ALBUM TIME CAPSULE

Everything on our site is a reflection of who we are
at this moment in time.
Below details the history of how we got to
where we are right now.


Birds
and Fear

May 29, 2010

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Our first album. We recorded this with our pal Jay Halliwell at his home studio in Stillwater Lake, Nova Scotia. Two of the songs — More and Slag Heaps — were done by me (Mike) and Jason Wareham as our Christmas project while we were at NSCC for Recording Arts.

As we were recording this, we weren’t 100% sure of what the lineup of our band would be. We had never actually planned to be a duo. There was no predetermined decision to play as just the two of us, it kind of just happened. We auctioned a number of bass players that for whatever reason didn’t work out. After one particular audition didn’t pan out, we decided to just move ahead as the two of us. We had already been practicing the songs as the two of us for multiple years so we understood each other’s tendencies in every possible way.

Once we made the decision, we had to figure out how to do it. We had to somehow sound like a full band with only two people on stage. I had an idea/theory about using two different amps and splitting the signal to different pedals. I bought the necessary gear and low and behold, it worked like a dream. Bruce started to play like a possessed man, beating the hell out of the skins of his drums. Because of my shoulder and arm issues mentioned in our bio, I could only play in open tunings. This coincidentally worked in our favour. With the chord formations I had to do in those tunings, everything sounded more full.

Having only drums, guitar and vocals to rely on essentially changed the way we wrote our songs. Rhythmically, we tried to sync up the kick and snare with the strumming pattern on guitar. Our songs were usually short and typically had our hook in the vocal melody. There were definitely a lot of challenges that came with this. If either of us messed up there was nothing to hide behind. We had to make sure we were on top of our game. Luckily, we’d been playing together for so long that we developed all the same habits. We knew where each other was going and what to expect.


When we started to play shows, the biggest thing people would say is that we sounded like there was a lot more than 2 people on stage. That was a huge compliment. Our bio at the time stated:


“Although minimalist in terms of numbers, their sound is anything but that. Self-described as “The most noise two Cape Bretoners can make”, that noise is a cascade of passion, urgency and belief in their songs…”


The most noise two Cape Bretoners can make kind of inadvertently became our tagline. That was the line that every announcer seemed to gravitate towards. We definitely knew a few rowdy Capers who could make a hell of a lot more noise than us when on the rum, but we rolled with it nonetheless.

Here’s a few quotes from back then:

Crafting hooky, classic indie rock songs with a huge sound that belies their minimalistic set-up.
— Stephanie Johns, The Coast
The band may be small in terms of numbers with only two members, but Halifax rockers The Town Heroes are mighty in sound
— Ken Kelly, Times and Transcript
Halifax’s The Town Heroes sound like a mix between Pinkerton-era Weezer and The Weakerthans. While that might not be the best description from a purely musical standpoint, I think it’s spot-on when taking into account their earnest vocal delivery, dynamic ranges, big-yet-understated choruses and (at first glance) haphazardly places falsettos. Plus, bonus points for guitars made out of duct tape.
— Nash Bussieres, Ride the Tempo Blog
 

The first music video we ever released was for Slag Heaps. We did it with our young pal, and soon to be frequent collaborator, Dillon Garland. Bruce tortures the hell out of Mike in a small, colourful room. People asked us where we got all the weapons. They assumed we must have went on an epic quest to assemble such an arsenal. In fact, my cousin Liam just happened to have every single one of them lying around his house.

We put out Birds and Fear on May 29th, 2010. It felt good to finally have our songs out into the world; to have a representation of who we were and what we believed in at that point in time. Lyrically, the album had a lot of themes about our home in Cape Breton. Since we don’t live there at the moment, our bio doesn’t say we’re a Cape Breton band anymore. But we are. Everything about that island is our home. Everything we know about life, music, and the world in general comes from our upbringing on that small island on the northern tip of Nova Scotia surrounded by the brooding Atlantic Ocean. We’ve always found inspiration and pride in our island. Our songs are about the longing to be home when we’re away, the joy and camaraderie experienced when we’re there, and the socioeconomic struggles of our fleeting population. Deep down at the root of our songs it’s there. Always.

The album ended up taking us to Germany, the U.K., Finland and across Canada. We were the Nova Scotia Regional winners for the National Radio Star Song Writing competition, had Slag Heaps during the World Hockey Championships in Finland, won “Best New Artist” in Halifax’s The Coast, and met a lot of amazing people along the way.

Here’s our first ever press shots!

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SUNDAY MOVIES
OCTOBER 5, 2013

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Our sophomore record, Sunday Movies, came out 2 years after Birds and Fear. I think this interview we did with Dave Lidstone at Guff Magazine a few days before our album release sums up a lot about the album (and that period of time).

1. Where and when did you do the tracking/recording/mixing for Sunday Movies? how was this process different from your debut?

