FANS SEEKING POP/ROCK WITH A
HYPNOTIC TWIST CAN TAKE
Montreal, Canada’s Trio Long Awaited
Debut Album ‘The Sea Above the Sky’
Was Produced By Mark Howard (Bob Dylan,
Tom Waits, Marianne Faithfull) At Their
State Of The Art The Bank Studio 451, One
Of The Top Recording Facilities in Canada
Exit 451’s Debut Single “Where the Sea Meets the Sky”
Was The #1 Most Added Track Its First Week on the
FMQB AC40 Chart
Bringing a hypnotic twist to a richly melodic pop-rock vibe, Montreal based trio Exit 451 reaches to The Sea Above the Sky, zeroing in on an album title that would convey the depth of its winding creative journey while exploring the immensity and deep mystery of love that carries thought many of its songs.
Brothers Alain (guitars, piano, keyboards, arrangements) and Martin Avon (bass, arrangements) and lyricist/vocalist JP Alepins cleverly spin the concept of infinity and remoteness on their debut single “Where The Sea Meets The Sky,” which was the #1 most added track its first week on the FMQB AC40 Chart.
The cool moniker parallels don’t stop there. Exit 451 recorded The Sea Above the Sky at The Bank Studio 451, the full-service facility the band rebuilt and owns in Montreal that is one of Canada’s leading facilities. Its Yamaha grand piano, 96 channel SSL 9000 J console, vintage boards and mics and classic analog capabilities (in addition to today’s standard Pro Tools rig) have made it a premiere destination for classical, jazz, pop and rock artists, vocal ensembles and producers from all over the world. The 6,500 square foot studio was dubbed The Bank because in its original form, it was built in an old bank building; all of the safes are still used to store microphones, valuable equipment and even masters.
Using live jazz drum mic’ing (with three mics on one drum) and capturing most of the songs in a live setting with two takes or less, the band—working with veteran producer Mark Howard—went the old school route, achieving a warm feeling by using analog technology through most of the recording process. Keeping that “old school” momentum going in the marketing phase, Exit 451 will be releasing the album on vinyl in addition to CDs and worldwide digital distribution via Believe Digital in Germany. Balancing that for the digital consumer, the band is also selling high quality MP3’s of 8-10 MB (much larger than the average digital download) of its songs on their website.
Howard, who used his Radar device for optimal sonic results, has produced projects for Bob Dylan, The Tragically Hip, Tom Waits and Marianne Faithfull. As Lanois’ onetime engineer, he also worked on classic albums by legends like Neil Young, Robert Plant and U2.
Drummer Steve Nistor (Lanois, Robert Plant, Steve Albini) recorded all the percussion tracks and created the album’s funk, dub, rock and reggae grooves using two drum kits—including one lent to him by Jeremy Gara of Arcade Fire. The Sea Above the Sky was mastered in L.A. by Gavin Lurssen of Lurssen Mastering, who has worked on projects by everyone from Guns N’ Roses to Sheryl Crow and also did the soundtrack to the Oscar winning film Slumdog Millionaire.
The album art was developed by graphic artist Marc Bessant, best known for his work for Peter Gabriel’s label Real World. The album is the first to be released on the band’sThe 451 Recording House label.
“I have worked with Alain and Martin Avon since the late 90s,” says JP “and it’s very fulfilling to finally have the opportunity to record an album of this caliber after many years of false stops and starts, lack of funds to really make the recording we wanted to, and then devoting several years to developing The Bank Studio 451. While our initial goal was always to record an album, we took a lot of twists and turns and other routes back to our first love. It took a lot of financial sacrifice to build up our studio business, and we reinvested our profits for several years to get it to this point. Once it was up and running and we felt the stars were aligned, we started pre-recording in 2008 and worked on the album with Mark in 2009. While we’re gearing up to go on tour in 2011, we’re also spending some time in the studio writing material for the next album.”
While the three members of Exit 451 had always been writing strong material, JP adds that hooking up with Howard helped the trio make significant creative breakthroughs. “Mark gave us back the spontaneity it takes to write and record great music,” he says. “For a long time, we were really focusing on techniques, and we wanted to raise our level of musicianship beyond that and just relax and perform. His approach was refreshing, concentrating on unique atmospheres, keeping it live and in the moment and giving the whole album a warm, human feeling.”
The rise of “Where The Sea Meets The Sky” on the FMQB chart and their upcoming tour have the ring of a proverbial overnight success 20 years in the making. In 1990, Alain and Martin Avon founded one of Montreal’s most popular underground bands, Imaginary Steps. The success of the alternative pop-rock outfit’s 1991 debut Maybe Tomorrow(featuring the single “The More I Learn” led them to play in New York and became popular around the world via inclusion on numerous compilations. They played in support of many major bands and in 1993 released the critically acclaimed alt-rock album What Good Will It Do.
Despite losing their lead singer, the Avons continued to write original music and worked in recording studios behind the scenes until 1999, when they held auditions for a new lead singer and chose JP, who had been frontman for a group called Both Sides for several years. They began working on an EP at the famed Morin Heights Studio (whose clientele included Celine Dion, Bee Gees, David Bowie, etc.) but management troubles postponed their immediate ambitions. They still believed they had something to say as a musical trio – the problem was securing the proper financial and promotional support to make it happen.
“The chemistry between us was clear as soon as I stepped into the Avons’ rehearsal space and they presented me some music they had just written,” says JP. “We recorded four songs with new lyrics that first day! To this day, the minute they start a guitar or bass line and I come in with my lyrics, it blows up and becomes a demo-ready song the same day. So it was always easy to create and compose but we had no money or place to record. Then good fortune struck and we met Marc Rousseau, the new owner of the building that housed the recently closed Star Studios. He was thinking of selling the place, in which case it would have lost its original purpose, but the Avons presented a plan to rebuild the studio and he saw its potential.
“We started renovations in 2004 and opened a fully functioning studio the following year,” he adds. “Music was pushed aside while we learned more about recording, invested in state of the art digital and vintage equipment and built an international clientele. We were really excited once everything was up and running to get back to making music—and because we had worked so diligently to create a world class facility, the sound of the album is better than we ever could have done in those years after we first met. Now, we’re excited to keep the momentum going with the new single and our upcoming North American tour in early 2011.”