Family trees & indie rock geographies

The Acorn launch live CD and final Glory Hope Mountain tour in Kingston alongside friends Ohbijou

Rolf Klausener and his band The Acorn have seen a few member changes throughout the years but are still going strong on the road and recording.
Rolf Klausener and his band The Acorn have seen a few member changes throughout the years but are still going strong on the road and recording.
The Acorn are better known for their folky vibe but harbour penchants for punk and pop.
The Acorn are better known for their folky vibe but harbour penchants for punk and pop.

Rolf Klausener and his band The Acorn are constantly turning over a new leaf. From the electro pop soundscapes of 2004’s The Pink Ghosts to the folk charms of last year’s Glory Hope Mountain, it seems the Ottawa-based band has changed members—though amiably—almost as many times as they’ve discovered new musical directions.

Born out of the mind and bedroom of Klausener, The Acorn began as a solo project for the musician/graphic-designer to learn how to record music as well as curb boredom. Eventually, after playing around with the recording program Cubasis and variety of rockish sounds, Klausener realized he might have an album and enough worthy material to bring the music out into the world.

So he got some friends together and they took their project on the road. Two EPs and two albums later, The Acorn settled into a raw and rich folk rock, where stripped down vocals, narrative poetry and brooding piano lines collide with multi-layered, beat-pounding, hand-clapping instrumental rock-outs.

Klausener also tried a different approach to writing music—diving into family history.

Interviewing his mother Gloria Esperenza Montoya, who was born in Honduras, Klausener set out to construct a narrative based on her harrowing life. Glory Hope Mountain is Klausener documenting the events of Montoya’s life in a poetic light from her birth, gutsy confrontations with a violent father, running away from home to the birth of her own son.

The trajectory is subtle and beautiful. The album’s strength lies in Klausener’s precise execution of emotion. Without over-romanticising, Klausener communicates an array of emotions and events—delicate and brutal—with an even-handed sentimentality and brave range of musical styles.

“It was difficult at times and it was really easy and organic at times. … It was trying both emotionally and physically.”

The album took about two years to create from its inception. Interviewing, applying for grants and recording were time-consuming in themselves but was the writing of the album that took up the bulk of the processes, Klausener said.

“I spent a year writing the record and there were some songs like ‘Glory’ and ‘Oh Napoleon,’ that just instantly came out. I wrote them in three or four minutes each,” he said.

“There were some songs, like ‘Hold Your Breath,’ and ‘Crooked Legs,’ that were more involved lyrically. I was trying to paint a picture and create a narrative but trying to not be too obvious and sentimental.

“The difficulties were based in trying to strike a really fine balance between personal and having it accessible.”

Glory Hope Mountain put The Acorn on the indie rock map as the folk band from Ottawa. But apparently this isn’t all that The Acorn can do.

“Most people have heard Glory Hope Mountain and they kind of assume that’s the sound of The Acorn,” Klausener said.

“I’m a huge fan of music in general and I think if someone listens to the discography today, they’ll get the sense that we’re not locked down in one particular genre.

“I’ve debated doing some insane super-poppy-electronic thing just for fun, but I just sort of follow my heart as far as what it is I want to hear.”

Earlier days saw Klausener constructing something a lot different from the earthy Glory Hope Mountain and yet both seem extremely influenced by geographies, both physical and emotional.

“When I was recording Pink Ghosts I was really interested in electro-acoustic music and a lot of sound collage and a lot of experimental music. Pink Ghosts was born out of that interest in low-fi electronics and acoustic instruments,” he said.

“That worked for what this record was. It was an homage to the Outaouais region of Ottawa. I was trying to create a sound pictures for the region.”

The Acorn will launch their North American and soon-to-be announced European tour this Saturday in Kingston with a new CD of live recordings, Heron Act in hand. Alongside them will be the band’s friends and comrades-in-arts, Ohbiijou.

Casey Mecija of Ohbijou actually sings on the final, closing track “Lullaby” on Glory Hope Mountain, providing Klausener’s mother’s voice as she sings to her newborn son.

“Her voice is one of the most beautiful voices I know. I knew her voice and felt that her voice would fit the voice of the song. It just felt right,” Klausener said.

“Mecija was on tour and in the home of a friend in Calgary when the vocal track was recorded. It was also the last night of recording, the day before the album had to be mastered.

“We really got it at the last minute and mixed it in one night. It was amazing and hilarious. … The whole time I was heart-broken, thinking it wasn’t going to be her on the record,” Klausener said.

After this tour, The Acorn intend to take a break from the road and Glory in order to write new material. Releasing an album every year for the past four years, The Acorn have been busy making music and touring for a while now. Having just quit his day job, Klausener said he’s starting to see the music business as an actual career.

“I really feel that after a couple of years of lying to myself, I feel like now I really want to do this full on,” he said.

“I’ve been pretending that I have two lives but really this band is what I think about all the time and what I want to do all the time. One of my goals is just to get into it even deeper and try and be the artist I’ve always wanted to be and write the kinds of songs I’ve always wanted to write and keep having fun and doing what I love—all those clichés.

“I never thought this is I what I wanted to do. I never thought this would be what I wanted.”

The Acorn play with Ohbijou at The Grad Club tomorrow night at 10 p.m.

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