Liner Notes - Burdocks - Airplane Tracks

We reunited The Burdocks on gchat and they ran wild down memory lane

The influential Halifax art pop act reminisces about Airplane Tracks, reissued last week 13 years after its initial release.

- Apr 19, 2016
Liner Notes is a close up look at a great new album you may have missed. This time, Halifax scene legends The Burdocks recall their hazy memories of every track on their now-reissued 13-year-old album Airplane Tracks.

Thirteen years ago, Halifax musicians Sean MacGillivray, Nancy Urich, Seth Smith, and Christian Simmons — collectively, the Burdocks — recorded their second full-length album, Airplane Tracks.

At the time (or shortly before, the memories are hazy), they lived together in a low income townhouse, where they also rehearsed. A roommate ran the label that would release their records out of the basement. They worked shitty jobs to pay for it all. The band was their life. There was no indication that what they were doing might some day be considered "influential." It was fun. But they were deadly serious about it.

Burdocks were dead by 2006, but their impact on Canadian, and especially, East Coast indie rock is substantial. They are the not-so-missing link that connects '90s Haligonian pop to early '00s post-hardcore. Smith and Urich, who married, went on to form Dog Day. MacGillivray performs as part of Alright Already. Simmons plays in Lantern, Each Other, Sheer Agony, and Play Guitar.

I would rather do this than look at a yearbook.

Christian Simmons, The Burdocks
Last week, Label Obscura reissued Airplane Tracks — the first time it would ever be available on vinyl. We thought it might be fun to get the band to look back on that formative era in their respective careers. Urich, Smith, and Simmons convened in a Google chat window to dissect their memories track by track. It's funny how in the kaleidoscope of time, your thoughts about a project turn from guitar tones and structure and rhythmic precision to recollections of who was in the room when you recorded a specific part and how a certain song reminds you of french fries.

It's a long scroll, but sometimes its fruitful to let people run wild down memory lane. Treasures turn up everywhere.

Burdocks' Airplane Tracks is available now through Label Obscura.

Chris Hampton (Chart Attack): Looking through the tracklist, what stories stick out? That might be the memories that underpin the lyrics. That might be technical challenges that came up. Maybe dumb studio jokes...

Sth Smth: you wanna go track by track, chris?

Chris Hampton: sure let's do that
let's look at the tracklist and you can share a memory or comment if you've got it

"Pop Cult"

Sth Smth: POP CULT

Christian Simmons: I got to play some keyboard that was fun

Sth Smth: we got our pals Made in the world to sing back ups on this track

Chris Hampton: yeah it's got those gang vocals
very hardcore

Christian Simmons: kind of out of context hardcore gang vocals

Nancy Urich: lol

Sth Smth: we made a killer video for this but the director ran off with the footge

Nancy Urich: he lives in Australia now

Chris Hampton: really? never to be heard from again?

Nancy Urich: yep

Christian Simmons: it was fun making it though

The Burdocks Nancy

Sth Smth: this pic was taken using the props from the unreleased "Pop Cult" video

Nancy Urich: and we paid him sooo much money to us back then

Sth Smth: and stole our money heh

Christian Simmons: seth made a lot of good props

Nancy Urich: we had extras and a set and yeah. wow.

Sth Smth: It was big production. I had spent a month solid on the props, costumes and set. We wrangled a cast of over fifty volunteers.

Christian Simmons: oh yeah, and Rob was the star

Sth Smth: The week after the shoot he didn’t return our calls. And after weeks of trying to track him down we learned that he had split the country

Chris Hampton: what a rat!

Christian Simmons: that was a setback

Sth Smth: I still romanticize about it existing on some dusty old drive somewhere.

Chris Hampton: can you tell me about it at all? the lost burdocks video?

Sth Smth: It was kind of a fantasy live show set up in a church

Christian Simmons: In the clouds

Nancy Urich: lol
laura made that rainbow, still in our basement today

Sth Smth: If he's reading this, now is the time to come clean and turn over the awesome vid! I'd love to see it.

Chris Hampton: Any other memories from "Pop Cult" or should we move to "Icicle Knife"?

Sth Smth: Next

"Icicle Knife"

Nancy Urich: Did Paul [Hammond, half of Yo Rodeo! with Seth Smith] do vox on Icicle Knife?

Christian Simmons: I think he and I were yelling on "Save the World"

Sth Smth: I think so?

Christian Simmons: I don't thnk he's on icicle

Sth Smth: I think this song was pretty old and was revamped for AT

Christian Simmons: Yeah, we listened to the demo version on new year's and there was a mystery vocal part that got abandoned

Sth Smth: I wrote this song at our makeshift recoding studio at the Pavilion.
In between sessions
why didnt we record there

Nancy Urich: we didnt have it anymore

Christian Simmons: I feel like it was still just coming together
one or the other

Chris Hampton: What was your setup at the Pavilion?
that was like an all-ages club, ya?

