Co-founder Serge Allard takes us through the band’s history and the backstory behind their new album.
Origin stories are always interesting. With every band comes a mix of personalities and unique abilities, and both of these elements play an undeniable role in shaping a band’s sound. But often, a sense of purpose and belonging can have as much an effect on a band’s identity as their favourite musicians or songwriters can. In short, it comes down to friendship, the one simple ingredient that ties all of these contributing elements together and helps them function effectively.
For members of the Fredericton-based rock quintet The Stratified, playing music together is a natural extension of this bond. When co-founder Serge Allard started looking for a few players to flesh out some songs he’d been working on, he turned to Erin Keith and Will Gilmore, two friends he made while studying at the University of New Brunswick.
“I have known Erin and Will for 20 years or more. We met at UNB where we all studied geology,” said Allard. The band’s name is actually a direct reference to how Allard, Keith and Gilmore met. “Stratified is a geological term. Stratification is the accumulation of layers over time – layers of sand, gravel, and mud that turn into bands of solid rock over millions of years.”
As a trio, The Stratified began making music in 2016 over noon-hour jam sessions in a basement storage room when all three musicians happened to be working together. Things grew quickly from there. “Erin and Will are like family to me and our bond runs much deeper than this band,” said Allard. “Erin is an incredible talent. Her vibrant fiddle playing adds so much to the band and gives it it’s signature sound in my opinion. She’s also a great singer and lyricist. And Will’s the perfect drummer for this band. He’s solid, never overplays, and is forever committed to the song.”
Scott VanBuskirk joined the group after reading a classified ad about a trio looking for a bass player, and guitarist Tony Scott followed shortly after. “I knew within 10 seconds of playing together that Scott was the right fit,” said Allard. “You will not find a more likeable guy. Scott knew Tony, so on his advice we invited Tony to a jam. I’m smiling just thinking about it. To say Tony is a skilled guitar player is a severe understatement. And I think he’s the only guitar player I’ve ever uttered the words, ‘could you turn up a bit?’ to. I can’t help but feel we have something really special going on. It’s an absolute delight to spend time as a band.”
The Stratified’s first recording Crashing The Night Sky, released in 2018, was an extension of those initial lunch break get-togethers and follows the folk-forward approach to instrumentation that would come to form the core of the band’s sound. In November of this year, they released Lost In The Light, an album that, according to Allard, best represents the sound they’ve been reaching towards.
“In my mind, this is our first record as a band,” said Allard. “Scott and Tony aren’t on the first release and Will is playing a drum kit as opposed to the cajon this time around. In many respects, this is a rock record. The first release was much more traditional in its approach, even if the songs were not.”
While Lost In The Light may represent a shift towards a stronger rock influence, Keith’s fiddle remains a guiding focus for the band. In addition to establishing many of the album’s defining melodies, the interplay between electric guitar and fiddle play a huge role in shaping the album’s sound and defining the band’s identity as a five piece unit. “I’m really moved by all the fiddle/electric guitar harmonies throughout this record,” said Allard. “I can’t get enough of it! The outro solo to the song Lost in the Light is just divine to me – one of the finest moments on the record in my opinion.”
Lyrically, the album delves deep into themes of relationships and hardship with Allard’s words exploring the importance of establishing meaningful connections while remaining skeptical of the wider world and our place within it. “’I’m striving to write more stories that are open and relatable. As long as I feel I’m being authentic and true to myself then I’m happy,” said Allard. “I’m not going for anything in particular. Nothing is contrived. That said, we often joke around in the band that I have a few main writing themes: boy is lost, the current state of our planet is troublesome, and girl makes boy better. I can’t help it.”
“We felt it important to wrap up this record and get it out there this year. It’s a bright light for us during these troubled times.”
To conclude a challenging year, The Stratified decided to release Lost in the Light during the fall season in an attempt to end the year on a more positive note. Despite not being able to get together in the studio over the past several months, completing the album became an important focus for the entire band with many members of the group recording their parts from a distance.
“Like everything else, we were derailed by COVID,” said Allard. “Not being able to rehearse and record sure put a damper on things. That being said, we all feel very fortunate to be safe and healthy through all this. If the worst of it is that we couldn’t jam for a few months and that we had to delay wrapping up our record, then we’re doing okay. It’s important to have some perspective on this and to acknowledge that the pandemic has caused some major disruptions to many people’s lives and livelihoods.
“We felt it important to wrap up this record and get it out there this year. It’s a bright light for us during these troubled times. We did what we had to do to get it done. Luckily, most of us were set up at home to finish up the last bit of tracking, and it was good to have something positive to focus on.”
Lost in the Light was released November 19 and is available through all major streaming services.