First Listen – Bad People: ‘You’re This Close’

Category: music 510
Matt Carter

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Saint John’s folk-rock juggernaut, Bad People, are releasing a new album this week. You’re This Close is the band’s second full-length studio album and features 11 tracks of rock-infused-folk (or is that folk-infused-rock?) that drags humanity’s darkest depths to uncover tales of love, murder and betrayal.

The album features many tracks that originally appeared on last year’s Live at the Bourbon Quarter although now fully realized by the band’s most consistent lineup since their 2014 debut.

“I think I’m up to 12 or 13 people that have played with me, either live or on records,” said Cole Savoie, Bad People’s founder and principal songwriter. “The joke going around now is that I stole Leo Lafleur’s band. Before that, Little You, Little Me was pretty much my backing band.”

Savoie credits his own development as a musician to the various incarnations of Bad People that have existed over the past few years. Having the opportunity to work with such a varied cast of characters has definitely played a big part in his songwriting with You’re This Close showcasing some of his strongest material to date.

“Playing and jamming with a large amount of musicians that are better than me has made me a better musician and a better songwriter,” said Savoie. “Without being able to play with new people, I would not have been able to grow and learn and I’d still be writing two chord songs that only have a chorus.”

You’re This Close introduces the band’s most uniform sound to date. On this recording, the band is full and completely engulfed in the music they’re making, with eight musicians contributing to the overall finished collection. While Bad People’s sound remains guitar and vocal-driven, the addition of violin, cello and banjo provide a wonderful complement to Savoie’s songwriting, skillfully enhancing the folk elements that have always been present as a part of the band’s sound.

“I think the biggest thing that sets this album apart is that it is a whole new line up of musicians, all with a new and different perspective on music and sounds,” he said. “We range in age from 19 to 55, a handful of them are classically trained and some have just been playing for 20 plus years.”

For this recording, Bad People is Cole Savoie (acoustic guitar, vocals and claps), Sadie Donahue (vocals ands claps), Dann Downes (banjo, vocals and acoustic guitar), Adam Kierstead (bass, keys and baritone), Nienke Izurieta (violin, claps & vocals), Katie Bestvater (cello, claps & vocals) and Sean Boyer (drums, percussion) with Corey Bonnevie contributing electric guitar. No matter which way you look at it, that’s a remarkable lineup for any band, with many of these players contributing to numerous seminal Saint John recordings spanning the past decade.

“Other than the people, instruments and experience, all other processes have been the same,” he said. “I write a song and show it to the gang and they play what they feel and I don’t set limits on what they play. If I have an idea I’ll voice it, but I can’t play violin so who am I to tell someone how to?”

The album was recorded and mixed by Corey Bonnevie (Little You, Little Me) and took the better part of a year to complete, a lengthy process Savoie attributes to the large cast of contributing musicians.

“We recorded with Corey Bonnevie at Monopolized,” said Savoie. “All of the Bad People recordings have been done with him. He has a very good feel for the sounds and noises I like.”

As with previous releases, there is an incredibly dark undertone that carries through the entire album to great effect. But while the subject matter deals a winning hand of broken hearts and loss with tracks like Rest in Peace and Saddle Up Son delving deep into the darkest recesses of one’s imagination, Savoie and company somehow manage to find an overall balance through colorful and dynamic arrangements without lightening the subject matter.

When I first started writing these new songs, they had a very creepy vibe to them and I want to play off that, but I also didn’t want to get too dark,” said Savoie. “So from the start, the goal was creepy and pretty at the same time – a constant contrast. That was basically the only guideline given to the band when writing the album.”

And when he says ‘creepy’, he’s not exaggerating. This album is cold blooded. But maybe that’s the joke. A band full of super-nice folks who call themselves Bad People. It’s definitely all in the lyrics.

“I’m not too sure what it is,” said Savoie, who on this recording has truly embraced his natural ability to write dark subject matter with an almost Cormack McCarthy-like poetry. “I watched a lot of shows that revolved around the subject of murder while in my teens. It’s not something you want to say you enjoy, because that would be creepy, but I’m definitely interested by it. And it’s a big part of folk music too. Telling the stories that would otherwise never get told. And who hasn’t been wronged in their life? Who hasn’t had their girl stolen? Shit, over the weekend my two year old’s stroller was stolen from our front foyer. It all leaves a sour taste in your mouth so I would say that it’s just as relatable as love or break ups. It’s just not something you tell your friends about.”

When compared to the band’s back catalogue that includes their 2014 self-titled debut, the EP Little One and Live at the Bourbon Quarter (both 2015), You’re This Close is the best possible next step that could have happened. Stronger performances, stronger writing and an overall stronger recording make this album Bad People’s crowning achievement, to date, and definitely worth a listen.

Have a listen below and grab a copy HERE on the 30th.

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