Christian Simmons: Yeah.
Sean, our drummer was sort of the main sound tech there

Sth Smth: It was just a room at a local all ages hall. Sean's gear mostly. I think there was a deal that we could have the spot if we'd record a few highschool bands a month

Christian Simmons: So for a bit we were rehearsing in a little closet/hall way room
You guys did that Made In The World record there, that come out well

Sth Smth: oh yeah okay that was after we left the chebucto Townhouse

Nancy Urich: ya that was the summer before Airplane Tracks

Christian Simmons: I think we used a lot of that gear to do the bed tracks in Sydney

Sth Smth: hmm so blurry

Nancy Urich: didnt sean have the board in his apartment once radiotron shut down

Christian Simmons: yeah, it was half the living room



Chris Hampton: yes, tell me about that one

Nancy Urich: this song reminds me of eating delicious fries for some reason.

Christian Simmons: yeah, we always called it THE ROAD
maybe the fries were on tour

Nancy Urich: Christian wrote this one

Chris Hampton: is there a particular plate of delicious fries?

Nancy Urich: nope
just fries

Sth Smth: I was trying to pull off Replacements type licks on this one

Christian Simmons: well, I wrote a song with like 4 power chords and seth added all the major and minor stuff

Christian Simmons: I remember we did actually work on this one in the chebucto basement

Nancy Urich: yeah for sure

Christian Simmons: Replacements, Holiday Snaps and I think one Bowie song in particular were on our minds one afternoon

Sth Smth: Who chanted on this? Contrived?

Chris Hampton: yeah, this could live on Tim, I think

Christian Simmons: Must have been Contrived on this song, what, at the end?

Sth Smth: maybe there were none on this

Christian Simmons: yeah, I think it's you at the end actually

Sth Smth: I think it was on SAVE THE WORLD

Nancy Urich: yeah save the world was contrived

Christian Simmons: that one's me and Paul, I'm almost sure

Chris Hampton: hmm should we move there? it's the next track

"Save The World"

Christian Simmons: lol but yeah maybe Contrived at the end also
maybe Paul and I got the axe

Sth Smth: I remember recording all these chants in Sean's apartment. His neighbours must have been sketched out

Chris Hampton: hah there's just a gang of people yelling in the next room

Christian Simmons: That's funny.
All my vocals were at Willow street though.

Sth Smth: I made a cool animation vid for this song but it was also lost. It got erased
it was like Cast Away

Christian Simmons: This one is maybe my fave on the record

Chris Hampton: why?

Christian Simmons: It's the only one I sang well on.
I just thought it was a good hit.

Nancy Urich: i remember having a really hard time remembering how to play that one

Christian Simmons: yeah it was a finger stretcher for you guys i think

Sth Smth: I think this started out a country number

Nancy Urich: yeah it was hard, harder than "We Seat Ourselves," even tho that one was technically harder.
that doesn't make sense
but that's ok

Christian Simmons: we were trying to out-hard ourselves all the time

Chris Hampton: a math arms race

Sth Smth: NEXT?

"We Seat Ourselves"

Christian Simmons: I think math arms race describes the next one just fine

Nancy Urich: i really loved playing we seat ourselves

Chris Hampton: why was it so fun?

Nancy Urich: cause it had so many parts

Sth Smth: It was the epic

Christian Simmons: yeah, we were like, "Oh, cool, this one's long." About a few songs.

Nancy Urich: i really liked how everything went together even tho it was such a big mess

Sth Smth: I always saw this as a heavy lounge song

Christian Simmons: yeah the lounge vibe redeems it for me

Nancy Urich: that bridge live was like "oh sh*t!!"

Christian Simmons: there is a lot of guitar

Sth Smth: yeah playing that intro lead I always felt like I was chasing after a runaway train
holding on for dear life

Nancy Urich: indulge indulge, even tho it was our less indulgent record

Chris Hampton: kinda like learning how to do a wheelie, then you only want to do wheelies

Christian Simmons: did we mention we all kind of liked early Emo? Well, everyone but seth

Chris Hampton: what kind of emo are we talking here?

Nancy Urich: certain early emo

Sth Smth: yeah you guys brought Braid in wasnt it?

Nancy Urich: i liked sunny day real estate

Sth Smth: o yea

Nancy Urich: but pretty well hated everything else
yeah i loved braid
forgot them

Christian Simmons: Yeah, I think Sean, Nance and I were pretty down with Braid at this time

Nancy Urich: sean loved braid

Sth Smth: I think I was the cock rock guy

Nancy Urich: sean was the only guy who didnt like cock rock

Christian Simmons: that's just one angle that was going around at the time, but I think it definitely comes out in this track
and the last song, which was more collaborative
therefore Braid-y

Chris Hampton: when you say "cock rock," what are you thinking about exactly?

Christian Simmons: lol
yeah Seth, do your worst

Nancy Urich: rolling stones, ac/dc, zeppelin

Sth Smth: ha bad 80s and 70s classic rock

Nancy Urich: sean HATED the beatles

Chris Hampton: Yeah, I was wondering how much cock lol? GnR? crue?

