Canada’s Still Life Still — a band that rapidly infiltrated the Arts & Crafts family back in 2009 with their debut album, Girls Come Too — have slowed things down for their latest release, Mourning Trance. Best friends since childhood, the band’s relationship more resembles siblings than bandmates, a fact that comes through in every note they play, and creates a stronger sound for it.

This is especially true of their latest work; created in the wake of loss and grief, Mourning Trance was written during a rollercoaster year for the band. Dealing with the recent loss of vocalist/guitarist Eric Young’s parents, Young and the band view the album as a therapeutic release. Although the themes of death and loss are present in tracks like “Burial Suit,” the album also communicates a sense of hope. During a time of tragic loss, the group has created a masterpiece of emotion.

A change of pace in the recording studio also helped the band to relax and meticulously connect with every riff, cord and note. After creating their first album in a short spurt of time under the wings of Arts & Crafts, the group feels they definitely took advantage of the time they were afforded on their second go-around.

Touring through October, Brendon Saarinen (vocals/guitar) from the band took time to speak with FILLER before going on the road to take us though the history of Still Life Still, their struggles and triumphs, and the excitement of releasing their sophomore album this fall.

From what I know, the recording of your first record with Arts & Crafts happened pretty quickly, was it similar with this album?

That album we recorded in two weekends pretty much — the whole thing. And we didn’t really have a lot of input in the mixing. With this one, we were way more involved and spent a lot more time recording it.

What were the benefits of that process? It must be nice to have more control.

Yeah, I guess when the old album came out I was proud of it, but it was also because it was kind of in the whirlwind of everything happening so fast. While this time I’m proud of it because I knew that I sat home listening to every detail of it, and made sure everything was the way we really wanted it to be. We all took a lot of time. A lot more effort, time, and love went into it compared to the last album.

Do you feel like everyone had their say, was it pretty much a collaboration between the band as a whole?

Yeah, big time. It was also working with Alex, the dude from Booster Records. He was more involved then Kevin and Marty [from the first record] were. When we recorded are first album they just kind of hit record and let us jam. This time, we were all working together structuring stuff and I think it’s a much better album personally.

You’ve said in interviews that “Burial Point” was kind of the place where the new recorded started for you guys, can you expand on that?

I guess all the songs were written around the same time. I write them first and then I bring them to the band. So we were going through songs, and we weren’t sure exactly what direction we wanted to take them 100%. We tried to sort of let it happen naturally. Kind of see where you’re going a little bit, but not go so crazy over it. So when we finally had “Burial Point” written and structured, and everyone was getting really excited about it, we just felt like… to me it’s the centerpiece of the album. I know it’s the first song on the record, but that was Kevin’s idea to put it first. It’s like the heart of the album, and the rest is like how pieces of that song made it all work together…if that makes sense.

Yeah, that definitely makes sense. So I know that you’re the songwriter, is there a song on the new record that represents you specifically? Do you guys all have the same amount of input or does anyone come to you and say, “I’ve been working on this riff or on a piece of music?”

I mean, I write with all the instruments so we change a lot, and some songs are more collaborative then others, but for me the song that’s pretty much the same on the demo, that I wrote originally, was the last song on the record “Hanging with Our Family.” We recorded it after we did our original session, we went back to do a few more songs, we weren’t sure if they were going to make the record or not, and that one was one that we kind of kept pretty much the exact same.

Cool. The next thing I wanted to ask about was the title of the album. I haven’t heard much talk about where the title came from, can you tell me about it?

It was supposed to have a duel meaning of like how in the morning, you wake up, and your going through your life and your daily routine, your kind of in a trance and trying to make sense of it, but at the same time there’s like this death theme in society that plays out in the news and in media, and it kind of like hypnotizes people into feeling like their constantly in a state of morning life, when it’s actually a really beautiful thing. But it’s hard to see when your constantly going through regular routines, and trying to make sure that you can pay the bills and I don’t know. Also the other side of it was the other singer in our band, Eric, he lost his mother and dad, both while we were recording this album…well not recording it, but when we were writing it. I mean we grew up together and I remember hanging with them… it was a really tough time for us. They died pretty close together, within a couple years, and there was really a lot of death in the air at that time when we were writing this album.

That must have had a huge impact. It’s kind of hard to get distance from something like that?

I mean in a way writing the album sort of helped us all get through it. He doesn’t really talk about it that much, it’s obviously a very touchy subject for him, he’s a bit more open about it now, but I think that it helped him deal with all the crazy feelings that he was going through at that time…but it’s sort of like a celebration, but a trippy one.

Well it’s nice to have a group of people who are like your family, you guys all seem to be pretty tight.

We went to school together, and we started playing music together when we were 12 or 13 years old…we’ve been playing together probably around 10-12 years.

And you guys have been playing together as a band officially for 14 years, since 1999 right?

Yeah, when we started we went through a bunch of really bad band names and were like 14-years-old and really into punk music…we went through a lot of phases and stuff.

Speaking about the past, I wanted to ask about the video for “Burial Suit.” The video footage is from drummer Aaron’s family, right? What made you guys take that creative direction?

It’s his dad growing up. It was really weird how it happened. We needed a video, we really didn’t have a big budget for it, and didn’t know what we were going to do, and Aaron pulls out this DVD, it’s about an hour and half of footage of his dad growing up, and they had the same routine that they did every Christmas where they would all walk down the stairs and someone would film them, and they would pose for the camera, and do something different every year depending on the mood at the time or whatever. We really thought it fit in with the vibe of the record when we saw it. We were all just hanging out, having a drink together, thinking what are we going to do for the video, and we watch it and just thought this is perfect! It makes perfect sense, it’s great, a little heart breaking, it’s a little beautiful, and it’s a little big up to his family, because when we started the band, we jammed in their basement. They were always really supportive of us. Aaron’s dad is the man. He hooked us up with instruments, he drove us to shows when we were way to young to be playing them.

That’s really nice tribute to them.

Aaron’s grandmother is stoked about it.

I wanted to ask about rituals. I know you guys talk a lot about trance, and the song you did with Zulu Winter has a lot of elements of trance. Does the band have any weird studio rituals or odd things that you guys do?

We have times where we get together and have a few drinks, smoke a little weed, and you know think about life. We did that the other night at Eric’s house, just chilling out in his backyard, talking about what we wanted to do next. Maybe that’s kind of a ritual, keeping us all tight.

It’s good to just talk and get creative when you’re in a loose state of mind…

Cause we’re at the spot where like, this album has been finished for awhile, and we’re already working on new material, and trying to figure out how to put it out. Trying to figure out what the next move we want to make will be. We’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. The last album, we recorded it, and we didn’t really jam, we were touring and stuff. And then Eric’s family passed away, and for a year and a half we really didn’t think about making new music so much, so we really don’t want another four-year gap to happen between albums again.

What can we expect from the band in coming months?

Well, we’re going to be doing a bit of touring. We just did a tour actually with this band, The Boxer Rebellion, we went across Canada, it was really cool. Driving through the mountains was extremely scary.  But yeah, just playing shows and working on new songs, we want to make a new video soon.

Published September 6, 2013