Across The Board – Artist Interview
Written by Matt Zin on September 25, 2020
Hello Across The Board, welcome to the studio. I hear you have a new album coming out. We will talk about that in a few seconds but first lets intro the band so our listeners can get to know you. Could you go around the room and tell us your names and who does what in the band? Who is most silliest? Who is the most serious?
Hi there! Thanks for having us on the show! So excited to be here. With us today we have Jackie Auguste, our lead singer and songwriter. We have Andy Ramjattan who is a co-founder of the band with Jackie and bass player. We have Martin Heller, who is the keyboardist for the band and we have Ben Healey lead guitarist, and Kurt Dickson on drums. I think we all agree that Ben has to be the silliest! From wearing a pink feather boa during our coast to coast tour in Nova Scotia last summer, to making fun of every moment—he’s like the comic relief of the band.
We call them “Bennyisms”. The most serious is probably Marty—when he’s not trying to convert us to a country bluegrass band from a rock band!
How would you describe your music?
We have a pop rock sound with a rootsy vibe with influences from bands like U2, Fleetwood Mac, Broken Social Scene and Melissa Ethridge.
The music industry is flooded with indies artists, what do you do to make your band stand out?
We are busy on social media making daily content—we have a daily vlog where our fans can follow us around behind the scenes in our music life as well as our daily lives. We also do a musical cooking show! We like to have musical friends on the show cook with us and then we always sing an acoustic version of a song—either an original or a cover. We also do a popular cover series on Youtube that was actually the original focus of the band when we started in 2013 as a Youtube band. We now have over 400 videos on Youtube and Facebook including our original songs from the last two albums and tracks and videos coming up from the new album “Sonic Boom”. We play live, but we keep a very solid social media presence all the time.
So you are at a department store, there is a CD sale going on…. A person picks up your CD and you are standing right next to them, do you step aside and see what the person does with your CD or do you start a conversation with that person and persuade them to buy the CD? Now
explain your answer.
Jackie: I like the fly on the wall approach—I would wait a moment and see what their face looks like as they look over the album. If they put it down, I’ll swoop in and introduce myself as the writer/artist and ask them what made them pick it up in the first place.
Andy: I’d just bounce right in and say “Hey, thanks for checking out my CD” and start a conversation—offer to sign it for them!
I know that’s an unusual question, we like to be different. Let’s talk about your new Sonic Boom. How did you come with the title? Can you describe this album to us? What is your most favorite song from the new album and why?
Jackie: Sonic Boom was written on our cross-country train tour last summer and is meant to chronicle the “breaking”of a band. I pictured the listener’s journey through the album as a rock opera—with a story, a heroine, and the trials and tribulations of a musical climax and anticlimax. The story starts off in the small city of Camrose, where I grew up—a small farming community in the heart of Alberta, and moves across the country to Toronto. As a young musician, I always dreamed of taking my music to the ‘big city’ and the album echoes this journey by rail to Toronto where I eventually meet the characters who will either try to steal the dream, or help me succeed. It has highs and lows, sadness and happiness and takes the listener on a musical and hopefully emotional journey. The idea of the title for sonic boom started with the phrase “making a splash”, which eventually became “making a musical splash” and when we realized that was like a sonic boom, it just fit—a band breaking out of obscurity onto the global scene in one big sonic boom that everyone hears. I think my most favorite song from the album is “No Curtain Call”- it’s the lowest point of the rock opera when the heroine is playing in a lonely bar, by herself, no one is paying attention, the lights come on the reveal the old wood floors, the sticky old bar top and all the folks who just don’t seem to care—and the revelation that comes to her after this experience—it’s not about making a splash, or having everyone pay attention to you—it’s about the journey, the music and staying true to one’s self-not getting lost in the hype or steered off course.
Andy: I like “Back To The Tracks” which is about the Canadian railway from Toronto to Vancouver that we took last summer as part of our coast to coast tour. We wrote most of the album during that trip as we played across the country. It tells the story of the railway and how the railway is at the heart of Canadian—bring the coasts together.
What is the first song off the CD and why?
Jackie: The first song off the CD is “Sonic Boom” – it’s the theme song—it’s that defiant, determined attitude that nothing’s going to stand in your way, or rain on your parade—the wide-eyed naivety of youth perhaps.
I really like the song, “Nothing To Say.” What is that song about?
Thank you. “Nothing To Say” is meant to be that “hit song’ in the story of the rock opera as our heroine stays true to her own genre and artistic nature and writes from the heart. If you don’t have anything to write about, or anything good to say, better just say nothing for now until it comes to you. Don’t force it, just let it flow. And “Nothing To Say” is all about being swept away to that secret place where words don’t need to be—like those moments between lovers, like looking at a painting quietly and taking it in, like reading a novel and getting lost in it.
I see you have another album called, “Jane On Fire” Could you tell us all about that album?
“Jane On Fire” is our debut album—our first kick at writing original material after we broke out of the internet box to perform live in Toronto. The title track “Jane On Fire” relates to a place in Toronto called Jane & Finch—a neighbourhood on Jane St and Finch Ave that used to be a place of dreams for immigrants new to Toronto, a new life, that better life. Unfortunately over the decades, the area has become one of the most crime-ridden and empoverished neighbourhoods in the city. We personified “Jane” as the fallen lady, who once was that bright shiny star and now sits alone in an old dressing room, with pictures of the past, glory days behind her, sad and a shadow—her light burning out. The song came about after a couple of Molotov cocktails were thrown into cars on Jane Street one morning in the area and it just seemed fitting to call it “Jane On Fire” –literally. The rest of the album is a collection of songs about Toronto, about our friends, about our youth…that make up the stories of each of the original band members.
