattiel admits. To that end, the multi-talented artist served as co-director alongside filmmaker Matthew Addington for the music video to the album’s jangly guitar-anchored lead single “Keep the Change.” Shot at an old cement factory outside Atlanta, and finding the singer dashing wildly among old machinery, Mattiel says shooting the mesmerizing video “kinda felt like
running around inside a video game with all the tunnels, catwalks and passageways.” In other words, she was into it.

And now, despite the excitement surrounding Satis Factory and a forthcoming tour of North American and Europe that kicks off in May at Third Man Records and finds the band gigging in locales from Montreal to Madrid, she and her longtime musical compatriots are keeping their eyes forward.

“We’re just trying to keep on challenging ourselves and put ourselves in uncomfortable situations to make good music,” Swilley offers of Mattiel’s promising future. “This is something I always thought I had inside me,” Mattiel says. “I suppose when the time was right these things fell into place as they should.”
Venue Information:
The Danforth Music Hall
147 Danforth Ave
Toronto, ON, M4K 1N2