One-time Fredericton musician JE Sheehy has released a collection of remastered recordings from his early solo project, Off Season. Cinq années à Fredericton charts the history of Sheehy’s first major solo project including b-sides, remixes, and previously unreleased material.
In a scene as small and tight-knit as Fredericton’s, prolific musicians get noticed. Besides putting the rest of us to shame by releasing music at a staggering pace, their efforts also serve to inspire current and next generation performers. When looking back over the past few years of highly productive city music makers, JE Sheehy is one name that immediately comes to mind.
Over the past several years Sheehy has written and released an enormous amount of music with his downer punk project Beard Springsteen, his French folk rock endeavor Saint-Jack, and his post-punk soundscape outlet Starving Ghosts while also performing with several groups including hardcore punks Deep Fryer, the theatrical rock opera Young Satan in Love and Pat Reinartz’ long-running electro pop project The Trick.
But his work as Off Season predates all of these projects and as Sheehy’s creativity exploded, so did Off Season, but not in the good way.
In music, when we say a band has exploded, we are usually referring to their career taking off. But Off Season’s explosion was the opposite. A self-imposed exile. As his list of projects began to grow, Sheehy put Off Season on the back burner and the project quickly went cold.
“Off Season was a bedroom French pop project of mine, from 2011 to 2016,” said Sheehy. “I released two albums – Vénus (2015) and L’éclat des sens (2014), an EP in 2011, many singles, b-sides, remixes and I have hard drives full of unreleased material including a third album that was sacked – although some of it would eventually form Saint-Jack’s Birmingham EP.”
Unlike most of his other projects, Off Season was never really meant to be a live act. In a lot of ways, it was a very personal means of expression for Sheehy, providing a distraction and a way of dealing with his life while hustling through his last year of college.
“Off Season was an outlet where I had complete creative control and could write pop songs with guitars and electronic instruments. It also gave me a meditative space to create during some darker times,” he said.
“It was important for me to give this material a place to exist before the end of the decade.”
Once school was over and he had successfully navigated through a few of life’s many hurdles, the project was no longer something Sheehy wanted to continue on with. There is a lot of emotion packed into those songs and as therapeutic as they were to create, they represent a time and a place that he needed to distance himself from. In an effort to move on and focus his energy elsewhere, Sheehy pulled the remaining Off Season CDs from the shelf at the local record shop and pulled down every track he ever posted.
“It was hard for me to listen to these songs and to include them in my discography,” said Sheehy. “When Off Season didn’t reflect my state-of-mind anymore, I deleted all traces of it from the virtual world.”
Nearly four years after distancing himself from Off Season’s vast catalogue, Sheehy has come to terms with a lot and the emotional weight once attached to these songs now seems easier for him to bear.
Recently, while going back through his past decade of music making, Sheehy decided to revisit the songs that helped him through one of the more challenging periods of his life, and perhaps as a form of thanks to the music itself, he has decided to give the project a proper tribute by releasing the anthology collection, Cinq années à Fredericton.
“Off Season’s releases weren’t perfect,” said Sheehy. “My vocals have improved dramatically since then, my lyrics are better and I’ve developed better production skills. But they remain a key part of my story as well as my evolution as a musician, songwriter and finally as a person.
“I felt like I needed to find a way to reconcile myself with my own material and tell the Off Season story amongst Saint-Jack, Young Satan in Love, Starving Ghosts, Beard Springsteen, Deep Fryer and The Trick,” he said. “So I grabbed some of my favourite and most cohesive stuff from my two full-length albums, combed through an EP I did in 2011 and also dug through my archives for remixes, b-sides, demos and other unreleased material to build Cinq années à Fredericton which, I feel, tells this very important part of the story.
“It was important for me to give this material a place to exist before the end of the decade,” he said.
Cinq années à Fredericton is now up on Bandcamp and will soon be available on all major streaming services.