Animal Nation return with new EP 

The Basement Tapes, Vol. 1 features reworked versions of old songs

click to enlarge PHOTO BY IRENE SHEPPARD - Evolutionary animals Animal Nation find a "rebirth" with their new EP The Basement Tapes, Vol. 1, available March 27 through iTunes and URBNET.com
  • Photo by irene Sheppard
  • Evolutionary animals Animal Nation find a "rebirth" with their new EP The Basement Tapes, Vol. 1, available March 27 through iTunes and URBNET.com

It happens more often than you know: band records an album early in their career; band is dissatisfied with said album; band continues to evolve and gain more experience; band feels ashamed or embarrassed by early album or albums.

This has more or less happened to Whistler's hip-hop duo Animal Nation, but unlike most every other band troubled by their previous efforts they've decided to do something about it. They've gone and re-recorded seven of their favourite older cuts and released them on a new EP, The Basement Tapes, Vol. 1.

"We'd wanted to do this for awhile because our songs have sort of updated themselves, just because we've been changing them more and more as we learned to play more instruments," says Garnet "Tall Man" Clare.

When they first started making music seven years ago, neither Clare nor the second half of Animal Nation, Mike Armitage, had any idea how to play their own instruments. For live shows they'd hire a DJ.

It took them very little time to realize this was an "incredibly boring" way to perform. Eager to prove that they were more than just emcees, Clare and Armitage learned to play their own instruments — Clare took on the piano and Armitage took on the turntables. As they progressed they began incorporating more live instrumentation into old songs while playing live, which has culminated in the recording and release of The Basement Tapes.

"We figured we'd go into the studio with those tracks and record them properly," Clare says,

They've reworked one song from each of their previous releases for the EP. At just 23 minutes long Clare calls it a "rebirth" of sorts for the group. By playing their own instruments he says there are no limitations on where the music can go, or should go. The remixes are still rooted in the spirited hip hop they're renowned for, while incorporating elements of dream pop, indie rock and, yes, a little downhome country.

"We've transitioned slowly," Clare says. "This is almost like a new band in the sense that we're taking all this material, we're able to play it all live without backing tracks."

The Basement Tapes is the first project to include new member Jeff Waters. They gave themselves two takes maximum to record each track. If they couldn't lay it down in two takes, they left the studio, practiced their "faces off" and came back a week later to try again. The entire sessions were filmed and will be uploaded to YouTube, inspired partly by Radiohead's "From the Basement" recording sessions.

Clare says that while recording the EP they've come up with material that will be used for their next project, which will likely be a proper follow-up to their lengthy-titled 2009 LP Understanding More About Nothing Than Anybody Ever Thought Impossible, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Music.

The Basement Tapes will be available Monday through iTunes and URBNET.

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