A Long Distance Friendship

Category: music 174

Colony Recording Club is a cross-Canada music collaboration helping three musicians nurture a creative bond they first discovered nearly twenty years ago.   

Matt Carter
The origins of the Colony Recording Club date back to 2000 when Eben Arnold (pictured here on keys), Ian Chiasson (pictured here on guitar) and Scott Kitchen (whose reflection appears in the left side of this photo) formed a band called The Transmission. This photo was taken during a session at CHSR in what may have been the band’s only performance outside of their basement practice space.

Colony Recording Club | FACEBOOK | BANDCAMP

Our story is essentially about making up for a missed opportunity years ago,” says Scott Kitchen, one of three musicians involved in the collaborative, long distance recording project known as the Colony Recording Club.

While long distance recording projects and online creative collaborations of all shapes and sizes date back to the earliest days of the internet, the story behind the Colony Recording Club is unique in that it helped reunite three musicians who, for a brief period of time in their young lives, were able to make music together. That experience created a unique musical bond between friends Scott Kitchen, Eben Arnold and Ian Chiasson.

The roots of the story trace back almost twenty years.  In 2000, Kitchen, Arnold and Chiasson were all living in Fredericton. Somehow Chiasson was lucky enough to find an apartment with a basement where he and his friends could get together and play music without too much worry of upsetting the neighbours.

“That was such a score back then,” said Kitchen. “We jammed there a few times with some other friends but the three of us quickly connected and started playing regularly as a trio, swapping instruments and vocal duties around between us. Over the next year we spent a lot of time in that basement experimenting and developing a unique band that sadly never got as far as it should have.”

The trio eventually made things official by forming The Transmission. Outside of rehearsing regularly in Chiasson’s basement between classes and part-time jobs, the group never really had an official public performance. They came close once, but lost the opportunity when Arnold left town in 2001.

“You could probably best be describe us as post-punk,” said Arnold. “We were all pretty excited about our chemistry but that project petered out when I left shortly before what was to be our first show. I think we were supposed to play upstairs in The Capital with Das Radio.”

After Arnold left the scene, Kitchen and Chiasson continued to play music together for a time until their interests went in different musical directions.

While The Transmission never really got off the ground, the unique chemistry Kitchen, Arnold and Chiasson discovered continues to this day.

“Sometimes you find people that you just naturally gel with musically-speaking,” said Arnold.  “I think we were all disappointed that The Transmission never really came to fruition as we’d thought it would.”

Eventually Kitchen and Chiasson would also leave the city and go on to play in different projects. Arnold would make his way back to Fredericton where almost a decade later he would reconnect with Kitchen and start talking music again. That’s when the idea for the Colony Recording Club came about.

The three of us were in and out of touch throughout the 2000s but Eben and I reconnected in Fredericton in 2010 and started the Colony Recording Club to get back into making music together,” said Kitchen.

When Scott and I started up again musically, I was at a moment where I was pushing myself to be creative again after having stepped back completely from the music scene for a few years,” said Arnold. “It didn’t sit well with me to lose what was once part of my identity.  I realized that being creative with music was essential to my well-being.

“When we started with Colony Recording Club, Scott and I were both living in Fredericton, so we would get together and work stuff out in the flesh,” he said. “That didn’t last very long though as Scott moved away again within the year, but we figured out how to collaborate long distance and kept it going because we were enjoying it.”

Trading digital files and song ideas became a regular occurrence between Kitchen and Arnold. From 2013 to 2016, the partnership yielded at least a dozen tracks.

Eventually they reached out to Chiasson whose ample real estate sixteen years earlier played a key role in the initial connection of all three of these musicians.

“Ian left Fredericton in 2003 and never came back but we stayed in touch,” said Arnold. “We reached out to him a few years back and he was keen to collaborate even though he was fronting his own band in Calgary. We went from being a duo back to a three-piece as we were originally, turning things from ‘what could have been.’ to ‘what is.’ It just feels right.”

