It's a quiet Sunday in Halifax when I reach Rebekah Higgs by phone. But on the other end of the line in Toronto, it sounds like one hell of a party. "It's the Roncesvalles Polish Festival today," she says. "They've got the streets all blocked off, and there's a band playing outside here on a stage. There's people everywhere."
It's a bit strange to hear Higgs talk so comfortably about her Toronto surroundings. After all, her Haligonian cred runs deep: as a solo artist, frontwoman of Ruby Jean and the Thoughtful Bees and one of the driving forces behind the Long Live the Queen festival, she's left an indelible mark on Halifax's music scene.
But looking for a change of scenery and new audiences to play for, Higgs made the move to Upper Canada's major metropolis last year. And though she misses the spontaneous run-ins with friends that just don't happen the same way in Toronto, she says that, musically, the move has been inspiring. "It's easier to just be anonymous and play at any little nook and cranny," she explains. "And since it's not necessarily your friends or people you know that will be coming, you feel like you can take a chance and try something new."
Odd Fellowship, released last month on Hidden Pony, certainly fits the "something new" bill. More adventurous than her self-titled debut---particularly in its eclectic, enticing second half---the record finds Higgs pulling in sounds from across the pop spectrum to build a sound that she dubs, with a laugh, "psyche-doo-wop."
Driving that playful sound is Higgs' collaboration with Brian Deck, whose production credits include Modest Mouse, Iron and Wine, Califone and, most recently, Sam Roberts. Deck was on a top-five wish list of producers that Higgs wanted to work with, and she was taken by surprise when he not only responded to her handwritten note, but agreed to travel to Nova Scotia.
"Basically, Brian and I formed a band for two weeks and made a record," says Higgs. "And while I wrote the songs before he showed up, they certainly were changed and transformed as we worked."
They recorded at the Odd Fellows Lodge in Riverport, inspiring the album's title. Along with engineer Diego Medina, they hunkered down in the coldest days of January.
"We had space heaters, the ovens on, scarves and fingerless gloves and hats, all the time, and basically recorded like that," Higgs says. "Maybe why the record sounds warm is that we ended up on the top floor most of the time in small rooms, little isolation booths with space heaters."
Higgs hopes Odd Fellowship's pending US release will let her tour some warmer locales when this winter comes around. But first up is a short tour of eastern Canada with two shows in Halifax this week.
And conscious of the four-year gap between records, she's eager to record again. "It took me a year to lock down the time with Brian, and then a year to get the label and then a year to set the release date. So that's why it took so long, but I definitely want to learn from this and record a new album right away, and try to get it out quickly. I don't want to wait around."
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