ROCKPORT - A Toronto band is using the Thousand Islands as a backdrop for its fourth album, recording in some of the region's most recognizable and historic landmarks including Dark Island’s Singer Castle and St. Brendan’s Church.
Photo credit: Kim Lunman, © The Recorder and Times
Guest singer Serena Ryder, center, Erik Arnesen, left and Tony Dekker, right, of the Toronto folk rock group The Great Lake Swimmers are using the Thousand Islands as a backdrop for the recording of their fourth album. They were recording at Rockport's historic St. Brendan's Church and also recorded at Singer Castle on Dark Island and the Brockville Arts Centre.
Members of Great Lake Swimmers, whose folk rock music has drawn critical acclaim and comparisons to Neil Young, recently recorded at the Rockport church after spending several weeks in the area. They also used the Brockville Arts Centre to record songs for their next release.
“I thought it would make an excellent backdrop to our music,” said the band’s lead singer and songwriter, Tony Dekker in an interview before recording inside Rockport’s white chapel perched on a rocky bluff overlooking the St. Lawrence River. “The more I’m here, the more I want to stay longer,” he said.
The band, which has previously recorded music in another church and a concrete grain silo, decided to record its fourth album in the Thousand Islands after they heard about the area through Thousand Islands photographer and author Ian Coristine.
The band spent a day recording in the century-old castle, which has become a popular tourism attraction since it was opened to the public for tours five years ago. The 28-room castle was built by Frederick Bourne, the fifth president of the Singer Sewing Machine Company as a hunting lodge.
The band also took advantage of the acoustics at the Brockville Arts Centre to record music there as well. “It’s a really beautiful old theatre that I didn’t even know about,” said Dekker. “I’d love to come back and do a concert there.”
The native of Wainfleet Ontario, near Lake Erie, said the band wanted to record the album in a setting reflective of the group’s name as well as the spirit of its folk rock music.
“I grew up along the Great Lakes,” said Dekker. “I like that through music you can tell the story of the place where you’re from.”
The band took advantage of the tranquil setting in the Thousand Islands to finish recording music for its fourth album, parts of which they also recorded in a Toronto studio. The album is to be released next spring.
Great Lake Swimmers is getting rave reviews from the New York Times and being dubbed “ambient zen Americana” by Mojo Magazine. Its last album is called Ongiara.
And the premiere of the Great Lake Swimmers HD Concert Special, which was filmed last year in Toronto, will be screened at select Cineplex Odeon Theaters in Canada on Nov. 5.
The band wrapped up recording sessions here before going back on tour this week for upcoming concerts in New York City, Brooklyn, Toronto and Montreal.
The region provided an inspiring setting, said Erik Arnesen, who plays banjo and guitar for the group. “It’s really a great opportunity to use these spaces and make people aware of the area,” he said.
The Great Lake Swimmers were also joined by a guest vocalist, Serena Ryder for the Rockport recording. Ryder won the 2008 Juno Award for New Artist of the Year. Along with other bands, including 54-40 and Cheap Trick, the Toronto singer songwriter opened for Aerosmith on their world tour in July 2007 in Prince Edward
Island. Bob Egan, of Blue Rodeo, has also recorded with the Great Lake Swimmers, playing pedal steel guitar and mandolin.
Brockville Arts Centre administrator Peter Dunn said the city's historic theatre is known for its acoustics and markets itself to performers across North America also as a recording and rehearsal venue.
"The arts centre is known for its outstanding acoustics," he said in an interview. "Blue Rodeo said it was one of the best sounding buildings they've played in Canada." It's a feature that has helped attract big acts here, including the Tragically Hip and Harry Connick Jr., who performed at the arts centre in 2004.
Kim Lunman KimLunman@ThousandIslandsLife.com
Kim Lunman is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, The National Post, Reader's Digest, The Calgary Herald and other newspapers. She has returned to her hometown of Brockville, "City of the 1000 Islands," where she is a staff writer and photographer for the Recorder and Times. Kim has supplied several stories for this month’s edition of TI Life.