In 1997, weary from a flood of Pearl Jam fallout bands and the testosterone-gripped vocal style that dominated airwaves during the golden age of so-called “alternative rock,” and prior to the indie-crossover explosion, acclaimed Toronto musician Brendan Canning looked to friend and fellow musician, keyboardist and beat wizard Bernard Maiezza of 90’s seminal Canadian indie band, Change of Heart, to collaborate. “My band hHead was done for me, forever. The success we’d had and the sound was something that I wanted to distance myself from at the time. Change of Heart shows would always start with a couple minutes of Bernard’s synth-laden soundscapes and tripped-out beats,” Canning recalls. “These poppier melodies were prettier and so much more pleasing to the ear, and were my favourite part of the show and what lead me to want to work with Bernard.
A self-titled album was released independently. At the same time, Canning was focusing all of his energy on the burgeoning Broken Social Scene, leaving him with little time to support Cookie Duster. Maiezza spent the ensuing stretch of time in his home studio in Toronto’s East End, crafting ideas for the next Cookie Duster record, an album that would take years to surface.
“I suppose around 2007 it felt like the idea of a Cookie Duster record was an actual possibility,” says Canning. “An outlet outside Broken Social Scene became crucial to my sanity and creative forces.”
This time around Brendan looked to beautiful but appropriately tough and scrappy vocalist Jeen O’Brien, who came armed with a never-ending supply of lyrics to carry out a large share of singing and songwriting duties.
“After getting together and writing a few tunes with Jeen and really enjoying the process, it seemed silly to stop. You could throw anything at her, and more often than not she’d send you something back that was perfect.” Maiezza and Canning would send O’Brien ideas for songs, and she’d continue improving them with every exchange. “Damon Richardson was also adding to the shape and sound of what was starting to feel like a band. Killer drummer with great songwriting instincts!”
“Everybody was happy with what was happening,” remembers O’Brien. “When you’re trying to be creative or trying to get something done, sometimes just sitting there having all the time in the world with no interruptions is the best way to achieve your goal”, explains O’Brien. “It became pretty apparent that things were working really well.”
From there, Super Friendz frontman guitarist Matt Murphy was what Canning describes as “the last congealing thing that happened. “There was never a completion date because I got this label that’s waiting to hear it,” adds Canning. “It was just, ‘OK, now I think we got something that’s ready for some other ears.”
“When Flying Was Easy”, opens with “Cut Me, Focus” and its trapping intro that plays like an old school garage and techno track. First single “Two Feet Stand Up” and also “Standing Alongside Gone” offer no nonsense , straight ahead guitar-driven pop, while “Living on a Fine Line” channels the band’s more delicate and precise nature. Daddy’s Got The Medicine with its rather unusual sentiment is irresistibly catchy and the driving force of a song like “No Solo” harkens back to classic era Verve.
Cookie Duster has taken the basic tools of their genre and created a record with massive hooks and some unusual arrangements. “I want our music to be heard,” says Canning. “Of course you do it to please yourself and your tastes, but I would also love for it to be heard as far and wide as it’s granted to travel.”