Save room for Sadies

Dallas Good of The Sadies shows that hard work pays off.
Dallas Good of The Sadies shows that hard work pays off.
Journal File Photo / Andrew Norman

“What keeps us motivated? Let me think about that ... lots of pot and great records.” Travis Good, singer, guitarist and occasional fiddler for Toronto’s kings of psychedelic, country and western surf rock, The Sadies, reveals the truth behind the band’s seemingly tireless work ethic.

Frequently touted as the hardest working band in Canada, The Sadies, comprised of Good, his brother Dallas also on vocals and guitar, Sean Dean on upright bass, and Mike Belitsky on drums, can rarely be found at rest.

Their latest record, Favourite Colours is their fifth in six years, during which time they have also recorded with Andre Williams, Jon Langford, and Neko Case, not to mention touring the country extensively.

Prior to the release of Favourite Colours the band joined forces with Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo and Rick White of Elevator and Eric’s Trip fame, to create The Unintended, a Canadian, psychedelic, super-group. Earlier this year, The Unintended released their debut album, and subsequently toured this past spring, while The Sadies were also making their own record, of course. “We do a lot of stuff with other people and other bands, so that kind of breaks [the time] up nicely,” Good said.

With their latest effort, Favourite Colours, The Sadies have made their most complete record to date. Fans of the band will attest to their wide spectrum of influences, ranging from classic rock, to surf, to psychedelic, and beyond. This time around, however, they have focused their songwriting to deliver a more concentrated record .

“It does have a more coherent pace to it, I suppose,” Good said. “But, I mean, it’s just what we’ve evolved into.”

While remaining true to all of The Sadies’ traditional influences, Favourite Colours signals a progression for the band. The boys are still defying strict genre classifications and their appreciation of multiple musical styles is still evident, but there is a pervading sense of togetherness.

Influenced by recent tourmates, Blue Rodeo and The Jayhawks, The Sadies have adopted a keener sense of singing and songwriting from those established bands. With Favourite Colours the band has adopted a more disciplined songwriting approach, as opposed to their previous records, which were more eccentric and spontaneous.

The result is a record that tells a story from beginning to end, one that merits a complete listen.

“I think that’s just natural. I do think that we are honing in on a certain something,” Good said. “Before we had our paddles all over the place. There was a little bit of surf, a little bit of country, whatever.” Gord Downie himself asked The Sadies if they would play The Hip’s homecoming gig. Travis played fiddle on Downie’s first solo disc, and the two bands have played together at various folk festivals over the course of the summer.

Asked whether he’s worried about playing to a massive crowd, the majority of which will probably have never heard of his band, Good said, “Nah, I’m used to that. We’ve done a lot of shows like this. I mean, the first tour we did was with Blue Rodeo and people had never heard of us. The first tour we did with Neko, for that matter, no one had ever heard of us.” He continues, “Not that I’m cocky about it. It’s just ... whatever happens, happens, you know? You either like us, or you don’t. There’s nothing we can do about it.

“I guess we’ll just have to do nothing but songs that go in time with the chants of ‘Hip! Hip! Hip!’ So we’ll just play along with that. That’ll be our rhythm section.”

The Sadies are well known for their energetic and versatile live shows. They pour everything into their performance. Despite the frequency and success of their recordings, they are a live band, through and through. Old-fashioned in their sensibilities, The Sadies are the product of an era when bands toured restlessly, and the show took precedent over the recording.

“I don’t think we ever just go through the motions. We’re still not bored with touring, and I mean we’ve all been doing it a long time even before The Sadies,” Good said.

“When I played with my Dad’s band, we used to tour across Canada like three times a year. Either you love to tour or you don’t. I do think it’s pretty rare to get four guys who all actually love to tour, though. There’s usually at least one guy who’s not thrilled about hitting the road after just coming off the road. But, we’re pretty much always good to go,” Good said.

Their love and passion they have for performing is infectious. Those in attendance of a Sadies show can’t help but be enraptured by Good’s head-banging approach to the fiddle, his lightning fast fingers on “Ridge Runner Rag,” or his classic rock howl on “Loved on Look.” More than anything else, a Sadies show is simply a good time.

Proving that they in fact are the hardest working band in Canada, The Sadies aren’t stopping after their set at RMC on Sunday. In addition to their show as part of The Hip’s Across the Causeway super-gig, the boys will also be playing that very same night at the Elixir in a joint Unintended/Sadies gig, where they will actually be opening for themselves.

Upon thinking longer on the possibility of a large, unruly crowd at the Hip show, Good is characteristically defiant.

“We’re going to silence the crowd! That’s my goal. Not to win them over just to silence them.”

The Sadies unique blend of psychedelic, countrified, dance rock is sure to knock the hands out of the pockets of any and all innocent bystanders.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.