We chat with City and Colour
There aren’t many mixtape staples anymore. That is, bands or artists that most of a generation (or at least a subculture within a generation) will include on every mixtape to a friend or lover.
A decade ago it was bands like The Postal Service and The Shins and as a result, whenever people think of moments from that period, a track from Oh! Inverted World or Give Up will play in their heads. A good mixtape’s job is to say what the person giving it – can’t; and few artists can tell stories with their music quite like City and Colour.
Over the past five years the title of mixtape king has been handed over to Dallas Green, under the moniker of City and Colour, and it’s easy to see why a generation is asking him to speak for them.
Green’s rise to fame hasn’t been traditional in any modern sense. A combination of the sentimentality of his music and the devoutness of his fans has meant that Green, hasn’t had to sell his musical soul to any sort of media machine to get where he is today; and where he is, is selling out shows all around the world in a matter of minutes, including a gig at Royal Albert Hall in London.
“My career has been built on word of mouth,” says Green, “people have enjoyed the songs I’ve written and have told their friends about it, and now the radio plays me and there’s magazines covering me. I would rather it worked in that order because it feels more genuine to me.”
Before City and Colour, Green was the lead singer for the hugely successful hardcore band Alexisonfire, a group whose music is pretty far removed from the smooth stylings of his solo efforts. Green juggled both commitments for some years, but early last year, Alexisonfire officially called it quits with Green making City and Colour his primary musical focus.
As part of this newfound focus, Green released his first record since Alexisonfire’s split. The record, Little Hell was seen as a departure from City and Colour’s two previous releases. The third album delivered the sentimental lyrics fans had come to expect, but the instrumentation was far removed from the stripped back and minimalist nature of the previous two records.
“It’s definitely an evolution in the sound as opposed to the first record which is just me and a guitar” offers Green, “I want to evolve, I want to get better and be better at what I do. With each record I think I’m improving and that’s sort of the goal.”
Apart from the instrumentation, Little Hell sounds fundamentally different due in large parts to the distinction in recording techniques. While still recorded at Canada’s Catherine North Studios – a converted Church owned and operated by Leslie Feist’s uncle – Green chose to record Little Hell on tapes.
“I mean, that’s just how they used to make records and it felt like the songs I had been writing would benefit from that sort of warm, natural sound,” says Green.
As part of the record’s promotion, Green has been touring extensively with a band across Canada, Europe and the United States, but is notorious for loving Australian audiences. “I’ve always gotten such a great reaction from the Aussies,” he reveals “they’ve just been very interested since the beginning. I’ve always had a wonderful time here.”
Primarily in Australia to tour as a headliner for the Groovin’ The Moo festival, Green admits that the diverse line-up – which saw him playing alongside Public Enemy – had him curious, “on paper, it doesn’t seem like it would work, but it totally has.”
Touring around some of Australia’s more remote areas like Bendigo or Townsville has been “a great experience,” says Green. “All the kids who are coming to the show are super excited, because not a lot of musicians get out there, so they’ve been really great audiences.”
Along with the Groovin The Moo dates, City and Colour played sold-out shows in capital cities across the nation. Including two packed out nights at Melbourne’s Palais theatre; and while some fans are intent on lapping up everything Green and his band have to offer in their live show, there are a few traditionalists who expect Green’s live arrangements to mimic the records’.
“Live music, to a degree should be experimenting and a new moment as opposed to a recreation of what’s already been done,” Green explains, “there’s a set of people who want me to stand on stage with my acoustic guitar and have that be it, but I’m not interested in doing that. I think it’s fun to make the live show different than the record.”
There are also those who expect Green to bank on the popularity of love songs like ‘The Girl’. “I would never write a love song just to write one. I like to have a reason to or at least come up with a good enough story to write about. It’s more about finding the right way to do it, I guess because so many people expect it.”
The next twelve months will see City and Colour playing more tour dates in the United States and Canada, as well as recording material Green has already written: “I’ve got a lot of stuff that’s ready” admits the sensitive singer.
Working under a clever moniker, not giving in to the modern paths of fame and staying true to his own musicality are just some of the reasons that fans adore Green – and the feeling seems to be mutual. “There’s just some sort of warm and fuzzy feeling I get when I go on stage in Australia. I can’t wait to be back.”