Laviolette’s label more like a home

guelph singer-songwriter keeps it all in the family with burnt oak collective

Richard Laviolette at the University of Guelph’s CFRU 93.3 studios in 2005.
Richard Laviolette at the University of Guelph’s CFRU 93.3 studios in 2005.
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Interview: Richard Laviolette @ The Artel, Sunday

Richard Laviolette moved to Guelph from Tara, a small town in Bruce County, with the intention of becoming a teacher. He studied history at the University of Guelph before dropping out to dedicate all his time to music. Laviolette claims that dropping out of school was a “natural transition” for him.

“The more I got into my music, the less time I spent on school,” he said. “Music was the only thing that I knew I wanted to do. I wasn’t as confident about my career choice and what I wanted out of school. I think someday if there’s a career in mind, if there’s a program that I’m passionate about, I will go back. Until then, I’m having a hoot.”

Mary Carl, Laviolette’s first album, was released while he was a student in April 2005.

Living in Tara, which was relatively secluded, the only music Laviolette had access to came to him through mainstream media outlets. The Laviolette family, however, made a lot of their own music, in the rock, gospel and country tradition.

“My first love was Neil Young,” he said. “It’s really rooted in my family history—like, I grew up with a lot of family jamborees, where a lot of the songs we sang were connected to our family and the music we listened to. At my grandma’s house in Port Colbourne, after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, we’d pick an instrument and jam. I’ve been doing music all my life.”

It wasn’t until high school that Laviolette was introduced to music that wasn’t usually played on the radio, such as Hayden and Elliott Smith. The influence of early Hayden resonates particularly strongly on Laviolette’s second album, , released this past fall on Burnt Oak Records. His association with Burnt Oak records has helped him expand not only his musical tastes, but also his knowledge of what goes into recording and releasing music.

“They’ve introduced to an approach to music that was more D.I.Y. and lo-fi, which wasn’t something that I had an ear for,” he said. “Meeting the gang at 127 Grange opened up my ears, and my appreciation for music.”

“127 Grange,” the first track from A Little Less Like a Rock, A Little More Like Home is an homage of sorts to Burnt Oak.

The unconventional label is located at 127 Grange St. in Guelph. About three years ago, a group of friends living at the Grange Street house decided to hold concerts in the basement. Burnt Oak Records grew out of this grass-roots collective.

All of the albums produced by the label have a rustic, handmade quality to them—their D.I.Y. spirit is evident immediately upon picking up any of their CDs.

Laviolette, who is one of Burnt Oak’s most recent members, describes the group as “a really healthy community of people to be a part of, and to be inspired by.”

Laviolette was introduced to the Grange house during his first tour.

“My affiliation started a year ago last November, when I went on my first tour with [Burnt Oak members] Chris Yang and Ryan Newell,” he said.

“After spending that time with Chris on tour, and doing [a tour with him] again in February, he brought up the idea of releasing my next album on Burnt Oak, which I accepted. I’ve been wonderful friends with them ever since.”

Being a part of Burnt Oak Records requires more than just a commitment to making music. Members of the collective are also responsible for putting together CD booklets, mailing their catalogue to campus radio stations, arranging tours and updating their website, in addition to lending a hand to others’ recording projects. “We’re interested in creating not only music, but zines and different things like that with a social and political conscience,” said Laviolette.

“Being a band on the label, I’ve taken responsibility … there’s not a lot of profit. Each artist decides what per cent of their albums’ profit they want to put back into the label, and that supports the future endeavors and projects of Burnt Oak.”

Although Laviolette doesn’t live at 127 Grange, he spends time there working on projects with the Burnt Oak collective.

“We get together once every few weeks and just do everything from helping put together albums, to recording, silk-screening, selling to mail orders to thinking about the future of Burnt Oak.”

For his next musical project, “I’m really looking to get the ball rolling with a band,” he said. “I think I’ve been waiting a long time to make a good rock album with a full band … to make a high intensity album that I am semi-proud of.”

Laviolette’s current tour will take him to Halifax with Chris Yang and Griffin Epstein from Burnt Oak. The tour was set up to pay their way to Halifax so Yang can record with Andy March from Youth Club records.

Richard Laviolette plays The Artel (205 Sydenham St.) this Sunday night with Chris Yang, Ryan Newll and Griffin Epstein. Doors open at 7 p.m. see for more info.

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