Three peas in a pod

Daniel, Fred and Julie come together in harmony

Daniel Romano, Julie Dorion and Fred Squire play The Grad Club.
Daniel Romano, Julie Dorion and Fred Squire play The Grad Club.

A successful side project is somewhat of an elusive ambition in the music industry. Hype surrounding new but familiar acts like Monsters of Folk, Broken Bells and Fever Ray leaves little room for success after blogosphere buzz dies down.

Luckily for folk trio Daniel, Fred and Julie, their recent self-titled debut release has maintained significant positive attention from both fans and critics alike.

Legendary singer-songwriter and shredder Julie Dorion, Attack in Black lead singer Daniel Romano and Fred Squire of Shotgun and Jaybird comprise the Canadian super group. Winning listeners over with their combination of acoustic strumming and three-part harmonies, the familiarity of the voices floats away to reveal an entirely new and versatile side of each artist.

Juggling band rehearsal, dropping off her kids at their Dad’s house and squeezing in a meal, Dorion seemed unfazed by her busy schedule and energetically told me about the band’s conception. Although Squire and Dorion have been working together for years in projects like Calm Down It’s Monday, Romano came into the mix with the hopes of making a folk record.

“I don’t know exactly how much thought went into it on Dan’s part or how long he’d been thinking about doing it, but it made sense when he got there. It felt pretty good,” Dorion said.

This organic and instinctual approach to the project worked well for the band, giving way to a summer session of collaboration, recording and growth.

“We recorded at Fred’s house in the garage, basically we just opened the door and sat around one microphone for like four days,” Dorion said. “Everyday we’d learn a few more songs and work out the parts and then we’d just sit there all day with the door wide open in the middle of summer. Occasionally you hear outdoor sounds like a car drive by.”

The calm, casual and laid-back nature of summer is reflected in Dorion’s attitude and in the band’s self-proclaimed goal stated in a press release to create “public songs for singing together.” The creakily soothing record is especially unique for a garage recording; the exquisite simplicity of tracks like “No One Knew My Name” work to their advantage. By incorporating homey public domain harmonies with two original songs, Daniel, Fred and Julie had the opportunity to sonically explore while maintaining a pure result. A heart-wrenching piece sung powerfully by Squire, “Runner” tells the story of a man’s eternally doomed ramblings, a consistent thought with the other original tune, the lamenting “Your Love.” “Dan pretty much had those songs done before he got to town,” Dorion said. “He obviously wanted them to be sort of like a cohesive thing with the rest of the record, he had that in mind when he was writing them.”

Dorion’s attitude towards the album is refreshing. It’s evident she draws true enjoyment from working with Daniel and Fred and does so for that reason alone.

“This is one of the more fun collaborations I’ve been a part of,” she said. “To be able to just walk in and do what it feels like I know how to do the best, which is sing the way my Grandmother taught me to sing, singing harmonies, is really very fun.”

Although Daniel, Fred & Julie may be unlike anything listeners have heard from the three artists before, they easily forge into the realm of soft strumming and story telling.

“Dan and Fred are especially talented in the three of us making a folk album, you know, they bring a lot to that,” she said. “I think that maybe we have three songwriters that don’t necessarily write folk songs, but have an understanding of good music and good stories and have a real appreciation for music … we all love music like that.”

No stranger to collaboration, Dorion has worked with an impressive list of artists including Mount Eerie, Gord Downie, Herman Dune and Wooden Stars as well as being an original member of Eric’s Trip.

“I think I would be really lonesome if I always had to work by myself. I learn so much from working with other people. I need to work with other people to feel fulfilled,” Dorion said. “I still need to do music on my own of course but I have to keep collaborating. I enjoy seeing and working with other people … that’s why I do music. It’s a nice way to communicate with people.”

As for avoiding the usual untimely fate of the side project, Dorion laughs.

“Well we’ll see how this goes! The record’s getting a good response and I’m hoping that all the shows go great, that’s generally what bands on tour hope for.”
Daniel, Fred and Julie play The Grad Club with Baby Eagle Friday April 16 at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12.

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