We tracked the drums at the Sonic Temple, I did the guitar and vocals in bedrooms wherever I happened to sleep at the time, and we went back to mix at the Temple. During the tracking of our first record, we weren't even sure of the instrumentation in our band, we were potentially going to have a few other musicians play with us. With that in mind, we recorded some of the album expecting to have a bass player. With the new album, it's just the two of us, guitar and drums... a few dinky little key parts here and there, but I think it captures our live sound a lot better than our first record. We wanted it to represent who we are and keep it pretty bare bones. It has a raw sound to it and that’s what we were going for.

2. Why name the album Sunday Movies?

The lyrics of the songs I write are usually pretty personal and about things that are happening in my life at the present moment. Whether it be something I've felt, something I saw, or something I've experienced. At the same time, although personal, I want them to have a grander meaning where the listener can relate to the songs in their own way and find some kind of universal meaning in them. I've always viewed Sunday as a day to look back and reflect on the last little while in my life, and the songs on this album are essentially that - a compilation of different stories in my life that I wrote upon looking back. Ultimately, I guess the 11 songs are 11 stories... 11 movies that I hope people can find some kind of meaning in.

3. What are a couple of your favourite Sunday movies?

Weekend at Bernies

4. Favourite soundtracks?

Forrest Gump and its Classic Rock tunes is hard to beat, Empire Records, Donnie Darko, Garden State are a few.

5. The new single, "New York City", can you tell me a bit about the song (lyrics, theme, thought process etc)?

We played a show once a few years back on a weekday. We were playing for the door, and a pitcher of beer. There was hardly anyone at the show and the bar was dead. It was kind of a demoralizing show in a sense. Afterwards a guy in a suit came up to us and said he was a booking agent from New York. He told us that there was room for us in the New York music scene. Here we were playing to a dead bar in Halifax and he was saying that we could make it work in the greatest city on earth. I guess the song is about that story, intertwined with the theme of no matter who you are or what you do or like, in a city like New York, there’s a place, there’s the people, there’s room for you.

6. How long did it take to shoot the video? Where'd you get the idea (aside from the title of the song)?

We basically went down to New York, had fun and shot us doing it. We have enough footage to probably make about ten other videos with it. We just wanted to capture how awesome a place it is. I was there once before that trip and it’s just such an inspiring place, you can’t help but walk around with a big grin on your face. In New York, everything feels like a movie… and no matter what you do or who you are… you’re the star of it.

7. How the hell was Germany?

Amazing! We played two shows…one was even on a boat. Hamburg has to be the craziest city on the planet. It’s nothing but bars, strip-clubs, music and 100,00 drunk people staggering around like zombies. The street is lined with riot police with machine guns and I even saw an old German war tank prowling around looking for a couple innocent Canadians to run over. Fun fact- Hamburg has the most hookers of any city in the world! If you said you walked down the Reeperbahn and didn’t get attacked by a swarm of hookers, you’re a liar. They’re impossible to escape. They stole my hat and ran into a dark alley… it was my favourite hat so I had to chase them down and argue with them to give it back. It’s a wild place. Hard country to find peanut butter in, too.

8. How'd you get hooked up with that trip? How many shows? Where were they?

We played the Reeperbahn Festival two years ago and played a number of Canada Blast showcases in the past. We weren’t on the original lineup but a band dropped out and they asked us if we’d be up for it. It was a last minute thing but we more than happy to jump on board.

9. Can you give me some examples of the differences (cultural or otherwise) between Canadian and German music scenes?

Like I mentioned earlier, hard to find peanut butter, more blonde people, lots of schnitzel. That’s about it.

10. Can you share a funny or peculiar story from your trip?

We’ve got a pile of hooker stories I could share… and by ‘hooker stories’ I mean escaping from them. But who wants to hear that, right? A guy in a packed bar heard us talking and yelled over the music in a thick German brogue, “Do you know where Sheet Harbour is?” His parents had a house there. We thought that was pretty funny.

12. How pumped are you for this Saturday?

On a scale of 1-10, about 32. Also… I think you skipped 11.

13. What are you expecting?

I get to listen to two of my favourite bands, then get to play in front of a whole pile of my friends. That’s pretty cool. I also hope that someone shows up with a Lion... that would make my night.

14. What can fans expect?

Three bands who give it their all on stage, sweat a lot and love what they do. We’ve got our new CD on hand, new merch and I’ll probably play the show with my infamous Celine Dion t-shirt. The last guy who won dancing with the stars, NFL superstar Donald Driver, really liked it and I had to fake and pretend I was actually a fan of hers.

