In this era of flawlessly engineered albums, Wide Mouth Mason singer Shaun Verreault is making a case for “raggedy, un-tweaked” music, with edges that catch.
“Music that’s really produced is not made for dudes like me,” said Verreault, who performs with his “scrappy” three-piece blues-rock band on Wednesday, July 15, at Red Deer’s Westerner Days, opening for Big Sugar.
“Some of the recordings I love best are flawed recordings,” said Verreault, “… where Aretha Franklin sings Dr. Feelgood and her voice cracks with this amazing emotion. …” Where Michael Jackson can be heard catching his breath, or “taking a second to get right to the pitch of a note. …
“You can hear that a human being was singing that,” he added.
By comparison, when you listen to some of the computer-enhanced and modulated voices on radio today, “It could be anyone,” said Verreault.
Since moving to Vancouver from Saskatoon 14 years ago, he’s seen acts like The Police (on a reunion tour) and Prince at semi-private rehearsal shows that were held in the city before the performers would embark on long North American tours.
“Their stuff would still be a little rough … a little raggedy. But it was magical hearing it,” he said.
Verreault believes the energy and emotion of live performances, the “collaboration” between musicians and the audience, are what makes music interesting. Wide Mouth Mason likes to jam for these reasons, and most of the band’s music comes out of those sessions.
The group’s last album, No Bad Days, was recorded quickly from full performances, rather than being produced with layered engineering techniques. “It’s not a Michael Bay production,” said Verreault, referring to the special effects-happy Transformers film director. “There’s no green screen, with stuff to be added later. … It’s just three guys and their instruments, some energy and spontaneity, and about capturing rather than manufacturing something.
“What speaks to us is the truth of that moment,” he added. Sometimes when you’re playing, “you’re going for something you’re not sure you can do. It’s about the magic of hitting that something. If you can’t hit it, then you move on and try something else.”
He believes musicians can achieve things in concert settings they would be hard-pressed to later repeat in studio. The encouraging effect of the crowd’s energy is “unbeatable.”
Wide Mouth Mason was formed in 1995 by Verreault, his buddy since elementary school, drummer Safwan Javed, and bassist Earl Pereira.
Pereira left the band in 2010, just before Wide Mouth Mason was to go on tour with ZZ Top, so Verreault and Javed asked their record producer, Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson, for his recommendations on lining up a new bass player.
“He recommended himself,” recalled Verreault, with a chuckle. “Who says ‘No’ to that?”
After the tour, Johnson officially joined the band — and it’s been a great fit, musically and personally.
Johnson’s “loose, funky and gritty” approach exactly aligns with Wide Mouth Mason’s sensibilities, said Verreault. “Between us, so much goes unspoken. We come from the same place musically, we’ve known each other for years. He’s seen us play thousands of times and knows what we’re capable of as musicians. …”
Plus, Johnson is a good “hang,” he added — the kind of guy you don’t mind spending time with in a touring van.
The three musicians are now in the process of compiling songs for the band’s next album. “Most often we start with an idea I have as the singer/guitar player,” said Verreault. “We email ideas about the chorus and couple of versus, then we get together for a few days to attack the stuff,” musically.
There are already more potential songs than ever lined up for the next album. Verreault said blues and rock are influences that Wide Mouth Mason doesn’t deviate from. “We’ve always been about two worlds — the Hendrix experience, and The Police/Prince kind of stuff. …”
Yet “everyone’s still open to experimentation, working efficiently, there’s lots of ideas floating around if you sat us in a room.”
The beauty of the Wide Mouth Mason/Big Sugar concert at the Centrium is that Verreault and Javed get to play with both bands, later joining Johnson in his larger reggae-rock group.
“Saf and I are only children, so we get to choose who our brothers are,” said Verreault, who considers it pretty great to be with people with whom he can share both music and laughs.
The 8 p.m. concert in the Centrium is free with gate admission to the fair.