An indie powerhouse in bloom Calgary band debuts new album in collaboration with famed Canadian sound engineers

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By: Anisha Rajkumar

In late June, a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Ivy” by Raleigh made its way onto Indie88’s list of the best new indie tracks. Raleigh found themselves in the good company of the National, Arcade Fire and St. Vincent.

This was not the last time they would find themselves amongst indie heavyweights. Raleigh’s latest album Powerhouse Bloom was produced after attending at art residency curated by members of Broken Social Scene, and the sound engineers behind Stars, Alabama Shakes and the Tragically Hip.

Brock Geiger, Clea Anaïs, Will Maclellan and Matt Doherty have truly created a genre-defying album. Each song from the new album contains various elements of jazz, folk, pop and psychedelic rock.

The band began almost a decade ago with Geiger (singer/songwriter/guitarist), and Anaïs, (singer/songwriter/cellist) as a duo playing at an experimental art festival in Calgary called the High Performance Rodeo.

They performed under the pseudo-name, Raleigh, as the name was open and gave the project room to experiment and grow.

“We a really liked the way [Raleigh] sounded, and that it didn’t pigeon-hole us or have anything to do with our sound” said Geiger.

The group’s drummer Doherty, joined shortly after. He was intrigued by the way Geiger and Anaïs were playing in unusual time signatures and how they were very open to experimenting musically. As a jazz trained artist, he was able to add even more strange rhythmic elements.

Geiger and Maclellan are old friends who have been playing in bands together since high school. Maclellan (bass/engineering) recently started re-working with Geiger after attending university.

Raleigh had the opportunity to attend an artist residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in Alberta, where they were able to develop their latest project.

“The residency was a couple weeks. [We were] fully open to the process of reworking and reimagining… and taking these influences and opportunities to work with all these people… to rediscover what we wanted to get out of a new record,” said Geiger.   

“It was a long process of evolving but once we got those two weeks, we had a really clear picture of the songs and… sonic direction things were taking. It all really made sense from there, there wasn’t a lot of second guessing.”

Broken Social Scene members Brendan Canning, Charles Spearin and Kevin Drew curated this residency. Raleigh was also able to work with engineering experts: Nyles Spencer (the Tragically Hip), Graham Lessard (Stars) and Shawn Everett (Alabama Shakes).

“We all know their music so well, you know? It was some of the first cool indie rock stuff that some of us were listening to… we looked up to them but I think they also didn’t look down on us.”

While creating the album, Brock recalls being floored by Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s new record at the time, Multi-Love.

“The willingness to use strange sounds and present them in a palatable, catchy… inviting way. That was really intriguing to me,” explained Brock.

A lot of of hip-hop and minimalist underground dance music also influenced the project.

“A song like ‘Just Kids’, the first one on this record, is pretty much a straight-up hip-hop track if you remove all the… swirly ambience, the cello and the guitars.”

The group’s dynamic also illustrates a collaborative core.

“Clea actually wrote that bass line [on ‘Just Kids’], we all kind of jump around and when someone’s got an idea on another instrument, people are willing to get out of the way and let someone come up with what’s good,” said Brock.

One of Geiger’s favourite songs from the album is “We Met in Alcatraz”.

“That song was recorded in one day… I just like the energy that tune has and… I think that tune also kind of encapsulates what we were hoping the mood of the record would be, and ‘powerhouse bloom’ is actually a lyric from one of the verses in that song as well.”

Raleigh is a band on the rise. Even in the midst of their Canadian tour and latest release, the band promises new music in the near future.

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