This was the ofical website for the Canadian band, Jubilee Riots (formerly Enter The Haggis).
“We toured and recorded as Enter The Haggis for a long time but that name no longer represented the music that we’re making” says the band’s multi-instrumentalist, Craig Downie, who plays everything from trumpet to bagpipes. Over the years the band has meticulously crafted their sound, transforming their original Celtic-jam into something diverse and multifaceted; something uniquely their own. The name Jubilee Riots was chosen, paying homage to their hometown, Toronto.
Content is from the site's 2014 archived pages as well as from other outside sources.
“That’s what folk music is, music of the people. Whether we’re writing rock songs or whether we’re writing country songs, part of what keeps them in the vein of folk music is that it’s music about people.”
“We’re so grateful for the ones we rely on // who lean back upon us yet seem so strong.”
Nothing could be closer to the truth for Northern Roots Rock bandJubilee Riots: over the years the band has thrown themselves not only into the creation of their music, but into the connections forged with fans, the pre- and post-show conversations that have earned the band a die-hard fanbase. The band has always endeavoured to write songs that people can connect to personally, and their latest outing Penny Black takes that dedication a step further.
Inspired by years of touring, meeting people, and sharing stories over late night drinks at the bar, Jubilee Riots decided it was high time to dedicate an album to the fans: their joys and sorrows; the defining moments of their lives. The band put out the call for people around the world to submit their stories as inspiration for the upcoming album—the catch was, the stories had to be hand-written and snail-mailed. The response was massive: nearly nine hundred pages of letters came in from all four corners, from the band’s native Canada to locales as far-flung as Japan and Australia, each bearing the weight of one person’s story.
“There were all sorts of letters,” shares bass player Mark Abraham. “Some were dark and anonymous and difficult to read but many were funny or embarrassing – the kind of life events that happen to all of us.”
“It’s really humbling,” adds multi-instrumentalist and songwriterBrian Buchanan, “but it’s also amazing to remember that all of those anonymous faces in the crowd – every single one of them – has a battle that they’re fighting and their own secret histories. All it takes sometimes is being an ear for people to talk to.”
“There were a lot of common themes,” vocalist and songwriterTrevor Lewington mentions. “You start to see that not only does everyone have their own stories but there are some common themes that run through all of our lives, and sometimes those similarities can actually connect people who wouldn’t have guessed they had anything in common.”
Beyond the challenge of taking hundreds of pages of letters and turning them into an album of songs, the band had another vision: to create a collection of tracks that sparked off each other with raw energy, an album with such a pulse it would be impossible to just sit still and listen to it. It was this juxtaposition of upbeat party grooves with meaningful, human-hearted lyrics that became the focus of Penny Black.
In May of 2014, the band headed to a rustic studio in Portland, Maine, to record with producer Jonathan Wyman. Renting a cottage nearby afforded the band the opportunity to relax nightly and watch the hockey playoffs, sample local beer, and tweak arrangements around an old upright piano. “Man, that thing was out of tune,” laughs drummer Bruce McCarthy, “but I think sometimes a song needs that kind of character to come to life.”
After a month, the band had a set of ten new songs. Some drew specifically from submitted stories: “Astray” was based on a letter about a Russian Jew who escaped while on a death march thinking his family had been killed, only to find out fifty years later they had survived and lived full lives never knowing of his fate. Others drew on the common threads winding through the letters: meeting a significant other (“Cut the Lights”); challenging relationships (“Unsteady,” “Trying Times”); and the potential risk and reward of making bold life choices (“Two Bare Hands,” “Traveler”).
Making bold choices is something the band can relate to, as they decided to finance Penny Black—as they did their three albums previous—through crowdfunding, choosing once more to trust in and rely on the support of their fanbase. With nearly a thousand pledgers and a final amount of over 150% of the original goal pledged to the project, it’s clear that the fans are just as grateful for the music Jubilee Riots creates as the band is for having the chance to create it.
Under their former name, Enter The Haggis, the band released seven studio albums and toured internationally, landing high profile gigs on “Live with Regis and Kelly” and A&E’s “Breakfast with the Arts,” as well as being the feature of a concert/documentary onPBS. “We toured and recorded as Enter The Haggis for a long time, but that name no longer represents the music that we’re making,” says the band’s multi-instrumentalist, Craig Downie. With a new album and new name the band hopes to build on this legacy, and with the release of Penny Black they’ve got an extensive tour lined up through Canada, the US, and Europe. Check out the tour schedule and see if you can’t make it to a show: if there’s one thing to take away from this, after all, it’s that Jubilee Riots is more than just a band and their eclectic, eccentric music. They’re a group of people who want to bring a community together doing what they love most—and with the momentum from Penny Black, that community is only going to grow.
"Can’t stop us now // the song plays on!"
Cut the Lights · Jubilee Riots
RIOT REPORT BLOG POSTS 2014 & 2015
TREVOR'S THOUGHTS ON RECORDING PENNY BLACK
Since many of you contributed a letter to inspire the songs on our new album, Penny Black, I thought I'd walk you through how the whole process went down, from receiving the letters to writing the songs, to arranging them as a band, and finally recording them.
