The Once talk change, genre and writing their own narrative in the wake of their sublime studio album, Time Enough
Time and change are two things we as people have little to no control of. Sure, we can plan to stay the same –eat the same food, walk the same trails, meet the same people – but much of our lives are dictated by the gradual erosion of time. Time and change, as certain as death and taxes.
It is that idea that permeates through our conversation with award-winning trio The Once. As the fantastic lovely threesome of Geraldine Hollett, Andrew Dale and Phil Churchill sit in our offices in the days before their now released fourth studio album Time Enough, there is a nervous excitement in the air. Change, at least for Hollett, Dale and Churchill, has very much dictated the size and scope of one of their most ambitious albums.
“I think the answer is, oh it feels great! But I’m really scared in a lot of ways,” Hollett said in regards to her feelings on the album. “I’m excited, but I feel like I’ve invested so much into this one, from my one third part. I feel like if it doesn’t work I’ll feel like I’ve failed, to be completely frank. Nothing has meant this much to me, than this one. They’re all amazing, and when I look at those, you can really see the progression, and it’s funny because you see that in hindsight.”
True, the folk stylings of The Once are still very much at play, but the band that burst onto the scene with their 2010 debut album is but a shade of the trio who have released the sophisticated, layered and entirely original body of work in 2018.
“There are people who only see us (as a traditional band) and to me we haven’t been that since our release,” Hollett explains. “Of course you carry some of those songs over. You’re not moving away from it, but we’re walking in a different area. We don’t really play any of the trad stuff anymore. It really feels like a time warp to go back to it. I know that band, I’ve seen that band, I’ve been with that band, but going from there to now … and that’s not being rude to anything traditional. I’ve been taught my roots and how to be grounded in them. What we’re doing now is what’s naturally occurring from the three people that we are.”
“I think the best thing that you can be is exactly what you are,” adds Churchill. “What do you sound like? Well the effort is to sound like yourselves, to take influences from other things but to end up sounding like yourself. I think that’s kind of the scariest thing, to not hide behind or not get support from that label, because that label is there to sort of make other people feel comfortable.”
“Labels have affected what we are,” Hollett continues. “There are people out there listening to this new album who say ‘It’s different,’ and that’s all they know how to say, and that makes me scared. The label can tear you down and make people not give you a chance.”
As for thematically, there’s a deeply personal touch that is threaded through Time Enough. Kicking off with the infectious 70s folk rock era I Can’t Live Without You, to the melancholy closer Some Lies, the nine tracks represent the very best of what each third of The Once brings to the table. Each has their own unique touches, and each brought a new level of complexity when it came to songwriting.
All three were asked what the album means to them. Each had a different answer, another colour to the pallet.
“Mortality,” says Dale. “I was thinking about mortality a lot, thinking about death a lot, losing people. How much time we have on this planet. We have no idea what we do with that time. The connections that we make. How we handle loss, the ability to love or to say goodbye.”
“Self-worth for me,” says Hollett. “People’s self-worth. We have met so many people on the road, so many women who are so lost. I was lost at that age too, but what can you say to someone at that age to strike a cord with them so they can feel good about themselves.”
‘The Idea of Memory’
“For me it was memory, the idea of memory,” adds Churchill. “The fact that memory is constantly writing this narrative about your own life that nobody else knows and it can change every morning based on how you look back on a particular event. The longer you live you realize that this decision that you’ve made, it becomes like a plot point, this core truth about this character that you are and have lived through life.
“You can have this experience or just wake up one day a little bit softer and realize that core plot point of your life was wrong, or you’re remembering it differently or painting it differently. You’re putting characters in that story and changing things. Sometimes you’re actively re-writing it or sometimes it’s based on how you’re changing as a person. That can affect you positively or negatively and it’s able to change and change your story … That’s the only thing that we all have that is completely and totally personal and can be completely and totally changed. You make that decision.”
What the individual listener takes from the nine pristinely cut tracks that represent the very best of three amazingly talented artists, is subjective, and that’s entirely the point.
“I’ve always believed in leaving it to the listener to interpret,” says Dale. “Absolutely, some songs are a bit more transparent than others, and that’s completely fine, but as far as songs or storylines that can be interpreted one way or another, whatever way you interpret it or how a strong strikes you, it’s not good or bad or right or wrong. Whatever way it hits you or how you feel, that’s truth for you. That is to me what matters the most.”
Time Enough is available now on digital and physical formats. The band is set to tour Newfoundland this October. For tour dates and more visit theonce.ca