Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta!

<img src="http://www.qromag.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/heyrosettainterview.jpg" alt=" " />After wrapping up recording on the follow-up to the 2008 Verge Music Award-winning, Polaris Prize shortlisted album, <i>Into Your Lungs</i>, Hey Rosetta!'s frontman Tim Baker...


QRO: Your latest record was a departure from the explosive indie rock sound you’ve built your name on.  Instead, the Red Songs EP (QRO review) marked more of a softer, introspective side of the band.  What brought on the change?

Tim Baker: I don’t think it’s a fundamental shift in what the bands about, sort of thing.  We’ve just finished mixing our latest record, which is what I thought you were talking about.  I was like "How’d you know that?  How’d you know it was a departure from indie rock?" [laughs]

We’re still the same band…  When you’re a songwriter and you only have one project, you kind of have all sorts of stuff that gets pushed aside.  But we in the band love that side, love the soft folk-y side of songs – the songs that come out and can’t be turned into rock songs.  You’ve got to respect that.  We play songs like that quite a bit, and we had those songs around for a while; recorded them a long time ago, actually.  Just had it sitting around for a long time and really wanted to make a nice, longer thing out of it, you know?  Instead of two songs, we wanted to make sort of an EP of the many soft and folk-y songs that I have kicking around.  We’re just so busy touring, never got back in the studio, and grew disenchanted with the other songs.  But I really liked "Red Song" from the beginning, and "Window Weeping" seemed like the proper partner for it, and it made the album sort of… the album?  It’s not even an album… the seven inch kind of tied it together as love songs, which is why it’s called Red Songs.  We like that stuff, but were not just that or anything.

QRO: Red has seemingly been an oft-visited inspiration for Hey Rosetta! – You’ve got "Red Heart", "Red Song", "Red Confederates’ Confessions" – what’s your connection to it?

TB: I don’t know.  There’s the really obvious poetic metaphor in red you know?  The color of blood, the color of love – I don’t know,

I guess I probably shouldn’t have called it "Red Song".

QRO: Why is that?

TB: Well it’s kind of repetitive, like you said.  It’s not about red or anything – it is a love song.  I’m not even particularly fond of red, but it’s the most intense.  They’re sort of isolated songs – the titles are strange.  You work for days and days trying to find a title.  Red says something, though I’m not sure what.

QRO: You’ve just finished recording an as-of-yet untitled full length.  Which side of the band can we expect to hear on it?

TB: I think all sides, you know, and some new sides maybe.  It’s quite similar in scope as Into Your Lungs, but it goes a lot of different places.  I think it’s the same sort of band… I think we’ve matured quite a bit in our playing, in our tastes, especially in our sound-getting and actual production… like tones and everything.  I hope it makes it a little more adventurous, and we took a bit longer to make it, but I think… I think it sounds good.

QRO: It’s rumored that the new album centers on the theme of springtime; in other words, rebirth.  With the breakout year you had after the release of Into Your Lungs, one might wonder why rebirth would be such a central theme for you going forward.

TB: One might wonder that.  I don’t know – I think a lot of the stuff will sort of just come out.  It comes out, comes forth, and it’s been a pretty happy couple of years.  Our popularity has been a pleasant surprise, and it continues to be so.  I’ve seen a lot of love come our way, at shows especially.  Playing cities you’ve only been to a couple of times and just having all of these people come out and sing it, sing along and love it.  It’s been a good time.  It’s been hard, with lots of traveling.  You don’t get to see your loved ones very much, and you don’t see yourself very much – always surrounded by people all the time.  It’s been hard for writing and stuff, but it’s been really good.  I don’t know if it’s been a ‘springtime’ for me or anything, but it’s a nice… it’s a nice metaphor.  Spring… it’s such an eternal metaphor that everybody gets.  I like it, and it’s never a conscious thing to make a record that has a lot of spring themes in it, they just kind of pop up.  It’s a tight, neat sort of metaphor when you’re talking about people and mood, promise, wonder, etc.  I just noticed that it happened again and again.



QRO: As mentioned, that last album garnered significant critical success, including a Verge Music award, a Polaris Prize nomination and a handful of East Coast Music Awards.  Has acclaim changed the way you operate as a band, or your personal outlook on your own music?

TB: What is that word, irrevocably?  Irrevocably?  Yes, undeniably, but hopefully not in any serious way.  I often worry;

I spend far too much time worrying whether I’m ever going to write again

, or what it means to have hundreds or thousands of people looking over your shoulder and in your mind… they’re waiting for the words, and you know they’re going to hear it eventually.  It’s kind of scary.  We worry that it might scare the good things away, but it’s still the same process.  It’s still a very humble process.  I think the approach is the same; maybe we’re a little more earnest about the whole thing.  The more people you know are going to hear it, the more people you know are waiting for it and really love what you’d done before – it kind of just places more importance on it.  There’s a pressure there.  We’re still working; the Welsh spring is still flowing.   

QRO: This time around, you’re doing a lot of production work in the U.K., as I understand it.  Scotland, right?

TB: Yeah, we’ve been mixing a lot in Scotland. 

QRO: On top of that, you’ve traveled extensively throughout Canada, The U.S., but also around Europe and Australia with a trip to China planned later on this year.  What sort of affect does having all of these new worlds opening up around you have on your writing?

