Tantalus Pass climbs the recording mountain 

Fiddle, mandolin and log cabin acoustics mark the Squamish band's first album

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Doug Smith of Squamish folk-rock band Tantalus Pass describes the five-piece band as "playing crunchy electric guitar over a mandolin."

It makes it sound a little like a melodic breakfast cereal and Smith clearly wants their music to be just as nourishing.

After four years "we went from being more of a folky bluegrassy kind of band, bringing in drums has freed us up to get a little bit more rocky and more melodic and driving," says Smith, who plays guitar and mandolin.

The band, which covers roots, blues and traditional music is releasing its first CD at the Brackendale Art Gallery on Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. The $15 cover price includes a copy of the CD.

The album took "a solid year of recording in fits and starts all over Squamish," Smith says.

"We recorded it ourselves, mixed and did the artwork, everything, because we all have full-time jobs, too. In the end, all of the grinding it out was worth it," he adds.

"We recorded the fiddle parts in a big log house up in Garibaldi Highlands and when I listen to it I see the living room, which had this beautiful high ceiling, and what you're hearing there is no studio magic on his fiddle, it is that room. The acoustics just sounded so good, we didn't have to do anything to it.

"We wanted some kind of record because stuff happens, people move away and what have you. At the very minimal, that is why we wanted to do it, and as we started working through the process it was so good."

The home-spun recording method avoided over-orchestration and produced a more authentic, raw sound, and this satisfies Smith.

"Everything is auto-tuned to death these days, or you're not even using an instrument, it's digital. Every instrument you hear on there is played, the real deal. We're very happy," he say.

The rest of Tantalus Pass are also Squamoleans (as Squamish folks are infrequently called). Rita Kyle plays bass, Zach de Jong is on lead guitar, Nikolai Gurda is fiddle player and Colin Bates on drums. All take turns on vocals.

"It started out as Nikolai and I doing a couple of things and grew organically from there," Smith says.

The one thing they all brought to the table was their experience as veteran musicians.

"There's such an age difference but we had all been playing for a while, some of us longer than others. It's pretty businesslike. When we get together to rehearse we take it really, really seriously," he says. "I did the 'kids in high school' thing 30 years ago. You're in a band in high school for two reasons, to get a free bar tab and to pull chicks, not necessarily in that order.

"Once you get past that and that wears off pretty quick; there comes a point when you have to start looking at this as when you go out you want people to have a really, really good time when they see us and like the music. We do it because we really like the music and we love playing together."

Smith says the next step is to score more gigs outside of Squamish, especially in Whistler where Tantalus Pass has not yet played.

"That's the next step and I better get on the phone!" he laughs.

Songs from the album can be heard on the band's website, www.tantaluspass.com

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