By Paul Heppleston
Special to The Star
CORNER BROOK Joel Plaskett has spent the last 20 years making some of the country’s most celebrated indie rock, from the fuzzy indie-pop of Thrush Hermit, to this latest project, “Scrappy Happiness.”
In 2009 he was chosen to write a song about the Cabot Trail for CBC’s Songquest. With an hour to spare, Plaskett met the deadline and, the next day, his song was on the radio.
Impressed by his song’s quick transition from studio to radio, Plaskett thought, “that might be an interesting way to make a record,” and the concept for “Scrappy Happiness” was born.
Every Thursday for 10 weeks, the Joel Plaskett Emergency released a new song to the CBC, documenting their progress via blogs so fans could be a part of the process.
“I was very, very, very focused for 10 weeks,” said Plaskett.
Songs were written beforehand, but they were arranged and recorded within each seven-day span. One week is not a lot of time, but Plaskett insists that more time is not always better, as artists often end up over-thinking what they have done and chasing the magic originally captured in the demo version of a song.
Plaskett is a originally from Lunenburg, N.S. He grew up in Halifax and now lives in Dartmouth.
Backed by Chris Pennell (drums) and Dave Marsh (bass), the Emergency — who Plaskett admits is “always kind of winging it” — committed themselves each week to making the definitive version of each song.
Though there are little things they might like to change now, the band members are pleased with the final product.
“Scrappy Happiness” is a record that, tinted with nostalgia, points towards the shortness of our lives and the urgency that we dig in and connect with that which gives life meaning: love, friendship, experience and purpose. We piece together what good we can and call it happiness, blemishes and all.
This notion of “Scrappy Happiness” is one with which Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can certainly identify, as it is reflected in the character of so many in the province.
How else can one explain the way the descendants of marginalized and mistreated fishermen, trappers and hunters can be among the most congenial and generous people in the entire country?
Joel Plaskett Emergency is playing nine shows throughout Newfoundland and Labrador on a tour set up by the Arts and Culture Centres. A video crew from St. John’s-based HeavyWeather.ca is following the band on the tour, uploading daily videos.
While some may prefer to see the band in a club setting to leave them free to dance, theatre shows have benefits as well. From Plaskett’s perspective, they allow him to take time to tell stories and play softer, acoustic songs, which not only spare his voice, but also connect with the audience.
“Frankly, people will get up and start dancing anyway,” he said.
Playing solo mid-set also allows him to take requests for more obscure songs, adding an extra point of connection with long-time fans.
“Well, that’s what I’m there to do, is connect with people.”
Joel Plaskett Emergency plays Saturday at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre in Corner Brook and Sunday at the Stephenville Arts and Culture Centre.