With their new album “Notionside,” Colin Kutchyear and La+ch – collectively known as Kutch – present a shimmering set of pop songs that will not only get you up on your feet dancing, but also thinking deeply about the messages within. The album’s themes include the value of relationships and their relative fragility, not to mention the overall delicacy of life in general. If you are a fan of Coleman Hell, you may recognize La+ch’s contributions as he is a member of Coleman Hell’s Sideways Collective.
The project opens with “Collectable,” a deeply reflective song whose pop sound belies the thoughtful lyrics within. Taking the metaphor of the items we collect over the course of a lifetime, the duo contemplate the value of the relationships we also accumulate, and whether we treasure them the way we should. “No Take-Backs” possesses both a terrific groove and another great messages (again, the fragility of love, this time juxtaposed against the casual utterances and deeds that, once made, can’t be undone).
“Cash in (Heavy Heart of Gold)” and “Clubs and Spades” both muse on the impacts of pain and tragedy – in particular, how life can change so quickly without warning. “Canvas,” a terrific love song, provides a pause from the deep waters of the album. “Not So Sure,” which follows, is another excellent reflection on the transience of love (but its absolute necessity in life regardless).
Although (as you’ll see below in the interview) Colin doesn’t necessarily plan to follow his musical path full-time, “Notionside” is evidence that musical excellence doesn’t have to be diluted by a life primarily focused elsewhere. This is a terrific, thoughtful set of songs that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, and I look forward to the next album from Kutch – whenever it happens.
We’re delighted that Colin Kutchyera took time out of his manic schedule (balancing music with academia!) to answer a few questions about the album.
I love the concept in “Collectable,” of love and loved ones being something that we collect over the course of our lives. From the press release materials: “A true relationship needs to be used and abused in order to become something people truly will see and envy. Their values don’t appreciate when they sit on a shelf.” How did you come to this insight – all at once, or did you come to understand this over the course of time?
I’ve been married for over 8 years, and like most relationships, it’s definitely been a learning process. There have been some great times, but also some extremely difficult ones, such periods of long distance and caring for a child with a critical illness. It can be easy during the hard times, or when someone slips up to want to say, “That’s it. You’ve ruined things.” Even though we all know that no relationship is without its challenges, we place to a lot of value on couples that are always smiling, only sharing the fun activities and good times. It’s ultimately the hard times that will determine whether those good times and prized memories end up having any value at all. Nobody is going to reminiscence fondly about how great of a time they had on their vacation to Hawaii with their ex-lover.
“No Take-Backs” has a similarly terrific theme – the idea that what we say and do in a relationship doesn’t just fade away, and that a relationship itself doesn’t entirely fade. We currently live in a culture where many things – including love – are considered disposable. How do you see the juxtaposition between this and the relative permanence of love?
You actually said it very well yourself! There is definitely an impact in every choice we make in life, and sometimes in love, we can tend to downplay or neglect that impact. That was a tough song to write without sounding overly judgmental. Relationships are hard. It’s impossible to know exactly what people go through privately. I had a couple of friends going through divorces recently. It sucked for everyone involved. You want things for them to work out, but in the end, it’s their choice to make and you can only hope that they’re thinking it through.
We don’t often get to interview artists who specialize in non-acoustic music, and I’ve often wondered: how does the process of creating and recording a song differ? How do you generally build your songs? (I know you don’t want to give away any trade secrets!)
Believe it or not, almost all of the riffs and chord structures were written on guitar. Even though it doesn’t suit most of the songs, that’s my instrument of choice. To me it’s really not much of a different process, except rather than recording the guitar myself, I’m either transposing it for a keyboard or teaching it to La+ch to play it (he’s a much better piano player than me). There are a number of real guitar parts in the recording, but I feel like you can probably tell in some songs that the parts were written by a guitar player.
For those listeners who are familiar with Coleman Hell’s sound, this album will probably be a perfect fit – how would you describe your sound, specifically, and where do you feel this album diverges from (or carries on with) La+ch’s work with Coleman Hell?
I’m happy to be held up to the standard to a multi-platinum artist, but I’m very content and confident in the uniqueness of Notionside. We ended up achieving a very “chill” feel for the most part while managing to fit in a lot of layers and keep things interesting.
I had a lot of themes and stories that I wanted to explore, and in the end, I felt like each individual track was the perfect fit for the message that I wanted to get across. La+ch is a very talented, diverse musician and as a producer, definitely has a unique style. He collaborates with a variety of artists, so I was very happy to work with him again after all these years.
You’re currently balancing music with a full-time job (and parenting) – how do you make it all fit, and give adequate attention to all the various pieces of your life?
I haven’t exactly been doing the greatest job of that. Typically, I’m a night owl and able to get a lot done at night. but with the family health issues that I’ve mentioned, that’s been very challenging.I’m also a Masters Student, which throws another ball up in the air. Unfortunately, in life, there’s rarely the “right time” in life to do something, and with this current project, I just had to say “now or never.”
What would be your ideal next step, musically?
Every artist wants their music to go on and be successful, and I don’t want to downplay my hopes and dreams- I’m not just a hobbyist. but I’m trying my best to stay grounded and realistic. Music is a passion of mine. As an artist, I was displaced and I went way too long in between projects, and I had a blast with this one. La+ch is one of my best friends, and we don’t get to see each other very often. I’m very proud of this album, but the reception and attention that it gets is ultimately out of my control. Even if in the end the album flops, I still got an excuse to hang out with my friend who I don’t see very often and have fun. I hope at the very least I can continue to do that.
Do you have plans to tour this material at all?
I might get scoffed at as “not a true, hardworking musician” by some, but as someone who’s done the grueling 40+ day tours across Canada in the past, I can say “Nope” without a shred of regret. I’ve learned a lot about releasing music during this album, but something that I learned previously is that spending weeks touring without a large, pre-existing following is an extremely risky and often pointless task, particularly for someone who lives secluded in Thunder Bay and can’t just do a quick weekend “tour” around the GTA. If one-off shows or other opportunities arise that make sense, I haven’t closed any doors. For now, I’m just focused on trying to strike a good balance in life and I’ll be thankful if any opportunities arise.