I will admit two things, here, at the start: Mason Vail and I are friends, and the title of his album, to be released this Saturday at The Warehouse in downtown STC – Kindly Kidding You – amuses me greatly. That first statement is clear and requires no explanation, just really a bit of honesty, a warning on my part, regarding the incestuous fallow that is most cultural “criticism. But the second one is a way by which to understand his album and his music.
For an album that is autobiographical and – in a formal acknowledgement of its inception – somewhat direct and immediate in its DYI recording and creation (one might say “artless” but that refers to the attitude and not the quality or cultural acumen) that title suggests an irony, a self awareness and humour that echoes my conversations with him, whether about his music or my writing.
How much do we reveal when we create something, how much do we WANT to reveal, and how much do we want to have teased out of us, reluctantly but not, really? How often, even in a conversation, do we not want to “say” but want to be “asked”? It isn’t accidental that in our conversations we often veered into talking about his musical influences (Lou Reed, Arcade Fire, Pete Doherty – though he spoke of Doherty in relation to Amy Winehouse, I spoke of him as part of Babyshambles and Kate Moss, so we had a generational moment) that are as much poets as songwriters, often with a confessional, intimate voice. (I mentioned Tom Waits, and specifically his “Who Are You?” which, if you’re familiar with it, is a song all about truth, lies, questions and love between a harsh couple…even if that couple is a singer and a listener). In the midst of our chat, I mentioned how years ago, reading a piece reviewing PJ Harvey, specifically the album on which she covered / re invigorated Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, the critic commented that all the poets of quality of the last half century had picked up guitars, not published chapbooks…)
Let us go to the blurb: “Mason Vail and his magical band of friends are an indie-rock quartet…playing in multiple different projects across the Niagara Region …Mason has established a reputation for original, heart-driven, written material and live performances in the local realm. After an East Coast tour with Niagara band Neighbouring [who played the rooftop terrace at NAC with another excellent local band, BAE Beach Club, this summer, perhaps the finest show there so far this season] and multiple amounts of dates with band WindfallFound… [Mason] sets forth to release his upcoming full-length LP, Kindly Kidding You.”
When I asked Mason to choose the songs most relevant in understanding this autobiographical fragment / chapter, without hesitation he said “Juliet” “Drunken Literature” and “Sleep is for the Weak.” All “experimental, autobiographical, specific times in my life, those three songs truly delve into who you are when approaching adulthood. The three that are most lyrically intrinsic, as accessible and offer the most to the listener.” The lyrics that are the most expressive and resonant. “A song about love, a song about energy, a song about your music and writing”: these are the best ones – in the opion of the writer and musician who will sing them to you, next Saturday evening at the Warehouse – for translating his internal world to our external one.
When I asked about the album title, he commented about pushing “ words into lovely structures” and how the idea for the album title Kindly Kidding You can be drawn back to the lyrics of the first song on the album, The Story: I want to tell you the story of my life that way there’d be no bullshit for me to write but I can’t say so I’ll just keep kindly kidding you.
By revealing you, in fact, conceal, especially in an autobiographical space. It is essentially performative, like an actor in a role.
The 10 track LP is recorded by Mason Vail and Matt Jaekel. Produced by Matt Jaekel and engineered / mastered by Cody Gogo. Album art produced by Alex Pak. Promo Pictures by Amryn Jaekel. The Ferns, Teenage Green Bean + Spencer Turcotte are also performing that evening. Doors at 8pm. Mason Vail goes on at 10:45pm.
Bart Gazzola (also known as #artcriticfromhell) is an arts writer/critic who has published with Magenta Magazine, Canadian Art, New Art Gazette, Galleries West, PrairieSeen, Long Exposure and BlackFlash (where he was Editorial Chair for 3 years). He is Assistant Editor at thesound.rocks and a frequent contributor to various cultural spaces in Niagara.