Getting lost in the pines

AroarA will hit the Grad Club this weekend with their book of poems

AroarA’s debut album, Into the Pines, adds melodies to American writer Alice Notley’s book of poems.
AroarA’s debut album, Into the Pines, adds melodies to American writer Alice Notley’s book of poems.
Photo: 

They recorded in the pines — literally.

The Montreal-based duo AroarA released their debut album In The Pines earlier this year and will be touring this fall, making a pit stop in Kingston on Saturday.

“A friend let us use her house in the woods,” band member Andrew Whiteman said. “It challenged us to make a record there.”

The band gets its name from their names. The two, Whiteman and Ariel Engle, have been married for over four years.

“It’s because of Andrew and Ariel,” Whiteman said. “There’s a lion in between us.”

This may be the duo’s first album together, but they aren’t new faces on the Kingston music scene.

The band played this past summer at the Wolfe Island Music Festival.

Whiteman is also one of the founding members of Canadian music collective Broken Social Scene and Apostle of Hustle. His Broken Social Scene ties have lent their hand in the creation of In The Pines.

Leslie Feist, most well known by her last name, let the pair record their album at her cabin. She and Whiteman played together in Broken Social Scene for years.

AroarA took a different approach to the recording process. In addition to working in the woods, they also used a friend’s Toronto basement and their own living room in Montreal as studio space.

“It was done on a laptop, very cheaply, very low-fi,” Whiteman said. “That’s kind of the way we wanted it.”

Each track on the LP is simply titled with a number.

Each number signifies a poem from the American poet Alice Notley’s 2007 book, also titled In The Pines. There are 14 poems and 14 songs. The tracks are ordered in musical sequence instead of the order they appear in the book.

“14 is a good number for a number of songs,” he said. “It just all made sense.”

With permission from the award-winning poet, Whiteman transformed her literature into lyrics paired with spine-chilling melodies.

“I love poetry and Alice Notley is just a leader,” Whiteman said. “She’s a real distinctive voice.”

Notley’s book follows a woman undergoing strenuous Hepatitis C treatment. With lyrics like “my defect is so beautiful now, it’s all that I am” in “#7”, her words spill out tales of the tumultuous experience.

Whiteman didn’t select Into The Pines, he said it chose him.

“There’s pieces of old American gospel songs and country songs in the work,” he said.

The idea to rearrange Notley’s poems came about when Whiteman noticed those musical influences.

“While you’re brushing your teeth you just have an idea,” he said. “That’s how that idea came about.”

When Whiteman read Notley’s work to his bandmate and wife, she exclaimed that “if Alice were church, we’d go.”

The two began collaborating about two years ago with something along the lines of Arabic disco music, he said, as their first way of speaking together musically.

After a friend built him a fretless, goatskin banjo, the duo’s music took its own direction.

“When you have that sound as one of your key ingredients and you like disco,” Whiteman said, “then things start to go in a certain way.”

The creative twosome will embark in another musical exploration come wintertime, Whiteman said.

“I’m really not sure what’s going to happen,” he said, “but whatever it is, it will probably be tight.”

AroarA will be playing at the Grad Club on Saturday night.

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.