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Hylo country 

Haligonian ex-pat Paul Aucoin returns home for a show with the Hylozoists. Matt Charlton finds out what took so long.

It’s getting harder and harder to write a story on Canadian music without at least mentioning Paul Aucoin’s name. The Halifax-born producer/musician has left his stamp on a growing number of bands through his production work. He plays in The Old Soul, The Fembots and is a contributing member of Cuff The Duke. Now, with a short break in his other duties coming up, he’s preparing to bring his own project, The Hylozoists, to his hometown for the first time.

“It just never really worked out,” says Aucoin of the band’s absence from the city. “I actually got a Halifax version of the band together but it was to play shows in Montreal and Toronto.” The problem will finally be rectified with the Hylozoists’ upcoming performance at Stage Nine on November 17.

Since forming over five years ago, the Hylozoists has developed in accordance with Aucoin’s other musical activities. The project started when he lived in Seabright, Nova Scotia, but it has shifted home base and contributing members in the wake of his move to Toronto. Now, firmly rooted there, the biggest challenge for the band seems to be finding time to exist.

“I work on a lot of records,” says Aucoin over the phone on his way to Halla Music Studio in Toronto. “If I had more time we’d probably be more prolific, but this year I’ve done the Jon-Rae and the River record, we’ve just started the new Old Soul record and we’re at the beginning of the new Cuff the Duke record.”

Despite these schedule restrictions, the Hylozosists have released two albums to date, including 2001’s La Nouvelle Gauche and the sophomore effort La Fin Du Monde. In this time, the group has grown from Aucoin’s studio project to being a full-blown indie orchestra, including contributions from such reputable talent as Cuff the Duke’s Wayne Petti, Paul Lowman and Matt Ferris; The Weakerthans’s Jason Tait; Julie Penner of Broken Social Scene and Fembots; Final Fantasy’s Owen Pallett; Dale Murray of Dale Murray Band and too many other acts to mention; and more.

While the list of talented contributors appears sprawling, The Hylozoists’ vast and cinematic sound demands the eccentric talents each can offer. Centering on vibraphones, the band’s dynamic soundscapes include viola, glockenspiel, piano, guitar and pedal steel.

The band’s penchant for such an expansive sound could be attributed to the fact that Aucoin draws a large part of his inspiration from film score composers including Bernard Herman and Ennio Morricone. As a result, the majority of his songs are primarily instrumental, though the music is delivered with emphasis on melody over atmospherics.

“Maybe if I was a more natural singer, we would be a more vocal-based band,” he says. “I really try and make it so you can play the songs on acoustic guitar and whistle the melody. It still pretty much is just pop music to a certain extent, just sort of dressed up in a different way. I’ve never really ruled vocals out; if I feel like going in that direction on the next record, I will.”

While this leads to having lots of performers ending up on stage at their shows, Aucoin is careful to point out that he doesn’t include the group as part of the current “big band” movement.

“A lot of bands are seven or eight people right now,” he says. “We’re really seven or eight people because we have to be. If I could do this is as a four-piece I would so we could play more, but everybody’s part is really crucial. A lot of those other seven- and eight-piece bands could probably lose a member or two and still sound relatively the same. We’ve never really had anyone come up to us after a show and say, ‘Eight might be too many.’”

The Hylozoists w/Brent Randall and his Pinecones, November 17 at Stage Nine, Grafton at Blowers, 10pm, $6.


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