I recently got to chatting over a leisurely breakfast with the three amiable members of Saskatoon's Wide Mouth Mason, catching them in between touring Canada and the U.S. in support of their debut self-titled release. Shaun Veireault (vocals and guitar), Earl Pereira (bass) and Safwan Javed (drums) are Wide Mouth Mason, and the name seems appropriate in view of the diverse range of musical influences inherent in their sound, sort of an alternative bluesy thang with a twist.
Amazingly personable at such an ungodly hour of the day, the twenty-somethings talked about their recent success, and why they haven't allowed it to go to their heads. In doing so, they reveal a surprisingly mature and common sense attitude, an attitude which is evident as Shaun explains how he stays sane in an industry known for its craziness: "For me, it's just a balance -- I don't do music as a career, I do music because that's the way I express myself. And, if I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be doing it anyway, I'd be doing it in a basement or something like that."
In speaking with the trio, their dedication and commitment to their making music becomes obvious: "We take this seriously and we're committed to it," explains Earl. "When we first started, we said, 'okay, if we're going to do this, let's commit right now' and we all did, so that's what we're doing now." Safwan continues: "We're at a point right now where it's, like, work your ass off, work your ass off and we're willing to do that, all of us are, and even if we have to keep doing that, I think we'd figure out a way that we could handle it. But the goal is let's do this now so that in ten years we'll have the choice to say, 'Okay, this month I'll take off, these months let's be on the road, these months let's be recording.' And, the other goal is that we can keep doing that for the rest of our lives -- we want to be playing till we're dead!"
Earl sums up nicely the band's "work hard and balance in all things" philosophy: "Aside from the fact that it's just fun to play, and we are still just kids, right now we are learning, it's just a starting point, Whatever we did to get to this point is all in the past. We've got to grow now. And aside from the fun, I have more reasons to be wanting to make this play in front of many people or just hopefully have it go as well as it can, but when I get caught up with thinking of that it kind of stresses me out, so I just try to relax... " He hesitates, "...and say, 'things are gonna go well, and just accept that we enjoy what we're doing...'"
Mixed in with all that grounded reality is a sense of awe at all that has recently taken place, particularly with radio play of the new single, "Midnight Rain." "I don't understand how audio things work at all," expresses Safwan in amazement. "I don't understand how you can record something and play it back... I couldn't believe when we were in the studio for the very first time. I played a track and [the engineer] played it back, and I went, 'I just played that, and it's coming back to me now.' It was the strangest thing, so now to hear it on radio... that even baffles me more... I'm in a car driving around and I'm hearing it through this little box of electronics."
Shawn echoes that sense of disbelief and unreality: " I've been walking along before and I'll hear a car drive by with one of our songs playing and hear my voice just sort of take off down the block... that blew my mind!"
What is striking in hearing the band play live is how they manage to sound uniquely distinctive at the same time as they make use of so many recognizable musical styles. Shaun attributes this to the band's desire to try out new sounds, as well as new instruments: "There's other things that I sort of play around with. I used to play trumpet, and I found that even though I'm horribly bad at it, sitting down at a set of drums sometimes gives me more perspective of where guitar should be, like when it should play and when it shouldn't. I just started learning how to play banjo, and mandolin. [I'd rather] be a musician who chooses to play guitar than a guitar player who's stuck on that all the time." Earl agrees: "It does give you a wider vocabulary just to try something else; it makes you appreciate the instrument that you know you're supposed to be playing."
This also provides a rationale for the range of styles and influences inherent in their music, the diversity of which seems applicable to the band's future interests and direction as a whole: "Bands I've always really respected, like Living Color, or Los Lobos or Prince, try so many different things and it always ends up sounding like them, but they can never be held down -- you never know what to expect," says Shaun. "The next song on the album, you go, 'God, he just went like, from a dance song to a funk song, to a sort of reggae sound then some jazzy ballad -- what the hell's going to be next?'"
Which is a good question to be asking of Wide Mouth Mason, as they work tirelessly towards even more of their uniquely defined and well deserved success.
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