15. What comes next for the Heroes?

We play the Pop Explosions on October 26th – a free outdoor stage at Grande Parade, Nova Scotia Music week in early November, then after that we head out for a cross Canada tour. It’ll be our first time west of Windsor, Ontario, first time seeing the Rockies, the Prairies, and the west coast. And we get to do it with our good pals, The Stanfields. Should be pretty tame.

16. You guys have been one of the hardest working bands on the east coast for a while now...any advice for bands just starting out like you guys were a couple years ago? Where should they go, who should they talk to, how should they approach their music etc..

I guess it all depends on what the band is trying to accomplish. If they’re actually looking to make a go at it, make a career out of it and not have to work a “real” job, then you have to put in more work then you could ever imagine. It’s not a 40 hour week, it’s every hour of every day. Whether it’s rehearsing, writing, doing grant applications, postering, learning pro-tools, calling venues, meeting with industry people, etc… the list goes on and on, and every time you think you’re doing enough, there’s probably something else you can do. That and learn to live of peanut butter and jam sandwiches, no sleep and optimism… I s’pose. There’s probably a million different ways you can approach the music industry, but by just working hard, being honest, and honing your craft, that’s a pretty good start. Talk to people you respect, ask a local songwriter you like about their writing process, set up a meeting with Music Nova Scotia and ask them a billion questions, sit in on studio sessions, take lessons, ask for advice, read books, live your life, let things happen and most of all, don’t be an asshole. No matter how good you are, if you’re a prick, you’re not going anywhere.

17. You were in Finland a few months back, can you compare that trip to the one you just returned from?

The Finland trip was a tour of the whole country. We got up every day, took a train to a place we never heard of, saw a new amazing city, played a show to a bunch of cool, attractive Finnish people, drank beer with them, stumbled to our hotel and repeated it every day for two weeks straight. The Germany trip was more of a festival which was in one city in one area. Both were amazing in their own ways.

18. Is it hard being a hero?!

I wouldn’t even come close to considering myself a hero of any sorts. Hopefully we can inspire a few people to play music, or just follow their dreams in general, but we’re far from Heroes.

Lightning Round!

white stripes or black keys?

White Stripes just because I met Jack White on the street in Nashville and he seemed like a pretty cool cat. I gave him a copy of our first album and he was genuinely appreciative of it.

keaton or kilmer (batman)?
Ben Affleck

gretzky or crosby?
Crosby all the way. Local boy done good, and who can resist that smile?

koho or cooper (hockey equipment)?
All I ever got was hand me down gear, but I loved myself a new Koho Stick every year!

seahorse or horseshoe?
Seahorse for sure. Some of my favorite shows ever have been there.

whiskey or rum?
Nothing good has ever happened with rum, so, whisky by default.

keiths or olands?
Horsepower

bugs bunny or mickey mouse?
Is it alright to hate them both?

The Hip or The Trews?
Hip, greatest Canadian band of all time. Nothing against The Trews, but I run into them about twice a year and they never remember who I am. So…

stones or beatles?
In a ball hockey game I’d take the Stones: Mick and Keith with their cockroach skin have to be tough as nails and would definitely out grind the Fab Four.

sunrise or sunset?
Sunset. I’m from Inverness, Cape Breton. The sun sets on the water there and I’ve never seen a nicer sunset than one on the west side of the island. It’s a magical thing.

crib or checkers?
Crib. Like every other Cape Breton boy, my parents taught me how to play crib, jig smelts and drink rum when I turned 3.

fishin or trollin?!
It’s tough to beat a day on the river fishing illegally without a license and using a bamboo pole from the 30’s that my grandfather game me when I was a kid. I once caught an eel with that rod and was supposed to win a fishing contest with it because it was the biggest catch of the day. I was so excited because first prize was a T.V., and this was back in the day before the internet when T.V. was cool. But they rigged the contest so the daughter of the guy running it won. I got a smoke detector. Needless to say, the hours of fun for a 7 year old boy with a smoke detector shaped who I am today.


When the album came out, we did a month long release tour across the country in a “Canadream” RV with our friends The Stanfields. 8 of us crammed into the RV and bolted west towards the Pacific. It was myself and Bruce’s first time west of Ontario, our first time seeing the Rockies and any other ocean other than the Atlantic. It was an amazing experience. I don’t think we ever laughed and had more fun than we did on that tour. We saw so much, met so many people, experienced new places, and got our music into the hands of new fans.

We did music videos for: 
 


We ended up winning 5 Music Nova Scotia Awards and 5 East Coast Music Awards for Sunday Movies. It was pretty surreal. A few years earlier, I didn’t know if I’d ever play guitar again. Here’s what we looked like way back in the crazy year of 2013:

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Please, Everyone
November 6, 2015

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Our third album. After winning a few awards, getting a tad bit of radio play and getting to travel to a number of countries, we were pretty excited to see where our next album would take us. We tried to play on The Titanic 2 with our last album but didn’t make the cut. Maybe Please, Everyone was what we needed to literally get on board. 