TB: You get to mention city names in songs, having actually been there… but I don’t ever do that. [chuckles]

That’s a difficult question, I don’t know.  You get to see a lot of music, not necessarily because you’re traveling the world, but just traveling through all these different cities, these sort of musical and artistic centers of the world.  You get to meet a lot of musicians and artists and exchange ideas.  It’s nice in that way, just to broaden your horizons – not just geographically, physically being outside your home, but being at shows you wouldn’t see.  You get to be at parties, meet people, talk about things you’d never talk about.  I guess it’s enriching.

QRO: So it’s a positive experience overall?

TB: Yeah, when you can make it out of the hotel room at the end of the day.  Often, no.  Very often, you just have to collapse and sleep as long as possible all the time.  It’s good, it’s fine… it’s tiring, but it’s good. 



QRO: As a band, you have a reputation of being masters of emotion.  In regards to that emotion, there’s a lyric on "Open Arms" goes "I’ve been crying all of my life I guess / All my smiles were just cringing and tired / Now you’re drying my eyes / I find these bleary sights cuff polished and bright."  That’s pretty heavy stuff…

TB: Yeah, that’s fucking dark…

QRO: So do you live at all vicariously through your characters or metaphorically through their stories?

TB: I think so.  Like any writer, there’s a part of you in every character…

QRO: Do you feel that there’s such a thing as giving too much of yourself? 

TB: I don’t know; I often feel like things are too much, like over the top… but there’s something about music that’s over the top anyway.  Even just a single note is dramatic, and you need to have words that match… What was the actual question? [laughs]

QRO: Do you feel there’s such a thing as giving too much? 

TB: Nah, throw it all out there.  I think everybody somewhere deep down will understand what you’re talking about. 

Life is too fucking short, you know, to just be a poser all the time.  You’d be a lot cooler than the shit that I write, but I don’t care.

  Bring it on.  People are hurting out there everyday, I think they are-

QRO: You’ve been around, you should know! 

TB: [chuckles] They don’t mind hurting, they don’t mind hearing about it.

QRO: So in terms of the stories themselves, you explore a wide range of subject matter with an even wider array of gravity…  Looking though your catalogue, you go from bible stories on "Red Song" to mementos of Jeff Buckley on "Lions For Scottie", to what can be interpreted as 9/11 flashbacks on "A Thousand Suns"…  all the while in a powerful emotional atmosphere-

TB: That’s because it was in that movie right?  That’s interesting.

QRO: So what’s your attachment to the characters and their plot lines?

TB: That’s a hell of a question… What’s the attachment?  I don’t know what it is – that’s puzzling.  You know, it comes out, and then you write it down and you scratch it out, and you write it a different way until you’re happy with how it sounds with the music.  Then usually being happy with it means that it means something to you, or it paints some sort of picture for you as it happens with the music.  It’s really cathartic first of all, it feels really good to sing; it feels really good to yell.  You know scream therapy?  It’s the same thing with singing.

My attachment?  I guess I’m quite attached to them.  Not all of them – some songs just die.  Many songs, you know, just don’t work out.  I like the little worlds… I love the little narratives, like the character in "Red Song", like Joseph.  Those are good picks.  

QRO: Before the six piece band and all the international touring, and awards, Hey Rosetta! was simply a thought in your mind.  Have you ever thought about going back to those roots and cutting a solo record?

TB: Oh yeah, you know, I’ve thought about it.  I can’t really… I mean a solo record is a weird thing.  It would be the same, kind of, except it wouldn’t be the great friends and the great skills, the honesty and the talent of everyone else in the band.  But the music would be pretty much the same.  I get carried away…I don’t know if I could do a record with just acoustic guitar and piano.  Something really simple, but you can’t keep it simple, because once you start getting these characters, these emotions, or this power happening, you want it to be reflected.  I love rock and roll.  It would be the same, but not as good… so fuck it, not right now. [laughs] Maybe when I get a pile of really simple, dead simple soft stuff, like Red Songs, but even that was still a… that’s the beautiful thing about the band, there’s such maturity.  It’s cool if no one plays but me; it’s still the band.  It’s really a large part of songs where it’s just me, solo… but that’s kind of the point of the band.  For me anyway, the rest of the boys might shoot me.  For me, it’s like both worlds… a bunch of worlds.  You can let the lyrics speak, just the lyrics and the voice, with small accompaniment.  Then you have this range of power that you can provide… sweeping, strange, or whatever.

QRO: The very colorful "Red Song" ends on the line "In the black I feel you / In the black I sense / Somewhere in the red the colors end."  Where do the colors end for Hey Rosetta!?  Or where are they going at least?

TB: Where do the colours end… hopefully not some tragic band accident.  We’re tempting fate with all this fucking driving. 

I shouldn’t have said that though, it’s going to be creepy when you write that down.


Lately I’ve been scared about dying – I never was, ever.  I didn’t mind… you know when you fly in a plane and hit turbulence?  I’d make my peace.  I did all right, I was a nice guy – I stood up for what I believed in and was kind to other people… I don’t get that feeling anymore when we hit turbulence.  I get anxious, and I don’t know why.  Anyway…

Where are we going?  We’re going to China, I know that much.  If we ever get back from that, we’re going to tour the United States, Canada, and it just keeps on going, you know?  It’s good, it’s scary, it’s exhausting to think about, hopeful to think about.  Hopefully I’ll just keep going home, hopefully people will just keep buying the iTunes stuff, and come to the shows… and I’ll be good.  We’ll all have nice little families, and tour all times of the year, and-

QRO: Live happily ever after?

TB: And live happily ever after [laughs]… with our sweethearts, and our cabins on the lakes of Newfoundland.  That’s the idea, hopefully we’re just singing around the campfire… That’s when the meteors will come, the end to a crazy plan.


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