How are the two albums different from one another?
“Jane On Fire”, as a debut album, is a collection of songs that were not written together as part of a concept—like “Sonic Boom” is. It’s more of a collection of songs that came about as we developed our own sound as a band—having started as a cover band on Youtube. It has a mix of country roots, Americana and pop rock. Although “Sonic Boom” has songs with a similar wide influence of sounds, I think we know who we are now as a band—we like lush harmonies and old fashioned guitar riffs, 80s and 90s synthy builds and solid catchy rock beats. “Sonic Boom” reflects a more cohesive sound for us.
Here comes another one of those strange questions; it’s studio day and I am told I need to follow you around and write about what I saw that day, what would I be writing?
Studio day is typically Sunday for us—you would see us gather a whole heap of photography and video gear and make sure all our batteries were charged on phones, the computer, the SLR cameras, the tablet, the webcam and the Sony Action Cam (we call that the “Andy Cam”) and we would head down to the studio—we would be chatting and recording our blog on the phone or Andy Cam and then set up cameras in the studio to record different bits during the day. You would see us set up and rehearse a bit for an upcoming show, chat about what blogs we should do this week, what the cover music video is going to be for later in the week and what we are going to cook for “Kitchen Sessions” – then we would be going live on Facebook shortly. We call this “content creation day” because we start with a 30 minute Facebook Live, at which time we also record the “Acoustic Sessions” videos for the following week, we then film our “Kitchen Sessions” – sometimes having to run to the grocery store like madmen just prior to filming…if we have a guest, we do a quick rehearsal of whatever song we are going to play on the show, then we shoot the show in our usual format. We eat whatever we cooked after the show, and then we move on to the afternoon which is typically planning and shooting an entire music video for Youtube in about 3 hours. This is for our series “Pick Up & Play” now in its fifth season on Youtube. After we rehearse the song, and record the individual instruments, we make a quick mix of the song and then shoot a music video to the song scene by scene over and over for several takes until we have enough film to edit. Then we collapse from exhaustion and plan out the week of rehearsals and social media content.
Who are your music influences?
Jackie: I have so many! I love Heart, Stevie Nicks, Evanescence, The Beatles, U2 and Walk Off The Earth the most. I’m influenced a lot these days by artists that are the full package—great speakers, great actors, great musicians, great with their fans, great writers—Demi Lovato, Mylie Cyrus, Taylor Swift.
Andy: my all-time favorite band is Pearl Jam—I’ve been to dozens of their concerts over the years
When you are not writing, recording or making music… what do you do?
Jackie: Andy, me and Marty all work in the local hospital. Andy and I are partners and we have children. We also like to try to get out of Toronto in the summer if we are not touring and head up to cottage country here in Ontario, Canada.
Which of the two albums took the longest to write and why?
Jackie: Jane On Fire took nearly two years. Sonic Boom took two weeks. I had a definite goal and was a captive on a cross country train for two weeks during the writing of “Sonic Boom”. Having the experience behind my belt with “Jane On Fire”—my first attempt at writing original music, I had a system that worked and a clear vision of where the album was going to take us.
We have come to the end of our interview, do you have any other upcoming projects you are working on? Where can people find your music? Any shout-outs?
A big shout-out to our label mate Canadian rock goddess Jessica Speziale who is releasing her new EP “Awakenings” May 4th at the same time as “Sonic Boom”—you can see Jessica in many of our Across The Board videos on Youtube and Facebook. Shout out to our producers MC2 Music Media here in Toronto who work tirelessly to keep the content flowing!
You can find our music on Spotify, Google Play, Apply Music, Amazon, Soundcloud and in all the major digital outlets. We invite you to visit www.AcrossTheBoardMusic.ca for all things ATB and here are all our social media sites—
SOCIAL MEDIA AND WEBSITE LINKS – ACROSS THE BOARD
Watch us and subscribe on Youtube: http://youtube.com/atbmusiccanada
Please Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/acrosstheboardproductions
Follow us on Twitter: @ATBmusicCanada https://twitter.com/ATBmusicCanada
Hear us on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/across-the-board-music
Check us out on Reverbnation: http://www.reverbnation.com/acrosstheboardmusic
Visit us at iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/artist/across-the-board/id719845554
Stalk us on Instagram: http://instagram.com/acrosstheboardband
Read our blog: http://acrosstheboardmusic.wordpress.com
Patronize us at Patreon: http://patreon.com/acrosstheboard
Buy our tunes at BandCamp: http://acrosstheboardmusic.bandcamp.com
Playlist us on Spotify: Spotify
http://acrosstheboardmusic.ca – ATBs official website
http://acrosstheboardband.ca – ATB’s electronic press kit
http://acrosstheboard.band – ATB’s wordpress blog
http://pickupandplay.tv – ATBs Youtube fanpage
http://janeonfire.ca – ATBs full length debut album
T Dawn – BTD Radio