The tracking of Please, Everyone happened during the WORST WINTER OF ALL TIME. The entire city was covered in 2 feet of ice. It seemed to storm worse than it ever had every second day. It would snow profusely, warm up and melt, turn to freezing rain, then have a flash freeze. Sidewalks were completely impassable. Roads were treacherous. Every day getting to the studio was an adventure comparable to a couple hobbits trekking through the savage depths of Mordor. 

On the first day of tracking, after we set up, got our sounds, and were ready to try our damnedest to make some semblance of musical magic, we realized we were surrounded by a chorus of perpetual jackhammers. Three different construction sites started demolition on the day we started tracking. Jackhammers pounded away at concrete and bedrock, no baffles or insulation capable of keeping the sound out. We changed our entire schedule to work opposite the 7am-7pm destruction happening around us. After that, everything kinda went to shit. Our drum tech had to leave an hour in when his wife went into labour. Everyone got sick at different points. There were car accidents, injuries, food poisoning, etc… Somehow in there, between the ice, throwing up, lost voices, and demolition, we made an album — the best album we made yet.

Here’s a studio video of “Baton Rouge” that shows some of the recording process:  


The album itself was a bit of a concept album. Here’s some writeup that existed somewhere at some point:

Thematically, this album exists on a multitude of levels. It points out a number of things that some may consider are wrong with society in the modern age. The title track, “Please, Everyone”  is meant to be taken 2 ways: The first being, listen up, as in  – “listen, everyone” and then goes on to point out problems with society and the world we live in. It’s highlighting that people need to wake up and become aware of what’s around them, and happening around them. People in the modern world have become slaves to technology, to trends, to the media. It’s as if they’re all trying to mold us into the ideal beings. This is essentially a wakeup call for people to become aware of what’s happening in the present.  The second being that no matter what, we can never actually please everyone. As much as the world tries to force you to be something, being yourself is the only thing that matters. 


There are a number of ideas tied in with George Orwell’s novel 1984. In the novel, the government, the Inner Party, tries to force people into being a certain way. They want them to dress a certain way, act a certain way, believe what they tell you, etc... “Thought Police” is a direct reference to this.  It highlights that we can’t let others – whether it be the government, society, or just other people – ever change who you are.  “Outer Space” reiterates this. No matter what happens, no matter how bad things potentially get, don’t let it get you down. “Don’t let them get inside your head, the moment that you do the feeling’s dead” is a line from the song which emphasizes this. 


In the novel, and from the perspective of the album, the people in charge, the world and society are trying to mould us into something they want, a “Model Being”. They’re trying to make us all the same. The album points out all these issues, and while it overall has these themes throughout, the main thing to be taken away from it is that no matter what, we can get through it all. The final two songs on the album show this. No matter what, there’s always hope, and that can get you through anything. It also emphasizes that together, through strength in numbers, through unity and belief, we can accomplish anything. We can be who we’re supposed to be, we don’t have to conform to what it is they want from us. 


Pretty deep stuff, wha?

Anyway, we did a little cross country tour, won Music Nova Scotia’s “Group Recording of the Year”, and do what most bands do with the release of their third album — interviewed Jose Canseco.   

Here’s a few more videos from the album: 

 

Album Credits:

Producer - Jon Landry
Engineer/Mix - Darren Van Niekerk
Additional Engineering - Jason Jenkyns, Jon Landry, Mike Ryan, Jamie Foulds
Mastering - J.Lapointe @ Archive Mastering
Artwork & Layout - Calum Ryan, Julia Ryan
Recorded at Codapop Studios, The Sonic Temple, The Dojo, Mike’s house.
Executive Producer – Ian McKinnon

Mike Ryan - Vocals, Guitars, Keys
Bruce Gillis - Drums, Percussion

with

Jon Landry - Shitty Harp, Omnichord, Lap Steel, Keys, Guitars, backing vocals
Rachel Sunter - Vocals on “If you Wanna"
Albert Lionais – Trumpet
Andrew MacLeod - Backing vocals on “Guts for Days”
Ian McKinnon - Percussion
Jason Wright - Backing vocals, percussion
Joyful Sounds Youth Choir - Backing vocals on “Outer Space”, “Hope”
Quinpool Mass Chorale - Backing vocals on “Hope”, “Baton Rouge”

Look at these guys! 

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Closer
April 26, 2016

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Closer is a simple, 5 song acoustic EP. We wanted to put out some acoustic versions of songs from our previous albums. “Hercules” was originally only available as a bonus track if you purchased a vinyl of Please, Everyone. It was getting such a good response, we wanted to make it available in the digital realm so we included it on this. I personally think it’s probably lyrically the best song I’ve ever written. We get messages from guys who work out west saying it made them cry. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but it’s something!