Nancy Urich: gnr i hated and still hate

Sth Smth: Appetite was my first tape
I won it at a costume contest at school
grade 5

Christian Simmons: me too
re: hate
we could all pretty much listen to Led Zeppelin though, no?

Nancy Urich: all the people from my hometown were wayyy too into gnr for it to be acceptable for me

Christian Simmons: did Sean hate zep?

Nancy Urich: i think sean could appreciate zep

Nancy Urich: zep is still one of my faves
even the squeeze my lemon song. especially that song.
and kiss a bit?

"Room Temperature"

Sth Smth: ROOM TEMPERATURE has some rock
Prog solo

Christian Simmons: yeah, Dale [Chebucto roommate, manager, and Out Of Touch label boss] announces the solo: "AND NOW..."

Sth Smth: right

Christian Simmons: we always called it a solo but it's actually just a long weird bridge

Nancy Urich: we were also really into Thrush Hermit
i remember now.

Sth Smth: I think Room Temp was about us living in Chebucto
X and I were working shady jobs too

Chris Hampton: what are "shady jobs"?

Sth Smth: selling grass

Nancy Urich: 2 for $25 is good but...

Christian Simmons: lol ya

Chris Hampton: not even gonna bother asking...unless i super should lol

Sth Smth: Fuck it

"Battle Of The Band"

Nancy Urich: my favourite one

Chris Hampton: why?

Nancy Urich: don't know how it ever was as cohesive as it is

Christian Simmons: yeah, this one we jammed a lot together

Nancy Urich: i guess thats why

Sth Smth: was this three separated songs in one

Christian Simmons: Seth had the main song, and I guess I had some riffs that made up some of the last part
and then we threw everything else at it

Sth Smth: Sean has a Irish Pub Chant in this one
over the solo. Made it for me

Nancy Urich: i'm quite sure i wrote my parts while recording

Christian Simmons: yeah, you definitely had some when we were jamming though
the chicken part

Nancy Urich: yeah the prog part in the middle
oh yeah
sean's part rules
he was actually making fun of your solo right and you recorded him

Sth Smth: The outro was known as "The Chicken part" heh

Christian Simmons: Bc nancy's guitar sounds like a chicken cluck

Nancy Urich: a loving chicken

Chris Hampton: yeah, can definitely hear that

Sth Smth: I wrote the chorus of this while working at my job in a paintball range
Gangs would come in to settle their disputes by shooting each other
I was the ref

Chris Hampton: the job you always wanted

Christian Simmons: Yeah, I actually went to the high school across the street from there, and would see seth trying to sheepishly get kids in line
not very authoritative
that's sort of where we met

Sth Smth: right

Christian Simmons: and also nancy worked around the corner and I was one of a million annoying kids coming in for sandwiches

Nancy Urich: yes, you were among the annoying

Sth Smth: and sean was right around the corner at the pavilion the all ages spot

Christian Simmons: it was a pretty small world

Sth Smth: We reeled him in to play drums
after our old drummer became a brain surgeon

The Burdocks 2

Chris Hampton: Looking back now, were there things that stuck with you about music and being in a band from making this record? things you learned?

Nancy Urich: learned. hmmm.

Christian Simmons: yeah, I mean, we've all done a lot of records since this one

Nancy Urich: but it came about a lot faster than IHAMF so def an accomplishment

Christian Simmons: it was a pretty good learning experience for sure

Nancy Urich: not dissected

Christian Simmons: this was, what, all of our second record ever or something like that
so it taught us a lot about what to do, or maybe what not to do.

Sth Smth: I think it was a nice exercise. There were a lot of creative juices flowing, different opinions, influences, and somehow we were able to package it into one thing.
I feel like I wouldn't be able to make this record today

Chris Hampton: why not?

Nancy Urich: for one he's too busy making movies!

Sth Smth: I've become to selfish in my old age

Christian Simmons: We all have pretty different tastes now than we did then.

Chris Hampton: this was definitely a big collaboration exercise

Christian Simmons: Yeah, it was quite a collab that record.

Sth Smth: Good mix

Chris Hampton: how do you feel about the rerelease? Revisiting this era? It'll be available for the first time on vinyl

Nancy Urich: It's funny.
and fun

Sth Smth: I'm down. I'm proud of what we did.
Like an old yearbook photo

Chris Hampton: yeah, sometimes it's fun to look back through your old yearbooks

Nancy Urich: not quite as awkward as an old yearbook photo

Sth Smth: It's us but it's someone else

Christian Simmons: Yeah, I would rather do this than look at a yearbook.

Sth Smth: You haven't seen my yearbook photos!

Christian Simmons: good point :)

Nancy Urich: i'll instagram them later

Sth Smth:
Burdocks 3

Chris Hampton: I mean, this was the same kinda trip down memory lane. lotsa of 'remember this, remember that.'
it was fun to be a fly on the wall

Christian Simmons: of course!
yeah, it is kind of fun to try and remember things. We're obviously all pretty hazy about this period of time.

Chris Hampton: 13 years ago!

Nancy Urich: you were mocking nostalgia just yesterday xian
aren't you agnostalgic

Sth Smth: I was
Back then

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