A Sackville Love Letter

Category: music 365

Steve Haley’s latest album, Heat Vision, explores far-fetched fantasies through a small town lens.

Matt Carter

It’s been four years since the last time we heard new music from Steve Haley. In 2013, his band Banded Stilts released a beautiful album called Little Village and were guest performers at Sappyfest the following year. The album went on to garner a Music Nova Scotia Award nomination for Folk Album of the Year, but the nature of the project eventually took its toll. Haley was living in Amherst and the rest of the band was in Halifax. While distance can make the heart grow fonder, it can also make it really difficult to keep a band together.

“Everyone but me was based out of Halifax and it was a lot of travelling to practice and record together,” said Haley.  “After moving to Sackville, this became even harder. Banded Stilts’ last album came out the same year my first son was born. We toured it for a while and had a lot of fun with that record, but band mates moved on geographically and musically and I began working on a batch of songs with some buds in Sackville.”

Haley first hinted at wanting to start a new project in his adopted home of Sackville in a 2014 Sappyfest artist spotlight.  A little over three years later, it’s all happening in a big way. Haley released his solo debut, Heat Vision on October 13 as both a digital download and a 12” vinyl.

As the title suggests, the album was inspired in part by the world of comic books and fantasy. Haley also points out the influence of Scottish comic book writer, playwright and occultist Grant Morrison.

“To paraphrase Morrison, he has said that the comic book page can be a viewed by us the same way that a being might view our reality outside of space and time in a higher dimension,” said Haley. “He has talked about his own reality bleeding into his two dimensional comics as well. I was inspired by these ideas and have tied these songs together as being about these realities that we interact with (comics, video games, shows) getting revenge on us for what we put them through when we read or play or view their lives. I swear it makes more sense in my head than what I’m saying right now.”

It does make sense when listening to Heat Vision. Throughout the album’s nine tracks, Haley contemplates life through short existential vignettes that play through like chapters in a graphic novel. A time, a place, a situation, a memory, a dream. The songs work both as far-fetched fantasies and as reflections of life in a small town, which brings us back to the Sackville connection.

If there was a Music NB Award for Most Sackville Album of the Year – an album that truly captures the spirit and the people of the community – Heat Vision would be a sure fire winner.

“Sackville is the best. After playing folk music for five or six years, it was really refreshing to move to a place that hosted regular touring bands and exploded with Sappyfest every year,” said Haley.  “This new record is my Sackville love letter. It’s very much influenced musically by the music that Sackville curated and invited in to the community: Michael Feuerstack, Shotgun Jimmy, Julie Doiron, Chad Van Gaalen, Jon Mckiel, among others. I feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by these amazing artists and individuals who want to make art and support each other and are simply the best.”

Heat Vision pulls together an impressive cast of Sackville musicians and artists, each contributing something unique the project. Celebrated songsmith Jon McKiel handles drum duties on the album and together with bassist Scott Brown, the two create a solid yet subtle foundation for the melodic pairing of Haley and guitarist James Anderson (who also recorded the album).   

Heat Vision is catchy, and dreamy and full of imagination.

“James Anderson, who has recorded a bunch of sweet bands since moving to town including Kappa Chow, Klarka Weinwurm, Weird Lines and The Mouthbreathers, is amazing at what he does,” said Haley.  “He was extremely patient and flexible and just knows his stuff. He also played guitar on the record alongside Scott Brown and Jon Mckiel and these guys are pros. They don’t miss a beat (literally) and are the best to hang with. I mean, Jon just put out one of the best records in years and still squeezed in time to drum along with us.”

The album’s visual content is also very Sackville, with contributions from artists Jon Claytor and Patrick Allaby.

“I’ve been a huge fan of Patrick Allaby’s since moving to town,” said Haley. “He has a killer art style and his comics are amazing. He turned in amazing album art that I couldn’t be happier with. It was cartoony and weird and fit the album perfectly.

“To round it out, Jon Claytor had this amazing piece that was titled Heat Vision, which was the planned name for the album and when I asked him about it he was basically like, ‘go ahead and use it however you want’,” said Haley. “Again, this is my Sackville love letter and I hope it shows.”

Upcoming performances:

November 3 | Thunder & Lightning | Sackville, NB | with Janowskii
November 4 | The Capital | Fredericton, NB | with Klarka Weinwurm + Richard Laviolette
November 11 | Taco Pica | Saint John, NB | with Klarka Weinwurm + Richard Laviolette
November 25 | Sportsmans | Charlottetown, PEI | with Klarka Weinwurm + Richard Laviolette
December 1 | Radstorm | Halifax, NS | with Klarka Weinwurm + Richard Laviolette

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