Enter The Haggis

With the onslaught of iPads and other digital devices, publishers have been wringing their hands about the future of the good ol’ fashioned pulpy newspaper.

Toronto's Enter The Haggis (ETH) has made a resounding case for the newspaper with their new disc, which was based on and inspired by the contents of one day in one newspaper.

The newspaper was the March 30, 2012 issue of the Toronto Globe and Mail, and the album that transpired is called The Modest Revolution, a name taken from the front page headline. The date was chosen at random, but the band was committed after pre-ordering 1,500 copies of the issue. Those newspapers were then delivered to their fans with copies of the new album.

This concept was obviously fraught with risk. What if nothing interesting happens on the day the band picked? 
“You start to see all of the little things that are so inspiring," Brian Buchanan recounts of the writing experience.

"Everything from the front page through to the personal stories that fill the obituaries, you realize there are so many stories going on every day. There's so much more than the talking heads on television or the headlines themselves.”

Take “Copper Leaves,” Trevor Lewington's lament for the penny, which had been condemned to obsolescence in the federal budget.

“Though your aspirations soared/the sidewalk would not take your seed/now they’re showing you the door,” Buchanan sings about the coin, an interesting metaphor for souls who feel outdated. The tune is a rattling country rocker with beautiful fiddles that make it a Celtic gem! 
Buchanan, (vocals, fiddle, keyboards, guitar), Craig Downie (vocals, highland bagpipes), Lewington (vocals, bass, guitar), and Bruce McCarthy (drums, percussion) are all fantastic players at the top of their game on The Modest Revolution.

Their musical palette stretches from the alternative rock of “Can’t Trust the News” to the soaring Horslips Irish stomp of “Balto,” which gets this reviewer’s vote for best top-down spring driving tune of 2013!

Behind the fiscally-focused front the band found a handful of smaller pieces that turned into some of the bigger songs.

“Can't Trust the News,” the album's first single, was inspired by a 65-year-old woman's decision to find distraction from the traumatic events in her life by climbing the highest peaks on each continent. The article was only 150 words long, but it was enough to grab Lewington's attention.

Though ETH got their inspiration from the newspaper, they are clear that it is not their Bible.

“Trust your eyes/ they will follow the light/it’s a new tragic story/trust your heart/it will swallow the dark/it’s a mecca of heartache and doom/you can’t trust the news,” Lewington writes in “Can’t Trust the News,” an arty little rocker with trumpets and an addictive melody.

Even the sports section was fair game.  “Blackout” was written based on an article about concussions in hockey that also dug into the Toronto Maple Leafs for their lousy record that season.

"It’s a blackout/but we follow along/we keep chasing the puck/ever whispering someday/we'll drink from the cup" Lewington sings, a sentiment shared by every Leafs fan. The song has a reflective quality to it overall, though you could easily imagine the barnstorming chorus blaring from the speakers of an arena as the hockey players take the ice!

ETH has always done music their way and have relied on the support of a rabid fan base that they earned through relentless touring. They set a reasonable goal of raising $20,000 in recording funds through the crowd funding platform Kickstarter. They knew their fans loved them, but they weren’t prepared to triple their goal attainment in just a few days!

The band has been embarking on “a modest revolution” of digital independence from the beleaguered music industry model, and it is great to see and hear from this band again. Anyone who has seen their jaw-dropping live shows knows that they earn their audience one furious set list at a time. Fair play to them! 
I spoke with Buchanan over the weekend about the new album and the support of their fans.

Here’s how it went:

How would you describe the differences between this and your last CD Whitelake? What has the fan reaction been so far? Or have they heard much of it based on the fact that it is released next week?

This record is louder and more aggressive than Whitelake, with bigger guitars and more epic moments. We really enjoyed stepping back to a more acoustic approach on the last album, but we're first and foremost a rock band and it's been a lot of fun cranking the amps back up. The fans have responded enthusiastically thus far, which has been really great.

Love "Can't Trust the News." How did it come about?

Trevor had the chorus idea for that song written before he ever tied it into the concept of the album. He eventually decided that "Can't Trust the News" was more a reference to the idea that when everything around you is in turmoil and every headline seems slanted against you, to follow your heart and shut out the noise.

Any offers for "Blackout" to become the Maple Leafs’ anthem? Ha ha!

Not yet, although a couple of sports journalists have written me about it.  Of course, now that we've written an anthem for a losing team they've started winning. Not that I'm complaining.

I love the concept of getting inspiration from one day in a local daily newspaper. How did that idea come about?

We all get so wrapped up in the 24-hour news cycle that we miss dozens of compelling stories every single day. Newspapers are unique in that they tell SO MANY stories, and you can go back and find them the next day or the next week if you like.

It's also fascinating to us that every single story -- whether it's a dry budget report or a sports recap -- has a human element to it, a story worth telling. We thought it would be an interesting challenge to find those stories and tell them.

It was far from easy and there were times when we definitely thought we'd bitten off a little too much, but in the end we found the seeds and followed them.

Congratulations on exceeding your fundraising target! How did it feel to get that love from the fans and how did that effect the creative process?  Was there extra pressure to deliver?

The Kickstarter was mind-blowing. Never in a million years did we think we would triple our goal, and the funds that came in allowed us the flexibility to make the album we wanted to make, without having to make compromises or watch the clock too closely. It is a bit of extra pressure when you pre-sell 1,700 copies of the album though. You really feel the trust of the fans and you don't want to let them down.

We've been really lucky over the years to have an awesome fan base that indulges our creative fugues. We never feel pressure to conform to their idea of what we are, and it lets us really spread our wings. We've found that as long as we're honest with ourselves and write and record the music we enjoy, they tend to follow us down the twisted paths we choose to explore -- and they got pretty twisted on this album.

Enter The Haggis is touring up and down the East Coast of the United States.  For information visit www.enterthehaggis.com.

Check out Enter The Haggis performing 'Can't Trust the News' here: