Interview: The Maple Trail

The Maple Trail
Image Courtesy of The Maple Trail

We’ve been quietly enjoying the new album from The Maple Trail, Cable Mountain Warning, for the last few weeks so we thought it might be time to sit down with the man behind the music, Aidan Roberts, and chat about his latest release:

Evan Hughes: Congratulations on the new album. This is your third from The Maple Trail project. How are you feeling about the end result?
Aidan Roberts: Thank you very much. I’m really proud of this album, I feel like the music has had a chance to mature a lot since Radio Twilight Lost. This record actually sounds a lot more like The Maple Trail in my head, and I enjoy listening to it, which is a good sign.
EH: You recorded the album in three places – New Zealand, The Blue Mountains and Stanmore in Sydney – yet it feels really complete. How did each location impact on the album?
AR: Well, I didn’t actually do any recording in New Zealand, just writing. In fact, the first time I went to NZ I wrote some lyrics which ended up on the record, way back in 2005. But I started recording the album when I was living in the city – and the clamour of living under the flight path had its effect on my headspace and the actual sound of the recordings (quite literally, you can hear airplanes on a couple of tracks – listen at the end of “Captain Dies” for example). We did some recordings early on with Chris Rollans in his city studio, which had a really beautiful woody sound, very at odds with the craziness of the CBD. So it’s interesting to think that with all the recordings I subsequently did at home since I moved back to the Blue Mountains, I was working to maintain that organic city sound. But no airplanes, just Black Cockatoos and swaying trees.
EH: So many contemporary artists draw inspiration from Nick Drake yet I can hear his influence more heavily on your album than on anything else I’ve heard recently. How big an influence is he on your music? Where else do you draw inspiration from?
AR: It’s interesting, the Nick Drake thing. I’ve never felt I was channeling anyone’s influence too directly; though I think my voice sounds a lot like Nick’s when I’m singing gently – and I explored that a lot more on this record, I’m never really pushing out the songs, I’m just sort of singing them to myself almost. I listen to a lot of English and Gaelic music, from Drake and Denny and Renbourne to The Chieftains, Kathleen MacInnes and Fionn Regan, and yes I have always loved all of Nick Drake’s records. Sometimes I am still left breathless by the beauty and sophistication of his songs, so I take the comparison as a massive compliment.
EH: The musicianship on the album is really interesting. Did you work with mainly local Sydney artists? Did you arrange all the parts yourself or did the other musicians have a lot of input?
AR: I have had many wonderful people playing with me in The Maple Trail over the years, and you can hear them and their unique influences in the recordings – the sound of us all playing as a band has a thick organic sound that you can really hear on The Dinosaur Hunters and This Dead Moon etc. All the acoustic and intimate sounds – the wineglasses, the little percussion instruments and the ghostly bits are all me alone in my house. But the sound of John’s pedalsteel, and the addition of Caitlin Park and Brian Campeau’s voices, all expand the flavor of the music and it feels like it’s always growing. Dave, Danny, John, and everyone else… they’re all in there.
EH: A lot of people will know your work with Belles Will Ring, which is really quite different from The Maple Trail. How important is it to have two different creative outlets?
AR: Belles Will Ring is of course a more expansive rock group and we’ve been making music together for a long time. The Maple Trail is an extension of what I do with Belles, and I get inspired by being able to further explore my sound on my own – I really love that we can cross-pollinate projects, to lend each other different areas of expertise to make the music beautiful, whether Belles or Maple Trail or whatever it is we’re working on.
EH: Liam from Belles Will Ring mixed the album. Was the dynamic in the studio recording this album different than when you’re in the “same band”?
AR: Liam and I have been doing stuff for 20 years now, since we were kids, so there’s a nice synergy between what I do alone and what I do with Liam and Belles. It made sense for Liam to mix these songs, because he really relates to where it all comes from, and we finally got a chance as grown-ups with this and the latest Belles Will Ring record, to really sit down and shape it into something powerful. He did such a beautiful job on this mix, I’m really proud of him actually.
EH: Are you touring Cable Mount Warning? What’s next for The Maple Trail?
AR: We’re doing two very special launch shows in April and May in Melbourne and Sydney, then we will do some more touring throughout the year. The current band is so fantastic, I am really ready to get on the road. I’m also very excited about the forthcoming vinyl release of Cable Mount Warning, so I’ll be planning some extra special little shows to support that, to give it as much life on the road as possible.

You can stream Cable Mountain Warning here. The full list of dates for the launch tour are below:

Tuesday 24th April – The Gasometer, Melbourne
Tuesday 3rd May – The Vanguard, Sydney

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