Sunparlour Players originated in the mind of Andrew Penner, but over the last few years, after extensive touring, Sunparlour Players can now be called a group. Michael "Rosie" Rosenthal and Dennis Van Dine joined up with Penner during the recording of the debut album Hymns For The Happy which was released on the Baudelaire Label in 2007. Now, 4 years later, the band releases Us Little Devils (Outside Music), their third album, and without a doubt their most diverse and strongest effort to date.
Growing up on a tomato farm in Southern Ontario, Andrew had his first musical experiences singing in the choir of a Mennonite church. These roots had an influence on the subject matter of Hymns For The Happy. The songs were about finding a home and settling in new places. It also references farms and migrant workers with songs like “If the Creeks Don’t Rise.” Their sophomore album, Wave North, was recorded at Blue Rodeo’s Woodshed Studio in Toronto, Ontario. The band experimented with homemade microphones, percussion, horns, strings, and a choir. Teaming up with New York producer Jeremy Backofen (Felice Brothers, Frightened Rabbit), they tore apart their songs and built them back up with a sonic force that hadn’t been discovered yet by the
band. Wave North was on many “best of” lists of that year and word had begun to spread about their live show, helped by shows with Mumford & Sons, Blue Rodeo and Plants & Animals as well as their own rigorous touring schedule of shows in barns, backyards, theatres, and of course, clubs. The cathartic and euphoric live show was where the band won fans, converts and accolades and it's the live show that they've managed to bottle in this album, Us Little Devils.
Us Little Devils sees the band continuing to expand their sound, embracing some electronic and pop influences. “It has colours of what we are, but it’s also us looking out into new directions." The title is loosely based on an urban legend from Detroit - “Nain Rouge” - a little red curious creature that often accompanies dramatic events in the town history. This is the first record that features just the three members of the band. For the better part of 2011, Penner has been performing in The Grapes Of Wrath at the prestigious Stratford Festival. During his time at Stratford, Andrew took up in a secluded century old schoolhouse where the album began to take shape. "We were in the middle of nowhere. We could work day or night. All we needed was a wood stove and microphones. Being immersed daily in the words of Steinbeck pushed me to find textures with words and sounds, but then to write and deliver them in a raw, direct way. And really I think that's something that the Sunparlour's try to do on record and with our live show. Be direct." Often Rosenthal and Van Dine would make the venture down the 401 to write and record. “We wanted to capture the energy of the three of us in a room with no distractions”, says Penner. To help achieve this the band brought on Chris Stringer (Timbre Timber, Ohbijou, Rush) to produce and the band shuffled between the old schoolhouse and the Lincoln County Social Club Studio in Toronto. Stringer found a bridge between folk, punk, electro, and gospel that sees the band stretching out from the confines of folk and rock. “It’s a celebration of searching and getting lost, finding another home and embracing where you are right now”, says Penner. The songs are joyful and challenging, playful and surprising. They leave you with the kind of feeling you only get from three kick drums being beaten on by three sweaty guys in suits. Music that brings you to the edge of breakdown and bliss.
The band also has a strange and unique partnership in Canadian music, a sponsorship with Bernardin Home Canning to help support their line of homemade mustards and jellies, “Sunparlour Preserves”. “It started when we were playing shows, before we had an album or t-shirts to sell, we used to raffle off homemade preserves. People liked it so much the idea stuck.” At most shows, fans can take home an album along with a jar of Handsome Strong Mustard and the hot seller Red Pepper Jelly.
Sunparlour Players have become a collective, 3 unique and creative individuals who embrace both the dark and light in their songs. Dusty landscapes, rural backdrops and desolate times: themes that wouldn't be out of place in a Cormac McCarthy novel are matched with the fervour and joy of a gospel revival, usually all within one song. On stage, Sunparlour Players take their fans through a roller coaster of emotion and energy, thunderous stomping one moment and delicate strumming the next, always backed by the bands boundless energy. Us Little Devils is the at home version of a Sunparlour Players show. Enjoy the ride.