Who would have thought, after the passing of Gord Downie, that the Tragically Hip would be releasing a new album? Well that’s just what they’ve done with Saskadelphia – a collection of previously recorded tracks that didn’t make the cut back in 1990 while the band was creating their second album, Road Apples.
Dropping Friday, May 21, 2021, Saskadelphia was a trip down memory lane for the remaining band members, guitarists Rob Baker and Paul Langlois, bassist Gord Sinclair, and drummer Johnny Fay, according to a release on the band’s website. Saskadelphia was strongly considered as the album name back in 1990, but was considered “too Canadian” by the record label, the band shared.
The six tracks on this album have an interesting history. In June 2019, the band was listed in a New York Times article as one of many who had lost tapes in a 2008 fire in the backlot of Universal Studios.
“We felt we must have lost something, too,” said Fay in the release, “so, we began asking questions and eventually found our boxes of two-inch tapes with no labels. It became like a forensic process, looking for the handwriting of engineers we had worked with, like Bruce Barris or Mark Vreeken.”
As it turned out, all of The Tragically Hip’s materials had been relocated to Canada in 2001, according to the release. And so, in the summer of 2020, these abandoned souvenirs from the past were opened, revealing tapes full of tracks that were left behind three decades ago.
“We knew we had a lot to look for because we recorded a lot back then. We didn’t know what was there,” Fay continued, “So this meant baking them and listening to them as they were being transferred, hearing them for the first time in 30 years. It was crazy.”
“It isn’t always a unanimous decision,” Baker explained, referring to how tracks are chosen for an album. “We thought about these things because they came up during a time of vinyl records and albums. You would put on Side One and, if that was good, move to Side Two. You wouldn’t listen to one song and skip ahead. Gord Sinclair was a master at sequencing, and I started to get a bit of a complex because songs I loved would be left off. I remember loving “Ouch,” for example, which just faded away into the mist. I didn’t think about it again for 30 years, so it’s awesome to hear it now. They have a life after all, I guess.”
The band said Saskadelphia is a bittersweet record. In the release Sinclair shared, “We are, sadly, never going to have the chance to put out new stuff. For us, in our minds, this is new.” Langlois calls it nerve-wracking, but hopes fans old and new appreciate “the sound of a band on fire.” Baker is curious about the reaction, while Fay recalls how things used to be. “When we made a record,” he said, “we would be able to sit with it for a while after it was mixed and mastered. It was this golden time of two months or so, where we could play it for friends, but had no idea how it would do. We were just happy because it was a time capsule of that period of our lives, though we had probably moved on and played other gigs. It’s one of those things that, when you’re a band, you want as many people to hear your music as possible. You never really know, but it’s nice to be able to get it out at the end of the day. It’s part of our DNA.”
The album drops at 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 21, 2021, and will be available at music retailers and online. Read the full release on the Tragically Hip’s website.