Capital 6 co-founder Andrew DeMerchant shares the group’s history and the backstory behind their debut album, On The One.
There’s still a lot of musical territory Andrew DeMerchant wants to explore. After devoting nearly 30 years to playing music in various ensembles from punk to jazz and from big band to swing, his appetite for making music and more importantly, playing live, remains a driving force behind his creativity.
Over the years DeMerchant has played with many of the region’s most in-demand players. As a drummer and now a bandleader, his unique appreciation for time and its impermanence has helped take his latest project – Capital 6 – from concept to reality in very little time.
“I have always been operating under the idea of, ‘let’s get this happening now because we don’t know how much time we’ve got,’” said DeMerchant. “For me, there was always a sense of urgency in getting this band happening and into the studio. I can say that unquestionably. I have pushed the band pretty hard to write stuff as fast as we can and to practice as much as we can. It’s all very hard to do because everybody is in pretty high demand with jobs and families and playing in other bands. It can be hard to wrangle everyone together.”
DeMerchant’s idea behind forming Capital 6 was a simple one. He’s made some great friendships through playing music so why not pull some of his favourite friends and players together and start something they could all be part of?
“Our first gig was Follyfest last year, but the initial idea dates back to August of 2018,” he said. “We were sitting at The Lunar Rogue Pub talking about ideas we could do, myself, Matte [Robinson – trumpet], Kelly [Waterhouse – sax] and Jeannine [Gallant – trombone], and we set a goal to write a bunch of good stuff, try and get a nice gig to work towards and see what happens after that.”
With drums and horns in place, DeMerchant was able to complete the group’s lineup by adding Jonnie Price on guitar and Will Pacey on bass. Capital 6 was born.
“I had it in my mind I wanted to write a bunch of stuff that first year, play some gigs, keep writing and record an album. We’re pretty much on track for what I wanted to do, but I think everyone was feeling a bit of pressure from me to make it happen,” he said.
“Recording the band was certainly a process. It was another situation where I kind of had a vision of how we could pull this off in the studio and then just imposed that vision on everybody else. It was very much a ‘trust me, this is going to work’ situation.”
After playing their first official show last summer and a handful of others leading into the fall and winter, the band booked some studio time and set about documenting what they created. The biggest challenge then became how to properly capture the band’s live energy in a studio environment. For DeMerchant, Capital 6 is a band based largely around solos and improvisation. In a live setting, no two performances are ever the same. The whole idea of playing off each other and exploring the energy and dynamic of the moment has always been at the core of the group’s music.
“Recording the band was certainly a process,” said DeMerchant. “It was another situation where I kind of had a vision of how we could pull this off in the studio and then just imposed that vision on everybody else. It was very much a ‘trust me, this is going to work’ situation.”
Each track was mapped out and played live as a full ensemble. They recorded at least three takes of everything they had, adding a few overdubs later. DeMerchant handled all the editing and mixing himself.
“We did everything live and so largely what you hear on the album is us, live,” said DeMerchant. “You can hear some interacting between the players and everything, which was kind of the point. That’s what I wanted to capture. I didn’t want to have a stale sounding document, a stale album where nobody’s talking to each other musically. I think you hear that we’re actually playing together and that’s important to me.”
The album was tracked at The Recordery with the band divided between the studio’s two live rooms – rhythm section on one side and horns on the other. While this configuration proved ideal for isolating each instrument’s voice, the positioning also limited the group’s ability to signal and communicate. But they had a plan for that too.
“We used Facebook,” said DeMerchant. “We all had phones in front of us on stands so we could see each other. It worked out really well. There was a little bit of a delay but it did the trick. And eventually people started busting out all the filters and we all looked ridiculous but it really helped to make it feel less like a recording session and more like a bunch of friends getting together and recording an album. It ended up being a pretty low-pressure situation.”
Even though DeMerchant openly admits pushing the group to write, rehearse, and record an album in a relatively short amount of time, the end results sound anything but rushed. The album opener, Dirty Funk, with its thick, down-tempo groove, sets a relaxing tone from the get-go with the horns immediately taking centre stage with a melodic theme that bends and flexes leaving little doubt of the group’s collective strength.
On The One is an album full of swagger and confidence with the band reveling in an impressive exchange of solos and complementary rhythms that go deep, and then go deeper. From the teased climaxes on tracks like On The One and Now We Know to the micro-precise control on full display throughout the album’s closing track The AG, Capital 6 exude a collective command of the theme and variation form.
“This band was driven out of a desire to have a bit more musical freedom,” said DeMerchant. “I had been playing in lots of cover bands and not playing a ton of improv stuff or less structured stuff. I really wanted to get into a project where we were writing stuff of our own and music that would be free enough to carry pretty open solos and play off each other. It kinda came from all that. Also, at the same time saying, ‘you know what? The clock is ticking.’
“I love playing with these guys so lets make a band that we can all play together in.”
On The One, the band’s eight track debut was released digitally on June 8. CD and vinyl versions are expected to become available in the coming days.