A Little Further Down the Flame is the debut album from PAPAL VISIT.
Distance changes everything. It has the power to dissolve relationships and erase friendships. If you’re not careful, distance can bring a world of hurt. But if you can harness its power and use it as a creative force like Pierre Cormier and Adam Mowery have through their latest project PAPAL VISIT, distance can be a true ally.
PAPAL VISIT is the continuation of a musical partnership forged from the ranks of legendary Saint John collaborative rockers, Wooden Wives. Despite living in different provinces, Cormier and Mowery have found a way to continue collaborating. Their pen-pal approach to record-making has Cormier recording full instrumental tracks in his Saint John studio before sending them to Mowery in Halifax, who adds vocals and additional instrumentation to complete the tune.
A Little Further Down the Flame, released on 33 Record (Japan), is their first full-length release.
We spoke with Adam Mowery about the project and the new album.
How did PAPAL VISIT come into existence?
Adam Mowery: PAPAL VISIT started as a way for Pierre and I to keep working together even though I’d moved to Halifax. Pierre is good with ideas and has a great space for recording in Saint John, but he’s not the greatest at writing lyrics and actually finishing songs. I, on the other hand, have written a lot of songs, and am sort of bored with the singer/songwriter process to be honest. PAPAL VISIT keeps it fresh for both of us and ensures that experimentalism is infused into the DNA of every song.
At first Pierre’s songs were very simple, usually just featuring him on bass and guitar, but overtime they became more complicated so he enlisted the help of drummer Geoffrey Smith (Little You Little Me), and additional guitarists and organists to flesh out the parts. Eventually, full songs with complete instrumentation were arriving in my inbox almost quicker than I could come up with the lyrics and melodies.
Before too long, we had enough songs to put out a full record and our friends at 33 Record expressed an interest in releasing it.
As a lyricist, it must be fun to have someone basically giving you complete songs to write to. What’s the biggest challenge to you in writing music this way?
AM: The biggest challenge to writing this way, which is probably also the biggest challenge to writing in a traditional manner, is trying hard not to rip off the stuff you love! I think there are more knock-offs out there in the world than genuine melodies at this point, and mostly the public doesn’t seem to notice or care. But I do. So it’s very important for me to not accidentally swipe a melody or rhyme from a song I love. When I’m literally singing to myself over a blank canvas like this, I feel like the risk becomes higher for that sort of thing to happen. To me, that is the true challenge of songwriting chops, having enough knowledge about music history to recognize you’re lifting something, and having the control over your craft to steer things back in a direction where you’re writing something original.
Lyrically, it frees me up totally, and I can incorporate many different sources without writing to a specific literal meaning. For example, there’s a song on the record called Pop & Chips which I wrote the lyrics for while looking at a collection of old political Halifax zines. One of the zines was titled Abolish Restaurants, and it made the case for eliminating restaurants altogether because they are toxic work environments and bad for the environment, that sort of thing. Another zine was called We Pull the Shots, and it dealt with unionizing baristas and the general issue of worker’s rights. While I never felt particularly moved by either zine, I thought the language and passion found in each were great so references to each wound up in the song Pop & Chips. At this point, I’m very happy just to write a song that uses language I’ve never heard in another song.
Have you ever entertained the idea of performing any of this music live or would that totally compromise the entire point?
AM:We have entertained the idea of playing live but it’s a little difficult where we live so far apart. Ideally, if Pierre got a band together in Saint John, I could just come around and sing at the gigs, which I do think would be fun. Basically, we’re not that interested in wandering in and out of bars at 2 a.m. for very little money, which is what basically every band that plays in the Maritimes does now. But I would be down on getting together for a few gigs in the summer. Maybe little festival gigs, if we could find any interest.