Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #135. Subscribe to our print edition here!
Dallas Green makes a triumphant return to his City And Colour project, with what may reign as his most stunning body of work yet.
Words by Matt Doria.
When he’s not inciting all-out calamity as the face-melting rhythm riffer in Alexisonfire, hardcore expat Dallas Green melts hearts en masse as the sweet and soulful twang-maker in City And Colour. And though the project started as a side-hustle from his pit- splitting main gig, City And Colour has grown to be significantly more successful for the 38-year-old Canuck. And outside of his native Canada, Green’s biggest fanbase lies Down Under; all three of his last LPs have debuted in the ARIA Top 5, and the tours have consistently seen some of Australia’s biggest and most respectable venues sell out in flat seconds.
This month, Green looks to continue his hot streak with the long-awaited sixth City And Colour LP, A Pill For Loneliness. Coming a hefty four years since his last release – the career-defining If I Should Go Before You – the 11-tracker marks a dazzling peak for Green’s songwriting. It’s his darkest record, yet his most beautiful; lyrics drenched in a visceral melancholy singe from under slatherings of bright and boisterous guitars, wispy synths and earwormish vocal melodies.
According to Green, that dichotomy between the heavy themes and the buoyant musicality work to make LP6 his most dynamic record yet, repeat listens vital to unearth each new sharp, polarising layer.
As is typical with your records, A Pill For Loneliness has a damn great title. Where did this one come from?
I was watching the news one day, and there was a story about how scientists are trying to invent a pill to cure loneliness, just like they’ve tried to cure depression and anxiety and all these other things that we’ve either created, or are wrong with us as human beings. And y’know, some of this stuff works for a while, and most of it doesn’t – it just seems to be that we’re all searching for something to get us through the day. And I thought to myself, “What a strange world to live in, where people are trying to create a cure for loneliness.”
And there’s an author, Johann Hari, who wrote this book called Lost Connections, and his research proves that we are living in the loneliest time in the history of civilisation – which is a very strange thing to think about, with how connected we all seem to be with social media and what have you. And I just thought to myself, “The cure for loneliness, for me, has always been music.” It’s always taken me out of my own little isolated bubble, and that’s kind of where my head’s at with the songs as well.
How did you want to push yourself as a creative person on this record?
I wanted to make something that was sonically different. Usually what I do is write a bunch of songs, book two weeks in the studio, record them all and then head straight off on tour. But this one coincided with me trying to take a little bit of a break from touring so much. I wanted to really delve into the songs and into the studio process, and really take my time to live with the material.
So we started recording around March or April of 2018, and then worked in little stints here and there so I could put it away and work on other stuff for a while, or even just live my life a little bit. And in doing that, we ended up with a very sonically rich, layered album, which is something I’ve never really done with City And Colour before.
What were some of the new sounds you wanted to explore?
Just a lot of different synths and atmospherics – which is stuff that I’ve always loved so much, but never really applied to my own music. I think because I was writing such heavy and melancholic material, lyrically, I wanted to try and wrap all of the songs in beautiful sounds to give them all a bed to lay on. We did overdubs of my vocals with a bullet microphone and ran them through a bunch of different delay pedals, which created all of these sweet little sounds that we put over the top of all of the songs. Just things like that – stuff that was fun to do in the studio, that I’d never really done much of before.
What did your arsenal of equipment look like this time around?
I have this old Jazzmaster that has been my trusty sidekick for a couple of years now. It’s just so versatile – it’s really comfortable to play, and you can make it sound like a Jazzmaster if you want, but it takes to pedals really well and you can kind of mess around with it to get some different sounds. It’s like a Swiss army knife. So we used that a lot, running through a lot of different combinations of pedals and amplifiers.
I used a really old ‘50s Fender Champ a lot, and then for a lot of the overdriven stuff, we were running a Big Muff through a cab and just destroying it. Jacquire King, who I recorded the album with, has this really beautiful old Selmer – it’s basically Selmer’s version of a Fender Twin, but it just has this insane quality to it. I always like to use the old Harmony Stratotone guitars, too. I think those are just some of the coolest sounding guitars – especially in the studio, because they take pedals really well; they’re basically these old toy guitars with these gold foil pickups in them, and they’re just so fun to screw around with.
And then I used a Fender Strat on a couple of songs, and a 335 on some stuff. I have this Rickenbacker 12-string that I recently acquired, and I used that on a bunch of songs as well. Y’know, all the goodies.
So I take it you have a pretty stuffed pedalboard to wrangle with now?
Dude, I have a problem with pedals – just like most people who play the guitar these days. But thankfully my friends all have that same affliction, so we tried pretty much every pedal under the sun for this record. We’ve got a couple of friends who run great companies, so we used a lot of their stuff.
There was a lot of Walrus Audio stuff – I had actually never tried any of that stuff before then – and a lot of the Beetronics fuzz pedals. They have a pedal called the Whoctahell, which is an octave fuzz that I used a lot. We used a lot of the Strymon BigSky, too, and Jacquire has a bunch of really cool old stuff that we got to play with – an old Mu-Tron Phasor and stuff like that. We really just went nuts and plugged in everything we could. Y’know, there’s nothing more fun as a guitar player than doing that.
City And Colour
Wednesday April 15th - Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide SA
Friday April 17th - Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth WA
Sunday April 19th - Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
Wednesday April 22nd - Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane QLD
Friday April 24th - Forum Theatre, Melbourne VIC
Tuesday April 28th - Odeon Theatre, Hobart TAS