It was before we'd even recorded The Modest Revolution that I had the idea to write an album inspired by your letters and the guys got behind it pretty quickly. We loved the idea of involving you guys from the very start of a project and we knew you'd have some great stories to share.
Songwriting and Demoing:
In August of 2013 we opened the Pledge campaign and the letters started coming to the P.O. box we set up out in Maine, where our bass player, Mark, lives. He had the unenviable job of collecting the letters and scanning them so that he could share them with us online. We don't live near each other so we couldn't all get together at one person's house to look through the letters together and we knew if we'd asked Mark to bring them on tour they would have been eaten by the abyss that is our van. In the end there were over 500 pages from all over the world and many had photographs and drawings.
I was at home a fair bit around the time I started to read the letters and my wife and kids were at school so I had the place to myself to sing and strum and record little demos. I read through the letters at first without any thought to music, taking notes on them so I had a list of all of the letters and a few lines reminding me what they were about. I also made a list of categories such as love, death, birth, war, etc., as I noticed pretty early on that there were emerging themes. I highlighted the ones that I either really enjoyed or that I thought would make a good song. Oddly enough, not many of those highlighted ones made it to the album. When people have asked me about the song "One Last Drink" I tell them that it came together really quickly because it was such an amazing story, it basically wrote itself. I thought that all I needed was a great story and that a song would easily come together but after this project I'm no longer convinced of that. Most of the songs on the record were an amalgamation of a bunch of stories tied together by the themes listed earlier. Stories about finding someone we're passionate about and can't be without inspired "Cut the Lights", the first straight-ahead love song I've written (no shipwreck metaphors or death!); stories about setting off on one's own inspired "Two Bare Hands" and "Traveler"; stories about rocky relationships inspired "Unsteady"; stories of hardship inspired "Trying Times"; and stories about losing a loved one inspired "Lived a Life." If you wrote a story with any of these themes I know you'll hear a bit of your own voice in the lyrics. More of my own voice made it to the songs than I'd initially expected. I could relate to a lot of the stories so I inevitably ended up thinking about when similar things had happened to me or when I'd had the same emotions expressed in a story. There are five or six stories that inspired "Lived a Life" but I ended up using place names from my own travels (flying over Bogota, Columbia, for instance) instead of those in the letters as it just felt more honest and natural when I sang the words. That said, I never would have written that song and others without the stories so the letters were absolutely integral to the creative process.
There were six songs that I can say are definite attempts to convey a very specific story, although three of them will only appear on the compendium vinyl release called "Penny Red", which is still available on our Pledge Music website. I don't really know why it worked out that way. The final Penny Black track order was based on a band member vote. I'm glad that the three tunes that were fully recorded but won't be on Penny Black will still be available as I think they're strong. They just didn't seem to fit the overall vibe.
As for the inspiration behind the songs, "Astray" is based on a story sent to us by Julie Chamberlain, about a Russian Jew named George who survived the holocaust. He believed his family had not survived so he moved to the US only to find out about 50 years later that they had survived. He reconnected with his brother but his parents had passed away. A horrific story for sure, but it fit perfectly with a dark, lilting melody that I'd written and Brian did a fantastic job conveying the emotion on the lead vocals. We actually wrote and arranged this song before Brian arrived at the studio but as soon as he heard it he was keen to add his own touches and wound up playing fiddle, electric guitar, keyboards and singing the leads! "The President's Shoes" is about Mary Bertke’s grandparents who went on a tour of the White House, wandered away from the tour group and actually snuck a peak into Nixon's office. I took some serious creative license with the lyrics but I hope it does a good job conveying the playful spirit of the story. "Song Plays On" is another song about WW2. It's based on a story about an engineer sent in to assess the damage to buildings after the conflict. It was a depressing job but he would often sit down at a piano and play a tune if he found one. I think a lot of us use music to help us through dark times so that's really what the song is about. "Jefferson Drive" is about an amazing young woman named Emilie. She passed away but her mom sent us some stories about her spirit, joie de vivre and contributions to the world so we hope that this song is a fitting tribute. "Salvation" was based on another war story about a man from Nova Scotia who suffered from serious mental issues after the war. He was found some time later living on the streets of New York and taken home to Nova Scotia by the Salvation Army where he was able to start again. "Rosalie" was a song that Brian wrote based on a story about two people who were in love but both were in serious relationships.
