Having an independent record label in 2013 doesn’t mean the same thing it did 10 or 20 years ago (or even one year ago). Parliament of Trees was formed in 2007 by Doug McLean (Bonaduces, The Paperbacks) as a way for Winnipeg pop rock acts The Details and The Paperbacks to release their music. Since, the roster of this collective has grown to include two Ottawa acts in viral sensation Kalle Mattson and CBC buzz band Loon Choir; ex-Paperback Ian La Rue, the mysterious Gothenberg Vandalism and another McLean act, Yoyote.
“I think that Parliament of Trees is a good home for bands to make what they want with it,” booker/manager/label co-runner Shad Bassett says over the phone from Edmonton. “I don’t think that Parliament of Trees is a good forever home for any band. I think it’s a good transitional place for a band to get involved with. Hopefully they work with us and go on to bigger and better things. I don’t think that anyone involved with the label, like me or Doug or anyone, are involved to make a billion dollars off of Parliament of Trees. We just want to see our friends and the people that we love succeed.”
A one time Winnipegger, Bassett moved away as a teen, but not before seeing McLean’s old group, Banned From Atlantis, and becoming a friend and fan. When McLean’s next group, the Bonaduces, made the trek to Edmonton, Bassett was there to promote the gig. Eventually, after all these years, he wound up co-running the label with McLean.
“I was asked to help Doug with label things, but I don’t really remember that conversation,” he says. “I just sort of started doing all this, I don’t know how, but I think this definitely happened quite naturally.”
Bassett manages Mattson and worries about a lot of the business parts of Parliament of Trees, while McLean focuses on music and takes a laid-back attitude to the idea of a label.
“It’s interesting because it’s not for profit, it doesn’t take in any money at all,” McLean says over coffee in Osborne Village. “It’s more of a co-op than a label. Shad does most of the actual work for it. He does a lot of booking and management stuff, I just enjoy the fun of it. It reminds me of making stuff up when you were in high school. ‘Here’s some music’ and that’s it.”
McLean is a big fan of the immediacy of music, and his latest project (which is actually an old one) is no exception. From 1995 to 2000, McLean, along with bassist Bob Somers, guitarist Mike Koop and drummer Chris Hiebert made a few CDs, cassettes and 7”s as The Bonaduces. Re-forming in 2009 for the odd show, the band is releasing something new (a song or two with an LP to follow next year) at the Park Theatre on Sunday night.
“We never really made much of a plan,” McLean says of the new home recordings. “We were thinking it would be fun to record but never got into the specifics and then it never happened until now.
“It’s a less meticulous process than a lot of the other stuff. It’s just playing through a song a couple of times and taping it. That’s how we did it before and it works pretty well for us.”
The bulk of P.o.T.’s releases have been digital, as will be the case with the new Bonaduces single.
“It reminds me more of putting out a tape, same kind of feel,” McLean says. “Putting out tapes when we were kids, it felt immediate. Then as things go on there’s more people involved. I think (digital music has) allowed me to hear a lot more music than I ever have in my entire life so I appreciate that.”
There’s a definite enthusiasm (mixed with self-deprecating worry and some noncommittal vagueness) that McLean has for the release, all sentiments that his label partner shares.
“It’s really exciting,” Bassett says. “I don’t know exactly what we’re releasing yet, but it’s really exciting to be a part of it and I can’t wait to hear it.”
McLean is also eager to state that it’s only somewhat of a reunion, since everyone has remained close friends over the years. Though there is something about getting the four of them into a room, playing the honest, straightforward, gender-bending melodic punk the Bonaduces were known for and hitting “record”.
“There kind of is a magic,” McLean says. “When things just come together quickly and feel simple there’s a bit of a magic. It’s partly the nature of the band – it’s not rocket science to play that kind of music.”