By: Ryan Tobin
We recently caught up with Newfoundland Folk Rockers Adam Billard and Dan McLean, otherwise known as Isle of Ease, as they head out on the road promoting their new, aptly named album, Roads. Even with the stresses of an upcoming tour, Adam and Dan made time for us to talk about preparing for tours, living in Montreal, Tim Horton’s and blaming Tame Impala. Here's what they had to say:
Rock Island: First of all, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview.
Adam Billard/Dan McLean: Thanks for having us, Rock Island.
RI: Isle of Ease are preparing for an extensive 3-week tour that will hit every province from here up to, and including, Ontario. I have to ask, how do you prepare and plan for something like this?
AB: We have been putting in work on this tour for around 5-6 months now. There’s been a pretty significant amount of legwork associated with making all these shows happen. We have been answering e-mails and phone calls from booking agents and venue managers every other day since early 2016 and spending countless hours searching for bands that fit our vibe and would be interested in playing together. We’ve been so lucky to lock in a couple of really amazing acts to perform with – some we know and a lot we don’t.
RI: This isn’t your first time on the road; you two have been here before. What has the past tour taught you for this one?
DM: For me, one of the most important things I took from the last tour is a lot more confidence in playing our music for people. Playing in your local city is always a blast, but there’s definitely a comfort with playing for all your friends and family. Bringing our music on the road for the first time was an amazing experience, and made us so much better as musicians and performers. I think we got pretty good at making friends!
RI: Your new CD, Roads, just recently released to positive reviews, Congratulations. What song would you say is your favorite, favorite playing live and which song do you find is a crowd favorite?
DM: My favorite song on the album is probably "Conscription Eye", mainly because I still really dig the lyrical concept and I am super pleased with how it turned out in the recording. Favorite playing live would have to be the title track, "Roads". That song kind of represents everything that the band is about, and after the last tour we joked that it became the point during every set when everyone in the venue became best pals. I think it’s safe to say that the crowd favorite has become "At All" - our friends are a bunch of psychos and scream their heads off for five minutes during that song.
RI: Going on tour is a lot of work, a lot of sleepless nights, and a lot of preparation. Once you’re on the road, it’s go time and the only time you're playing is live. Did you guys decide to pick one or two set lists to play throughout, trim your gear down to make it fit the van or make any other sacrifices in order to make the trip run more smoothly?
DM: Those are definitely all important things to consider when gearing up for a tour. We’re currently in the middle of some heavy rehearsals all week, so we’re figuring out all the arrangements for our songs and working in a few covers to fill out some of the longer sets. We certainly haven’t downsized our gear for travel on the road; in fact, we have more gear than ever! This week we’re figuring out ways to make our setup and tear down run more smoothly; there’s a friggin’ nightmare of cabling around me right now.
RI: What should your fans expect at your shows?
DM: We always make sure our show is a little different than the previous one, whether it is playing new material, new instruments or new arrangements. We feel really strongly about always bringing something new to the table every time we play.
RI: You're playing some popular venues in some popular towns with some popular bands. I don't want to get you two in trouble, so between us, no one will know, what are a couple that stand out? And have you played with any before?
DM: Our Toronto show has certainly shaped up to be a standout for me. We’re doing the show with our pals The BelleRegards, who we met on tour last year, and another amazing band from Windsor called Border Patrol. I think all of our sounds are going to work so well together and I am incredibly excited and honored to share a bill with those guys. Another show that I am stoked on is our gig in Montreal (where I am living these days). We lucked out big time and managed to get an evening at Casa Del Popolo, which is a truly magical and historic music venue in the Montreal indie scene. Friends of mine in Montreal are joining us that night with their lovely project called Maerin, and our old pal and townie expat, Micah Brown, is also bringing his jams for a solo set. Hype!
RI: You have a couple days off in between dates - do you have any plans besides driving or is it mostly just driving?
AB: There’s no doubt that we have a fair bit of driving to do (about 7600KMs in total!) but we do have some extracurricular activities planned. We have family on the west coast of Newfoundland so we’ll be spending some time in Corner Brook and vicinity. Dan currently lives in Montreal so we get to have an off-day at his place to enjoy the sights and sounds of la city. As well, we have a good pal in Toronto who is currently finalizing her debut EP, so I’ll be tracking some drums with her for a full day in Toronto.
RI: What's your go to food/food outlet on the road?
AB: We have been known to mow down on Santa Fe Chicken sandwiches from the one and only Timothy Horton’s. Being on the road for so many hours and having to be on somewhat of a time crunch from gig to gig, you tend to be limited with choices, yet for some reason there always seems to be a Timothy Horton’s at every exit. OH CANADA.
RI: What music will be playing in your van while on the road?
AB: We have an extensive collection of CDs so we won’t be deprived of a healthy rock n’ roll diet. Some EPIC compact discs to mention would be Feist – Metals, Dan Mangan – Nice, Nice, Very Nice, Half Moon Run – Sun Leads Me On, Alt-J – An Awesome Wave, Shred Kelly – Sing to the Night, Shakey Graves – And The War Came, Barr Brothers – Sleeping Operator, Patrick Watson – Love Songs for Robots, and Arcade Fire – Neon Bible, to name a few hot ones.
RI: They say what happens on the road stays on the road and we all know every tour has a couple good stories. Are you able to share one with us?
AB: On the tail end of our last tour we were lucky enough to catch Tame Impala at the iconic Massey Hall in Toronto. The performance was absolutely out of this world and after the show Dan and I continued to enjoy the bliss at a hip little boutique, speak-easy joint called Snack Bar. Ten or twelve manhattans later (who’s counting?), our vision went blurry and everything almost went black. The last thing I remember doing was taking a photo with someone’s Polaroid camera. I guess after all the rock and roll music and alcohol consumption we completely forgot that we had a flight departing the Toronto Billy Bishop Airport at 6:45am the next morning. We awoke startled from the Alexandra Hotel abyss at around 5:30am and I managed to throw up for almost ten minutes or more. We both proceeded to somehow pack everything and started running (read: stumbling) out of the hotel with all kinds of bags and music gear. Just our luck, we couldn’t get a cab and calling them wasn’t working either, so we hoof it for about 30 minutes all the way to the Bill Bishop Airport. We luckily make it to the airport with moments to spare and have a hard time speaking English to the kind folks at Porter, who were trying to get our band gear on this tiny prop-plane. We have pretty funny before and after photos, which accurately depict the effects of rocking a little too hard prior to a flight home. I am still blaming Tame Impala.
RI: Finally, if you had one chance to convince our readers to check out one of the tour dates which one would it be?
AB: I think it is safe to say we are both very excited to play Swirsky’s Theatre in Corner Brook (9pm Saturday, June 25th). It’s our first time bringing Isle of Ease to CB and we can’t wait to play for some family and friends.
Make sure you catch these two gentlemen at a city near you! You can find out more about their tour dates by clicking on https://www.facebook.com/IsleOfEase/ or streaming the album below.
Thanks for your time guys!