No Sinner is back with the follow-up to 2014’s critically acclaimed album, Boo Hoo Hoo.
The Vancouver-based retro rock outfit released their sophomore album, Old Habits Die Hard, earlier this week. National Rock Review caught up with lead vocalist Colleen Rennison of No Sinner on the eve of the album release to talk about their latest offering and the pressures of following up after the success of their debut album Boo Hoo Hoo.
NRR: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us here at National Rock Review, we really appreciate it. So you are about to release your new album Old Habits Die Hard via Provogue/Mascot Label Group. I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the album and the inspiration behind it?
Colleen: Yeah, well you know it was just kind of written over the course of about four or five years. I don’t know about the inspiration, there was definitely no sort of a nucleus or chemical reaction. I mean the chemical reaction I guess was all of us getting together.
Boo Hoo Hoo was pretty much written before we formed as a group and the album Old Habits Die Hard was written by a group of musicians you know together, I think that you can hear the difference. It’s just a reflection of our personal and certainly my personal life, the ups, and downs that your mid-twenties hold (laughing).
NRR: I read that this album, it almost broke up the band, is that right? It was originally supposed to be released shortly after Boo Hoo Hoo?
Colleen: Yeah well it was tough on everybody to have all this new music and then not be able to release it. It was just maybe time like Eric wanted to do his own thing and be a lead singer. They wanted to evolve as musicians and you know it was really difficult to do that within the band because of the nature of the way things got released. But that’s ok, I mean everything happens for a reason and I really am enjoying the new guys that we are playing with and I’m very proud of this album. I’m very happy with the way that it turned out.
We had most of the songs and stuff, but it wasn’t finished until last summer and there are definitely some newer songs on there like “Fading Away” and “When The Bell Rings”, “Get It Up” and “Tryin” are all songs that were, well I guess even to be mostly honest are a couple of years old now too. “Fading Away” is the most recent track on the album.
NRR: So the new lineup of the band, that got together at the end of last year, is that right?
Colleen: Yes. We got together last October.
NRR: How did you meet the new guys in the band?
Colleen: Just kind of more or less similarly that I met the other guys, like just through other musician friends, there’s a pretty well-connected web.
NRR: The sound on the album seems to have matured a little bit since the last album, it seems a bit rockier, a bit edgier. Was that a conscious decision or is it just a natural evolution of your sound?
Colleen: I kind of explained it when I answered your first question. It was because it was written by a full band, the reason why it sounds like its matured is because it did. It wasn’t just written on an acoustic guitar writing songs, it was the sound of an entire engine. I guess it’s the difference between a bicycle and a sports car (laughing) you get a lot more horsepower under your hood (laughing).
NRR: They always say the second album is the hardest for a band. After the success of Boo Hoo Hoo did you feel the pressure to follow up?
Colleen: For sure, I think that was also a big reason why things kind of got weird within the band. It didn’t become about having you know fun and just making music, it became about what do they want? Like you are questioning yourself and you are questioning your creativity and you know your self-expression and you are trying to give people what they want, it really isn’t very beneficial. I don’t think that it necessarily happens within the music, I don’t think that’s what was affected, I think it was you know all of those other things.
As soon as you subject yourself to judgement you know, and you put a price on your head, you start to sell yourself, you kind of feel this responsibility to be what people want and that doesn’t lend itself well to the creative process.
NRR: I believe that you recently recorded a new video for the song “All Woman” is that right?
Colleen: Yeah, I’m just waiting to see the finished product. I haven’t seen it yet.
NRR: So could you tell us a little bit about that song and maybe the concept behind the video?
Colleen: Yes, it’s basically me as a giant female like creature chasing my band around. It’s gonna be fun, I’m looking forward to seeing it (laughing).
NRR: What’s your favourite track on the album and why?
Colleen: That’s a hard question. I feel like “Hollow” is a song that can stand alone … I’m proud of it … We wrote it quite a long time ago Eric and I and yeah it was just kind of there, it wasn’t difficult to write but it’s taken on a new meaning for me. I think it’s a classic song, it feels really good to sing.
NRR: Where do you find the inspiration for your songwriting?
Colleen: Everywhere. On a Saturday night (laughing), Sunday morning, Monday morning, my friends. Usually, it’s pretty autobiographical, pretty personal.
NRR: I believe that you worked with Ben Kaplan on this album, he was the executive producer. He has worked with lots of different artists like Biffy Clyro, Rise Against and Shakira. What was it like working Ben and what did he bring to the process?
Colleen: Well like I said it was a long process, already before Ben even joined in we had been working on this album for three, four years by the time Ben started putting everything together. We had so many sessions from so many different studios and different engineers, it was just all in this big pile, waiting to get put together. We were just waiting for the money to finish it all off. We had done basically all of the tracks. So what Ben did was, we went in and I did some vocals and Ian re-did a couple of tracks, put some extra guitars on somethings. Mostly the album was pretty much done by the time Ben Kaplan got it.
“When The Bell Rings” and “Fading Away” were both songs that we recorded with Ben, but they had been written before him. But yeah, everything else was all pre-recorded, he pulled it all together, but he did a great job. Obviously, it was great that he stepped up to the plate to do that to deal with a whole bunch of other people’s files and stuff.
NRR: You’ve been playing some shows in Canada recently. I was just wondering what’s the reaction been like from the fans towards the new material?
Colleen: Good, I mean so far we were at Canadian Music Week, so it’s different from playing like home shows, where you go and it’s like your fans. There are so many bands that play those nights, just the industry sort of shit show for lack of a better word. Then it’s hard to gauge-like the response was good, the response was great, but it’s hard to gauge on that because you are not really dealing with fans, you are sort of dealing with peers and you know you can only trust them so far (laughing).
NRR: Speaking of live shows, the last time I saw you perform was actually here in the UK at Dot to Dot Festival in Nottingham, which was great. I was just wondering do you have any plans to return to the UK anytime soon?
Colleen: We are hoping in the fall, we will have to see. It’s pretty expensive to go over there (laughing), so we will have to sort that out, but we are really looking forward it, we love playing in Europe. It’s been so great having Mascot as our label because they are over there and they’ve got so many great fans that trust their brand and their label.
NRR: Prior to No Sinner you fronted some cover bands back home in Canada. I was just wondering if you could chose any band to cover one of your songs, which song and artist would you choose?
Colleen: Good question. I don’t know, that’s a really good question. I would love to hear Leon Bridges sing “Hollow”, or something like that you know. That’s a hard question, I don’t know what to tell you. I should be more in tune with what’s been going on with music today, I’m just thinking like old school bands, Nina Simone doing one of our songs, that would be amazing.
Old Habits Die Hard is out now via Mascot Label Group/Provogue.
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Photo: Brendan Meadows