The Aurian Haller Band Story So Far

The Aurian Haller Band Story So Far

LiQ_Mag_Jun2013_CoverThis article first appeared in the July 2013 issue of Life in Québec Magazine.

Life in Quebec Magazine is a lifestyle publication covering the Quebec region and is published at least 3 times per year.

The publication is available at over 230 outlets across the region.

Subscribers have their copies mailed directly to them.

Article by Simon Jacobs
Photos courtesy of Tjerk Bartlema

I met with The Aurian Haller Band in the basement recording studio at lead guitarist, Paul Hinton’s Sillery home.  It was typical of many home studios, small, a low ceiling and somewhat crowded, with curtains hanging on the wall to absorb sound.  The soundboard, computers and digital effects are stacked on a table near one of the rough and ready sound booths located at each end.  Barry Nameth, the band’s drummer and percussion player, was wedged next to bassist Daniel Marcoux on a yellow chaise longue that’s just been used as the centre piece in the band’s latest video.  Guitarist and technical whiz, Paul Hinton, was seated beside his soundboard, fiddling with the microphone levels and checking the output of one of the tracks. Aurian Haller, the band’s namesake and songwriter was perched upon a folding chair next to a pile of microphone stands, facing the others; his dark lanky hair, in contrast to Paul’s clean shaven scalp, moved out of his eyes with a flick of his head.


LiQ_Mag_Abonnez-vousThe Band’s Beginning

Paul and Aurian met about six years ago (around 2007) after Aurian moved to Quebec City.  Paul, who works for the English school board teaching music and community involvement, heard Aurian practising at St. Vincent School one-day and realised that he was not a usual run-of-the-mill musician.  They soon got together in Paul’s studio to work on some songs that Aurian had written.

First Album
Once they had enough material, Paul invited his two friends Barry and Daniel, whom he knew from other bands, to join them in recording their first album Normal Town which was released in 2011. “Normal Town is a place in Athens, Georgia, and was a strange place to be, especially right after 9/11,” said Aurian.  He spent a lot of time moving between there, Montreal and Vancouver for a number of years before finally settling with his family in Quebec City.  “One of the songs we’ve performed live is called ‘Blue Vertigo,’ and describes the bi-coastal vertigo of living between places…the songs in Normal Town are imbued with the different landscapes found between those places.”

The Dark Room
In contrast, the band’s latest album, The Dark Room, reflects “our inner landscapes, our ‘paysages interieurs.’”  The title song is based upon a poem from The Book of Hours, written by the early 20th century Bohemian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke who said of the darkness, “I love you more than the flame /that limits the world/ to the circle it illuminates/ and excludes all the rest.”  As Aurian puts it, “the rest is the darkness that excludes light, is mysterious, and that represents the spiritual experience.”  This poem became the kernel for the album.  A poster which is included with the CD contains all the lyrics and also includes the following explanation: “This album was written at night, in basements and cellars while our families slept.”
Aurian, who works as an arts consultant for the English school board is also a published poet, holds a Masters degree in literature, another in creative writing and a Ph.D. in cultural geography.

Aurian-Haller-Article-2Frenglish?
Contrary to the uni-lingual Normal Town, the latest album also has a couple of songs written in French.  This was done to reflect the nature of the world the band lives in, as well as for strategic reasons.  The French songs ‘L’Amour et ses couteaux’ and ‘Plus que parfait’ are more likely to get airplay and exposure on local Francophone radio shows than songs written in English.

The album also reflects the quintessential Canadian nature of this band.  Daniel, a full-time professional musician and composer, was born and bred in Quebec City and was brought up in the French milieu.  On the other hand Paul, whose parents were originally from Newfoundland, was also brought up in Quebec City but went through the English school system.  Barry, a retired policeman, originally came from Hamilton, Ontario, but was raised in Trois Rivieres.  After his family moved there, he spent most of his childhood speaking English.  It was only when he was a teenager and became interested in girls that he realised the necessity of speaking in French.
Brought up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Aurian is the only band member to come from outside of the province.  All the same, he had connections with the city as his father was born here to Newfoundland parents.  Even though his father was an Anglophone he still spoke French to Aurian, so that Aurian’s move to Quebec City was not too linguistically challenging. The band uses both English and French during rehearsals, switching effortlessly between the two languages.

The Creative Input
The initial creative kernel for a song comes from Aurian.  Generally he will write a song complete with lyrics, melody and chord structure and give the others a recording of him singing it and accompanying himself on piano or guitar.  As Paul put it, “the lyrics create some kind of emotion, depending on what the song is about. What Aurian does to accompany it, along with the melody, amplifies that emotion a little bit.  Then what we do should take that a step further. If we are subtracting from it then we’re doing something wrong and going in the wrong direction.”

Aurian_BandIt is thanks to the varied and mature experience that each member brings to the band that the pieces blossom. From that point on it becomes a collaborative effort, with each member adding their own musical contribution and style.

Guest Artists
The Dark Room features the guest appearance of Blue Rodeo’s Bob Egan, who played the pedal steel on 4 of the 12 tracks.  Egan didn’t physically play with the band but was sent a recording and then laid down his own tracks at his studio in Kitchener, Ontario, before sending them back for the final mix.

Valérie Clio and Maude Brochu, two talented singers on the local music scene, provide backing vocals for some of the songs.  Daniel Marcoux also wrote musical arrangements for string quartet on a few of the tracks.
Paul mixed and produced both albums. The Dark Room was recorded over an eight month period and had its final mix at Montreal’s Grey Market Mastering studio last fall.

Sound
The inclusion of the pedal steel gives this album a more country-like sound.  When asked to describe their sound, Aurian laughed saying that it was quite unique, but that if he had to categorise it, it could be called an “indie folk / alt-country style.”

Where and What Next?
Unlike many other bands on the local scene, The Aurian Haller Band does not play cover songs and would prefer to break into the festival scene, playing more concerts as their reputation grows.
For more information check out their website (http://theaurianhallerband.ca/) where you can find their upcoming concert schedule as well as download music and watch their videos.

About Author

Simon Jacobs

Originally from the UK, Simon Jacobs has been living in Quebec City since 1989. He played viola with the Quebec Symphony Orchestra for 20 years before moving on to become the Executive Director of the Morrin Centre. Currently studying for an MBA at Laval University, he is also a certified Quebec City tour guide and a historian specialising in the Jewish history of Quebec City. He is the current president of the Québec Anglophone heritage network.

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