There were many other stories that were the seed of inspiration for a song but never matured into something complete. There's also a bunch of songs that I demoed for the guys that never went any further than that. Of those original simple acoustic guitar and vocal demos, we turned about 18 of them into full band demos in Bruce's basement over the course of a week or so. I particularly liked a song called "Colorado" that was based on a very cool story from Jason Flay about being invited to take part in a Ute reburial ceremony. We arranged the song and did a full band demo but it wasn't selected to be recorded in the studio for a variety of reasons. One reason was that it had a similar vibe to our song, "Perfect Song", and we don't like repeating ourselves. These were by far the most high-quality full band demos that we've ever done. We recorded the band demos for The Modest Revolution with a little video recorder whereas we recorded the Penny Black demos in Bruce's basement studio with quality mics and pre-amps, all multi-tracked and mixed. They are far from the quality of the final album recording but they still sound pretty good. Some of the songs ended up changing quite drastically from this demo stage to the final studio version. "The President's Shoes" was demoed as a very (too) Paul Simon "Graceland"-era approach with a bouncy African-inspired drum groove and joyful tin whistle. There was some interest in the song but we knew we couldn't record it like that and had no idea how to change it. After we'd recorded all of the songs that we had totally ready to go in the studio we took a day to look at some of the songs that deserved a final attempt. This song was chosen as one of those so we jammed on it for a bit, trying to take it away from the initial arrangement. One of the first things that did that was a modulation to the minor four chord in the pre-chorus, which made it instantly darker. Brian then set up a delay on his electric guitar and came up with a line that became a signature part of the song and is reminiscent of something that Radiohead might do. Bruce and Mark also stepped up with the most funky, driving bass and drum groove I've ever heard them do. Within a few hours the song was in a totally different place and we very much preferred the aesthetic. It really became complete during the last day in the studio when Craig added some high, delayed shots on the trumpet and Brian added some synth pads and messed with the sound of my voice on one particular repeated line through the song: "move, move, move..."
by Jubilee Riots
0:00 / 03:36
1 TRYING TIMES 03:36
2 TWO BARE HANDS 03:14
3 THE PRESIDENT'S SHOES 03:53
4 UNSTEADY 03:42
5 PORCH LIGHT 00:22
6 TRAVELER 04:20
7 CUT THE LIGHTS 04:28
8 ASTRAY 03:32
9 LIVED A LIFE 03:32
10 RAPTURE 05:08
11 SONG PLAYS ON 05:17
We've got a brand new t-shirt in our Riot Gear store. We've also put some of our older stuff on sale, so follow the link above to check it out. :)
We've been enjoying some time off, but we're looking forward to our return to the Mauch Chunk Opera House in Jim Thorpe, PA on June 13th! Everybody bring an extra pair of shoes. You know, for dancing.. and stuff.
Check out all the upcoming dates on the TOUR PAGE. See you soon!
|Fri, Oct 9 @ 8:00 PM||
JUBILEE RIOTS @ THE WESTCOTT THEATER IN SYRACUSE, NY
The Westcott Theater, Syracuse, NY
|Sat, Oct 10 @ 8:00 PM||
JUBILEE RIOTS @ TOWNE CRIER IN BEACON, NY
Towne Crier, Beacon, NY
|Thu, Nov 5 @ 8:00 PM||
JUBILEE RIOTS @ FLOUR CITY STATION IN ROCHESTER, NY
Flour City Station, Rochester, NY
|Fri, Nov 6 @ 8:00 PM||
JUBILEE RIOTS @ PUTNAM DEN IN SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY
Putnam Den, Saratoga Springs, NY
|Fri, Nov 13 @ 8:00 PM||
JUBILEE RIOTS @ INFINITY HALL IN NORFOLK, CT
Infinity Hall, Norfolk, CT
|Sat, Nov 14 @ 8:00 PM||
JUBILEE RIOTS @ HIGHER GROUND IN SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT
Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT
|Fri, Nov 20 @ 8:00 PM||
JUBILEE RIOTS @ THE STRAND THEATRE IN ROCKLAND, ME
The Strand Theatre, Rockland, ME
|Sat, Nov 21 @ 8:00 PM||
JUBILEE RIOTS @ STONE MOUNTAIN ARTS CENTER IN BROWNFIELD, ME
Stone Mountain Arts Center, Brownfield, ME
|Fri, Nov 27 @ 8:00 PM||
JUBILEE RIOTS @ WORLD CAFE - THE QUEEN IN WILMINGTON, DE
World Cafe - The Queen, Wilmington, DE
COME PARTY IN IRELAND WITH US
There's still time to jump on board our trip to Ireland in April! We're visiting the North for the very first time, and it's going to be a beautiful and inspiring week. Find out more here: http://www.jubileeriots.com/ireland2015
CHECK OUT THE NEW VIDEO FOR "RAPTURE"
Shot and edited by our buddy Matt Connell from Northwood Records.
PENNY BLACK IS NOW AVAILABLE!
Our new album Penny Black is now available worldwide! Check out THIS PAGE for links to get your hands on a copy. :)
We'd love it if you'd take a second to join your friends and fellow Rioteers in reviewing the album on iTunes and Amazon - you're our best publicists and your opinion matters a lot! Thanks for all the support and kind words.
PS. My use of "Rioteers" does not constitute an official endorsement of the moniker. Jury's still out on that one...
WESTCOTT THEATRE, 10/11/14
PHOTOS BY ZACH MCNEES