Galore – Roller (Q&A)

“Fronted by Haligonian Barry Walsh—of the late, great Cool Blue Halo—Galore is a ballsy trip to ’70s glam and power-pop.”, The Coast wrote in 2007. There’s nothing wrong with that characterization. Although Roller also reminds me of the first Fastball record.

The recordings were completed some time ago but Roller was only recently released. Walsh explains how that came to be.

And, oh yes, he also mentions the possibility of a second Cool Blue Halo record!

Many artists have used the pandemic to get creative and crank out new albums in a few months while others have used the time to revisit projects they previously abandoned. What’s the story?

In my case I was lucky enough to do both. With my close friends, Laurence Currie and James Parker, I was able to record an EP under the moniker Mammoth Gardens (“Remote”) which is a little more electronic and experimental, and with Galore, the band I’ve been a part of/ the founding member of for 20+ years, I was able to revisit a “lost” album that was recorded over a decade ago. In both cases it’s been great to get the stuff out into the wider world and hear from folks who are enjoying it. And admittedly with the Galore album there’s a feeling of, “Finally! What took us so long?”

How did this record come together?

Galore has been around in various versions since the turn of the 2000s, but this version (myself, Kevin Hilliard on bass and vocals, Stephen Krecklo on guitar and Tim Timleck on drums) started demoing these songs at a friend’s house back in 2008 or so. From there we fiddled about in various home studios and then did significant tracking at Sloan’s rehearsal space (both Kevin and Stephen worked with Sloan’s crew and everybody’s friendly, and Kevin and I also hail from Halifax, Nova Scotia).

From there, Stephen took it home to mix and we heard the final results and … sat on them for years. Life got busy in myriad ways for all of us and as we started playing less and getting involved with other things, putting the record out wasn’t a huge priority.

But over the years we would kick around the idea of releasing it and we would have various people asking about it. Eventually, this year, I just asked myself, “What am I waiting for?” The ability to release things digitally certainly makes things easier and while I know many people love physical products (I do too) we don’t necessarily love having boxes of unsold CDs on hand. That said, we might do a small CD or vinyl run in the near future.

The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?

I’m lucky in that I’m able to support myself and my family to some extent through work in another field that I’ve wanted to be in since I was a kid — as a magazine editor — so commercial considerations or pressures don’t really exist with my music now. In my 20s and 30s I admit that there was always this moving goalpost of “making it” as a musician but that is all consigned to the past for me.

Success lies in having people hear it and enjoy it. And this might sound cheesy but here goes: I’m not exaggerating when I say that music has saved my life on more than one occasion. So to be able to give back or contribute to this incredible magical force by writing and recording a song that someone somewhere in the world will receive a few minutes of joy from — that is success beyond anything I could’ve hoped for. But if millions of folks want to download the album I won’t argue!

How great is the urge to stay creative? To keep writing songs and lyrics?

The urge is always great but the challenge is in finding the time. I have four wonderful kids, and with the full time job, there are long stretches where I don’t touch a guitar. But I’m usually always typing a lyric into my phone or humming a melody into a voice memo so when the stars align (and they will) I’ll be able to sift through the fragments and stitch things together.

But admittedly, if I don’t engage in something creatively for a long period of time, I feel terribly off balance.

Getting compliments can be so nice. What were the best?

In the early 2000s, an iteration of Galore (myself, Tim Timleck on drums and Edward Pond on bass) went to New York City to record an EP with Richard Lloyd (Television, Matthew Sweet) producing. We had one song, “Amy Airplane”, that I’d intentionally left the guitar solo unwritten for… I was having a hard time figuring out an approach and so we asked Richard if he might want to try something.

And so he went through running the song about three times or so, soloing throughout so that when he got to the solo bit he’d be inspired. And he’s such a unique player that you can tell it’s him from the first note. I eventually released the song on the first Mammoth Gardens EP, New Moon Variety, and maybe some other stuff from those sessions will see the light of day soon. So while it wasn’t a compliment in the strict sense of the word, to have one of my musical heroes contribute to a song I wrote was pretty wonderful and a real blessing.

About a year or so later that same iteration of the band, along with guitarist Michael McKenzie, had a residency at this funky club in Toronto called Stone’s Place, run by someone who was a pal of the Rolling Stones, or various members. And at that time, the Stones were in town rehearsing for a tour. So Bernard Fowler, who has been one of their backing vocalists for years and is such a powerful, amazing singer, came to the club to hang out and eventually joined us to play. Initially he didn’t want to play any Stones songs so we played some AC/DC but he relented and we did a Stones tune or two. At the end he jabbed his forefinger into my bony chest and said, “You got the fire!”

And that moment made everything in my haphazard musical “career” up to that point worthwhile.

Oh, and David Bash, in a capsule review of one of Galore’s International Pop Overthrow sets, said my voice was “Robin Zanderesque” which was very, very generous of him.

The record is done, the music is out. Is the best fun now or is it just beginning?

It’s definitely fun to hear from people who are enjoying the record, especially given the long period involved in getting it out. To a degree there’s a sense of closure for this album, so the fun is in figuring out what to do next.

Cool Blue Halo, the band I’ve been part of since the Nineties, has been threatening to make a second record (what would be our 2nd in 25 years!) so maybe that will come to pass in 2022.

And perhaps Galore will play the odd show, as might Mammoth Gardens.

You can pick 3 co-writers to write new songs with. Who and why?

Ooh, that’s a tough one and it probably varies weekly. But today I’ll go with what might be a cliche choice in Paul McCartney, simply because of what I’d learn from him. I’m on a Bee Gees kick lately so my second choice could be Barry Gibb. We could start a baroque pop band and call it The Barries, And for my third choice I’d resurrect Chris Bell.

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