“After our old band ended I think we all came to realize that it had been something special, and of the various projects we’ve each been involved in since, that one’s always stuck with us,” said Kitchen. “In that sense for me, what we’re doing now certainly goes beyond simply being a band and is more about maintaining that bond we developed years ago learning how to play together pretty much from zero. Our tastes and approaches to music-making were, and still are, quite divergent, so we had to put a lot of work into coming up with a common musical vocabulary. The three of us have quite separate lives these days in different parts of the country, which of course makes keeping in touch hard. We haven’t even been in the same room together for years, so these recordings are something we can gather around.”

At this point, the Colony Recording Club has been at it for eight years. They’ve figured out a process that works musically and one that serves their collective friendship. In most cases, each new track begins with Kitchen sharing a theme or foundation idea. The tracks grow from there with each Kitchen, Arnold and Chiasson each contributing ideas and various instrumentation, almost as if they were sitting together in that apartment basement nearly twenty years ago. The only difference these days is that Arnold is in Fredericton, Kitchen in Toronto and Chiasson, Calgary.

“Basically, Scott starts the tracks, usually with a simple guide beat and some sort of guitar work,” said Arnold. “He keeps the tracks sparse so Ian and I can fill them in. Anything goes as long as we like it, that’s the basic principle. I add keyboards, vocals, drums, and even a bit of guitar on occasion, and Ian has been adding his guitar parts to great melodic effect on our last few releases.”

“The tracks are hosted such that we can all jump in and work on them whenever, which gives the process kind of a direct collaboration feel,” said Kitchen. “Even though it’s not at all organic in the sense of working songs out together in the same room as we used to do, the tracks come together nicely because we’ve each got a good sense of what the others will add.”

To date, the project has released several EPs through their Bandcamp page. And in an unexpected twist, their 2018 single Cycles ended up receiving a fair amount of airplay on campus/community stations across the country. Enough to make it onto the the Earshot National Charts for May 2018. Not bad for a project that was only ever meant to serve the creative needs of three longtime friends.

“We’ve been out in our own space for a long time now doing our DIY, lo-fi home-recording thing largely just for the sake of doing it,” said Kitchen. “With each release the audience has grown but this summer brought a whole new level of attention, when our latest single got played a bunch and we were featured on CBC. We also put out a compilation of our releases that was distributed to campus radio programmers across the country, and now this interview for Grid City – all of which have put our music out to a bigger listenership than ever.”

These days there’s almost always new music in the works from the Colony Recording Club. With no pressure to complete projects and no deadlines to meet, songs surface when the time is right, when all three have contributed their parts and everyone’s pleased. That’s a pretty fine approach to music making.

“There are certain stigmas attached to bands that exist just as studio projects, and it can be hard to get folks to pay attention,” said Arnold. “Especially when the internet is the primary platform for your music. Scott and I have never really been comfortable with the whole social media angle but it’s been our main way of publicizing the project. For some folks, it’s not the real deal if you aren’t out there performing. I do love playing live and all the dynamics and senses of happenings that come with that. I happily get that satisfaction playing in Young Satan In Love. But also, for me, just creating and labouring over something and making a recording you know is unique is rewarding. Knowing that someone somewhere has listened to your song all the way through certainly gives me a sense of a happening – it’s just that it’s a mysterious one.

In addition to the Colony Recording Club, Eben Arnold current plays with Young Satan in Love in Fredericton. Ian Chiasson fronts the band The Evergreen Standard in Calgary and Scott Kitchen is happy making music at his home in Toronto.

Colony Recording Club Discography:

Sunroom (2013)
Pop Contract/Winter Chorale (2013) 
Serenade/Runner (2014)
Love, Ceremoniously/Beside (2016)
A.M. Gloss/Static Points (2017) 
Cycles (2018)
Interval (2018)


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