New Brunswick’s The Backstays adapt to the times, with dystopic single, “Aquarius”

The Backstays adapt to the times, with dystopic single, “Aquarius”
“’Aquarius’ started out with just three piano parts and a beat; I knew I could build something with that, but I didn’t really plan for it to be so dystopic,” said The Backstays‘ Pete Johnston (he/him). “This person, or character, is starting to lose their humanity and succumb to pressures caused by something they’re resisting, or fighting against, all while they thought they were just biding their time.”

The newest song on forthcoming album Tributaries (out May 1), “Aquarius” is an example of pandemic-time music-making in a band context.

“I started to record the song in our apartment, with a vocal booth in the closet of the spare bedroom,” Johnston said. “Derek [Hilchie, who is also in the band] mixed the song, and so we worked together closely, albeit virtually. When our public health level switched from orange back down to yellow, we were able to get the bass and drums recorded with the band at Derek’s studio. It was a song born out of necessity in a lot of ways — everything we do is, especially now.”

“It was clear that the instruments should gradually come in as the song builds, but I wanted to take that a couple of steps further,” said The Backstays’ Derek Hilchie. “First, was to have the mix start out more mono, and then expand in the stereo field as it progressed. The second, was to have the frequency spectrum expand as the song went on. The combination builds to make this larger than life-ending out of small beginnings.”

Tributarieswhich was co-produced by Romesh Thavanathan (Hey Rosetta!), releases May 1.

The Backstays – “Aquarius”
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The Backstays formed in Saint John, New Brunswick in 2018 and have quickly become local favourites in the Maritime music scene. Since releasing their debut EP (self-titled) in August 2018, the band has toured the East Coast also supporting musicians like Joel Plaskett Emergency, Hannah Georgas, The Great Lake Swimmers and Adam Baldwin. With pointed lyrics as social as they are musical, the band brings together roots and heartland rock into a more expansive sound that equally evokes new wave and post-punk. The band consists of Pete Johnston on guitar/vocals and keyboards, Serenna Chapman on violin/vocals and keyboards, Derek Hichie on keyboards/guitar, Keith Whipple on bass, and Lorne Kirkpatrick on drums. Together they take the wall of sound ethos from the studio to the stage. 

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