Exaggerator, the band’s 12-track debut, draws heavily from Saint John’s melodic, guitar-driven urgency.
More new music from Saint John. Provincial Camps’ debut Exaggerator is another fitting addition to the city’s continuous outpouring of melodic, guitar-driven releases.
Released digitally on November 17, Exaggerator’s 12 tracks can trace their roots back to some of the group’s earliest jam sessions when then 16 year old guitarist/vocalist Sam Roach started writing the group’s first songs.
“Provincial Camps started when I was 16,” said Roach. “Our bassist Sheehan Flatt is a really talented singer and we used to jam and learn covers together all the time when I first met him in tenth grade. We both knew most of the vocal and guitar parts from In The Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel and would take turns playing songs from that album.”
Roach and Flatt would eventually connect with guitarist Matt Weaver and drummer Hunter Watt in 2015 to round out the band’s lineup.
“We played a show with Street Light Parking Lot and Thirsty Camel at the Teen Resource Centre on December 11, 2015. It was all three of our bands’ first show and we were all the same age, so it was a pretty cool way to start,” said Roach.
“Soon after there were like eight bands in Saint John that were all made up exclusively of high school students (LOVEOVER, Thirsty Camel, Trophy Kill, Moonlight Project, Spaced Out, and Cassette Tapes to name a few) and I’m pretty proud to have been a part of that little section of our music scene. I wrote all of our debut album around that time and we spent almost a year trying and failing to get it recorded. We probably still wouldn’t have made much progress if it wasn’t for Corey Bonnevie.”
Bonnevie, a audio engineer and guitarist with Little You, Little Me, is responsible for a staggering amount of recordings over the past couple of years including albums by Motherhood, Bad People, Kylie Fox, Brother Faye, Laps and others.
“Working with Corey is great. He’s really reliable and really knows what he’s doing,” said Roach. “It’s incredible how much time he spends helping bands get their music out.”
While the album presents a wide variety of songwriting that ranges from straight ahead bangers to instrument bridges and even a few interpretations of songs by other artists, the strength of Exaggerator comes from the clouded melodic frenzy that surfaces on tracks like Exaggerator, Don’t Think and You’re In My Throat like an overflowing of good ideas.
And whether it was the result of limited studio time or just a deliberate approach to crafting these songs, Roach, Flatt, Weaver and Watt, together with a few guest musicians including Little You, Little Me’s Gavin Downes, manage to maintain a very loose feel throughout the entire album. There are moments when it feels like things are about to drift apart only to be wrangled back with another chorus or unexpected bridge, holding steady where each songs needs it the most.
Roach acknowledges the influence the city had on his writing at the time. Besides the sonic similarities that exist between Exaggerator and other albums to come out of the city over the past few years, Saint John’s streets and urban landscape also played a part in the creative process.
“I deliberately made an album that feels like Saint John,” said Roach. “I always go out for walks when I listen to music and that’s usually when I find inspiration too, so my surroundings have a huge influence on my musical aesthetic. I was a pretty unhappy person when I wrote Exaggerator and I used to walk from my house on Douglas Avenue to the other side of the Reversing Falls Bridge and isolate myself under the train bridge and just stare at the pulp mill. That location specifically inspired me a lot.”
Although he now lives in Montreal, Roach credits Saint John’s supportive music scene for helping inspire he and other young musicians to try their hand at playing music.
“Saint John’s music scene is incredible, especially considering how small the city is, and the community is so, so supportive. Everyone is eager to contribute and proud of the scene, and I think it’s because they know there’s something really special about it. And I know I’m not biased because I live in Montreal now and I still listen to music from SJ all the time, and my friends who aren’t from Saint John love everything I show them.”
Exaggerator was released November 17, 2017. Available now as a pay-what-you-wish download.