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The Sadies display their "favourite colours"

By Dan MacIntosh, November 2004

Dallas Good, the lead singing half of the two brothers in The Sadies, is driving through Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, a place he terms a "thriving metropolis,' during a phone interview.

At the same time he travels, he's doing his best to describe the nearly indescribable music his band makes. And while it's highly debatable that Halifax is anything close to a thriving metropolis, there's absolutely no debating the high quality of The Sadies' music. It's a hybrid mixing country and western with surf rock and a spaghetti western soundtrack vibe, to create something completely wholly new and unique.

Dallas and his guitarist brother Travis dress in the authentic western wear they inherited from their musician father whenever their band plays live. And like their dad, they reveal a deep love for authentic country music in song. They call their new album "Favourite Colours," (Yep Roc) which is appropriate, since the music on it is quite visual.

"Well, I think certain styles of music can certainly conjure up that sort of symbolism," Dallas says of these colorful sounds. "Not as a blanket statement, but certainly in some situations I think it's applicable. It (the title) is representative of where the band is at right now, I suppose."

Although the group (also including Sean Dean is on bass and Mike Belitsky drums) can easily sound like the coolest psychedelic or surf band on the planet any old day of the week, country music will always literally be in its blood.

"I've always been a big fan of bluegrass," Dallas explains. "My father's band performed primarily bluegrass since I was a kid, so I've always been a big fan. I've always been a big fan of early Johnny Cash. Aside from that, basically, country and western can be broken down into two categories - and this is a fact, by the way. I'm not mincing words here. It's either good or bad. And I only like the good stuff."

It's easy for Dallas to rifle off his favorite "good stuff" artists from the past, but it's far more difficult for him to pick out similar modern day examples that also turn him on.

"I've always been a big fan of the storytelling tradition. And I feel that's something that was mainly being done by the older artists, I suppose. Some of the younger artists, I guess, are trying in that vein. But to me, it seems more graphic than artistic."

One such pioneering artist - and one that is also clearly saluted on this newest album - is Clarence White, a guitarist with The Byrds during one of its latter incarnations. The tricky and fast picking of the instrumental "Northumberland West" is a fitting re-creation of his awe-inspiring playing style.

"Clarence White was a genuine innovator, who was one of the best musicians of our time," Dallas states frankly. "Unquestionably. He's really underrated in The Byrds camp, and that's really the only reason we cited him as a reference. People have often compared us to The Byrds over the years. And I have always felt that it hasn't been done so much for the right reasons, and maybe now with this one, we're kind of making it crystal clear that we're not trying to recreate 'Sweethearts of the Rodeo.' That's for sure. We never have and never would."

Just like a lot of other fine bands over the ages, these Sadies have adopted a little of this and borrowed a little of that to create something all their own.

"We're not into emulating anything," explains Dallas, whose father Bruce is in the bluegrass/country band The Good Brothers. "But there's no question that some things were mastered by certain people, and that becomes a trademark. A trademark, which I feel we've sort of created...We certainly have a stamp. And we're happy with that, even if it's a completely vague stamp."

Country music is definitely a large part of what The Sadies is about, but the track "Why Would Anybody Live Here" shows a completely different side of group. On it, the band collaborated with Robyn Hitchcock, a modern day psychedelic and also one wonderfully strange bird.

"Robyn has become a really good friend of ours," Dallas recounts. "We just got back from the UK, and he did a show with us in London. He's great. We met at a folk festival in Calgary, where I approached him about doing some (former Pink Floyd member) Syd Barrett songs, and he agreed. And from there, we've been playing ever since. He came to our next show in Winnipeg, and we did an entire set of Dylan, The Byrds and Pink Floyd type stuff. We plan to do a lot more work together."

Collaboration is nothing new for this outfit. In fact, fellow Canadian Neko Case's upcoming live album features The Sadies as her backing band.

"We've worked with her off and on for nearly six years," says Dallas. "I play on all of her records, I think."

The Sadies released three albums of their own for Bloodshot starting in 1998 before switching to Yep Roc in 2002. They also did albums with soulster Andre Williams and Jon Langford.

What sets The Sadies' music apart from all the rest is that, even when the group does not put lyrics to its songs, it still creates non-verbal stories for the mind. It's surprising, then, that the group isn't more involved in the film scoring end of the entertainment business - especially since it's skills are so perfectly suited for it.

"We would love more opportunities to do more scoring for films because it's a medium we feel very comfortable in," Dallas enthuses. "Certainly, it would be a goal to make people think, to make people feel something. And if you can do that without words, then you're better off than a lot of people who are trying to scream the story over and over."

And to add an exclamation mark to that statement, Dallas ends the conversation with: ""Calling all directors!" There's your headline."