Rich Aucoin wants you to feature on his next album | Music | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Halifax's Rich Aucoin is working on Synthetic: Season 3. He performs at The Shore Club on Aug. 18, 2023.

Rich Aucoin wants you to feature on his next album

The Halifax indie-electronic act is working on the third installment of his quadruple album—and this weekend, he brings his Synthetic odyssey to The Shore Club.

So well-earned is Halifax alt-pop artist Rich Aucoin’s “nicest guy in music” reputation that when The Coast reaches him by phone on a late August morning, he’s helping a friend jumpstart their car. The same Polaris and Juno-nominated artist who once toured across Canada by bicycle to raise money for Childhood Cancer Canada—and blogged about it for The Coast—also recalls getting into trouble as a Coast newspaper carrier after college. The problem? He wanted to talk with everyone he met.

“I wasn’t great at the job,” Aucoin chuckles. “Several times, customers would call and be like, ‘Is there something wrong with The Coast today? It hasn’t arrived yet.’ I would just get so caught up chatting with different folks at each place [on my route].”

That drive to connect with people hasn’t left Aucoin. In fact, he’s doubled down on it: Not just in his confetti-filled live shows, in which the 39-year-old often finds himself in the middle of the crowd, rather than onstage; but on his newest creative project, the wide-ranging, epic and ambitious Synthetic—a quadruple album that promises “more synths than any album in history.” For Aucoin’s forthcoming Synthetic: Season 3 and Season 4, he’s inviting collaborators to send in synth sounds and arrangements that he’ll weave into his final composition.

Aucoin already has all the songs planned and written. But rather than treating any submission that breaks from his plans as a negative, the Halifax songwriter sees them as “fun new discoveries”:

“It’s really fun to see someone be like, ‘I have this other idea that could work,’ and then it’s just like, ‘Oh wow, that’s such a better idea. Let’s scrap the first thing.’”

Synthetic draws inspiration from LA, Calgary visits

In its two installations to date, Synthetic veers from summer road-trip euphoria (“Wav”) to Blade Runner-esque (“Film Noir”) to dance floor-ready techno (“456”). At turns, Aucoin’s synthetic symphonies sound both nostalgic—evoking elements of Krautrock and ’80s-era synth-pop—and current—a sonic contemporary to French duo Justice. The seeds of the album, though, came nearly 15 years ago in a city better known for country music. Aucoin was in Calgary during his 2007 cross-Canada tour and paid a visit to the Cantos Music Museum (now National Music Centre), a treasure trove of more than 650 keyboards and synths that captured his imagination.

“I had always wanted to go back and try to record there,” Aucoin says.

As fate would have it, the National Music Centre would launch an artist-in-residence program in the years after Aucoin’s Alberta trip. He applied and was named the NMC’s artist-in-residence in January 2020. Aucoin flew to Calgary and recorded “like, the first 100 synths” that would form Synthetic’s musical spine. And then, March 2020 came around. Aucoin set the project aside.

“I didn’t want the pandemic to colour the record,” he tells The Coast. “I knew the songs were going to change if I worked on it during the spring of 2020. So I just stopped working on it and put it on hold—literally, I didn’t do any work on it between the lockdown and when they announced the vaccines.”

click to enlarge Rich Aucoin wants you to feature on his next album
Riley Smith
Before embarking on his career as a musician, Rich Aucoin studied at both Dalhousie and King's.

Later recording sessions would take Aucoin to Los Angeles’ Vintage Synthesizer Museum, where he would experiment with the rare Russian Formanta Polivoks synth (heard on “Algorithm”) and the LinnDrum (heard on “Space Western”), among other instruments. Most of Aucoin’s album creation work, however, came in the same north end Halifax apartment he’s rented for 17 years.

“I like having a space where you don’t feel the pressure of time,” he says.

There are other perks, too.

“I really grandfathered myself into my own cheap rent,” Aucoin laughs. “It’s definitely allowed me to not have to have a [second] job, which is something that I think would be impossible if I was having to pay rent in LA or New York or Toronto or something like that.

“And I really just like being back home here. I spend a lot of time surfing, and I feel like I can really relax here in a way that [I can’t] when I’m in another city. I’ll end up feeling like I need to be doing as much as possible with the time that I have there.”

Shore Club show a tradition for Aucoin

Speaking of home, Aucoin is gearing up for a hometown show this Friday, Aug. 18. He’ll be performing at The Shore Club (250 Shore Club Road, Hubbards) in what has become something of an annual tradition: This will be Aucoin’s fifth year of headlining a show at the dining hall.

“Last year, I [thought it might be] the last time,” Aucoin tells The Coast, “and now this year, I’m like, ‘This is the last time.’ But we’ll see. I feel like I’m constantly pulling an LCD Soundsystem.”

There won’t be any of the confetti or glitter from other shows—“I feel like if I shot off the confetti gun [at The Shore Club], it would have confetti coming down into people’s lobster for months,” he laughs—but Aucoin’s trademark parachute will be there (if you haven’t seen it, just wait), along with his video mashups.

“It’s a fun time,” he says. “It’s really nice to be on the beach and camping down there for the night with friends.”

What day is the show? Friday, Aug. 18, 2023
What time does it start? 9:30pm
Where is the show? The Shore Club (250 Shore Club Road, Hubbards)
Who else is performing? DJ T-Woo and Douvet
How much are tickets? $26.30 (available here)

About The Author

Martin Bauman

Martin Bauman, The Coast's News & Business Reporter, is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Capital Daily, and Waterloo Region Record, among other places. In 2020, he was named one of five “emergent” nonfiction writers by the RBC Taylor Prize...
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