Rag-tag indie orchestra to play Elixir

Chamber-pop outfit the Hylozoists will release second album this June.
Chamber-pop outfit the Hylozoists will release second album this June.
Photo courtesy of myspace.com
The Hylozoists include musicians from several prominent Canadian acts.
The Hylozoists include musicians from several prominent Canadian acts.
Photo courtesy of Paquin Entertainment

When The Weakerthans and The Constantines brought their Rolling Tundra Revue tour into Kingston last April, hardly anyone knew what to expect when the virtually unknown opening act, The Hylozoists, a rag-tag indie orchestra dressed entirely in virgin white, took to the stage.

With double drums, double vibraphones, violin, glockenspiel, keyboards, bass and guitar, the ’Zoists proceeded to play their dreamy, instrumental chamber pop, effectively captivating the stunned crowd.

Much of the post-show chatter consisted of conversations along the lines of, “Hey, did you see that opening band, the Hylo-somethings? Holy shit, eh? They were fuckin’ unreal.”

But for Paul Aucoin, founder and father of the Hylozoists, he’s just playing pop music.

“I never thought of instrumental music as music without words, I just thought of it as a different instrument taking the melody,” he told the Journal by phone on Wednesday.

But where arty instrumental bands occasionally fall prey to self-indulgent noodling and pretentious atmospherics to create shoegazing, bedroom sounds, The Hylozoists distinguish themselves with their extroverted performances and catchy melodies.

“The only difference I would make between other instrumental bands and us is that I always try to write songs that have very distinct melodies,” Aucoin said. “It’s not instrumental for lack of a melody. You can play all these songs on an acoustic guitar and sing the melody—it’s the orchestration and arrangement that makes it sound like more is going on,” he said.

“We also understand the difference between the studio and a live show,” he said. “People are doing something different while they’re at a club watching you as opposed to at home listening to the record.

“If we’re playing at a bar on a Thursday night, I want everybody there to have a good time. That’s when the euphoric and epiphanic side of the band comes out,” he said. “And the great thing is that Cuff the Duke goes on after us so we get to rock out after we’ve semi-arted out.” The Hylozoists’ influences range from contemporary atmospheric art-rockers Tortoise and Stereolab, to film scorers Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann to jazz, to ’60s pop, to classical music. Since the band is made up of musicians who spend their days playing in bands like Cuff the Duke, Golden Dogs, FemBots and The Weakerthans, the indie rock element naturally seeps in as well.

When you get right down to it, though, The Hylozoists’ music is really just a lot of fun to listen to.

Aucoin, producer and multi-instrumentalist extraordinaire (he’s played with and/or produced and/or engineered for the likes of The Sadies, The Old Soul, Jon-Rae and the River, Bodega, Cuff the Duke, The Heavy Blinkers, The Deadly Snakes, and loads of others) studied musical composition and performance at U of T, and he puts his studies to great use with the ’Zoists.

He started the band in 2001 when he was living in Halifax. At that time, though, he was mostly alone with his vibraphone.

Aucoin made The Hylozoists’ debut album, La Nouvelle Gauche, almost entirely by himself. It was released in 2002 by Brobdingnagian Records.

“It was a very insular thing,” he said. “It was done during a period of my life when I had already toured with bands like Bodega and the American Flag and was getting a lot of great experiences, but still wasn’t able to get a lot of my own writing recorded.”

La Fin Du Monde, the band’s sophomore record, is slated for release on June 20 by Boompa Records.

The major difference with the new record, Aucoin said, is that it was way more of a group effort.

“The Hylozoists are a band now,” he said.

The record was actually ready to be released last fall, but Aucoin had reservations about who would release it and also with the fact that the band’s personnel had changed drastically since the initial recording.

“We thought the record would come out in September, but the great thing is that in hindsight, seeing all the records that came out this September, I am so glad things happened this way,” he said. “We just would have gone under the radar.”

Aucoin also decided to re-record the album with the new band.

Currently, the band includes a partially permanent, partially rotating roster of performers including Jason Tait of the Weakerthans and FemBots, Julie Penner of the FemBots and Broken Social Scene; Wayne Petti, Paul Lowman, Matt Faris and Dale Murray of Cuff the Duke, Taylor Knox of The Golden Dogs, Patrick Conan formerly of Tricky Woo, Jason Ball, John Ng, and Jeremy Strachan.

“To some extent, it sounds a lot alike, but in other ways it’s a lot better,” he said.

La Fin Du Monde will also be released in the U.S. on Sept. 5 via Caroline Records, and on Oct. 2 in Europe through various distributing labels.

Aucoin, who is usually generously offering his performance and production skills to other people’s bands and projects, holds the Hylozoists closest to his heart.

While it may prove difficult to maintain the nine-piece group, all of whom have primary responsibilities in other bands, Aucoin is hoping to keep making music with the Hylozoists for as long as possible. “I could make 79 more Hylozoists records before I die,” he said. “I would love to try 7,000 different things within the band, if we’re afforded that luxury.”

He spoke of how the band has already progressed so much in the short time they’ve been together and wistfully dreams of future possibilities.

“I would be thrilled to see the Hylozoists still doing this in a similar form in three years,” he said. “I can only imagine what could be possible then.”

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