Aidan Knight has undergone a transformation. It was two years ago that the Victoria songwriter wowed us with Versicolour, but Knight began primarily as a soloist, having his “Friendly Friends” accompany him on the record and on tour.
On this upcoming record, Small Reveal, Knight and his “Friends” (comprised of Olivier Clements, Julia Wakal, Dave Barry and Colin Nealis) worked together on the music and were all very much a part of the process from its infancy, developing Aidan Knight’s title into a namesake for the entire band. Knight explains, “All of the people that play onSmall Reveal also all played on Versicolour, but they didn’t play until after I had worked through everything myself.” The process of this new album was completely collaborative, contrasting the solo work on the previous album. Versicolour had been an emotionally haunted collection of Knight’s pensive poetry. Brought to life with anodynic harmonies that set the tone for his amorous acoustic musings, it altogether created a very personal album. “When someone makes something that’s so open about themselves, there’s a certain sense of vulnerability that I think really speaks to me when I hear that in other people’s work, or see it on a wall or read it in a book. That’s the kind of thing that I myself identify with.”
In Small Reveal however, Knight treads into uncharted territory and does something we haven’t previously heard in his music: storytelling through fictitious characters, with each splaying their various insights. “There are a certain number of songs that are on this record that are not me. They’re either told as a narrative about a character, or provide the character’s actual voice. That’s a completely new thing for me, I didn’t do any of that on Versicolour.” It’s funny to consider that for someone who is seemingly so accustomed to divulging the intricacies of his own psyche, Knight seems rather comfortable with this transition into a new, more external form of source-material. “I love truly emotionally devastating music. Really uncomfortably personal, savoury songwriting. There’s something really great about being able to stare into the soul of a songwriter and really be able to see what they’re about in terms of their work,” he confesses. “But, at the same time, I think there is a need for someone who is creative to retreat into other characters and I just find it interesting to be able to write songs from other perspectives — I find there’s a real art in it.”
For example, the band’s single from the album, “A Mirror,” focuses on an unrequited love and intriguingly explores that concept from a feminine perspective. I ask if he really can feel completely removed from these characters. “I’m an observer and so a song like ‘A Mirror’ is all observational, but they also come from completely fictitious places,” he elaborates. “Though, I would say it’s impossible not to have a certain level of transport in your characters. That there are parts of your voice or turns of phrase that will just naturally find it’s way into the writing. I’m sure feelings I’ve had end up being injected into these songs. It’s part of being human and sympathetic.”
To record the music for Small Reveal, the band filled up their cars and hauled a huge quantity of recording equipment deep into the forest. Settling in at an isolated rustic cabin in British Columbia, they continued to experiment and play around with different song ideas. Inspired by subtleties, their creativity continued into the ranging hollow acoustics of echoing hallways in various family homes and music stores, where they recorded the sounds of suspended guitars. Knight notes that he sought to find such multidimensional surroundings, as they were “the spaces [that] were integral to the sonic characteristics of the album.”
It wasn’t until the entire recording process was complete that the band began to understand what exactly they had just finished, in the sense of an actual album. In consonance with the character narratives, they had all contributed to making a type of music that was truly about creating music, somewhat of an intrinsic concept to have recognized more fully during those active moments. “For an album that we recorded over an entire year, there were times of real intensity, and then there were a lot of spaces in between to think about what we had just accomplished,” Knight reflects, “but this sort of clarity that happened at the end, was listening to all the songs and realizing what we had made was more thematic and put together than anything that we could have ever preconceived. The idea that we had made an album about the frustrations and joyfulness of creating music, it’s, in a way, very meta, and I think it’s an interesting idea. We didn’t necessarily set out to make a concept record, but it was great to be able to step back and sort of look at the whole thing and realize that’s what we had done.”
The positive reception of Knight’s first album left him with a sense of sincere gratitude, but this didn’t prevent him from pushing beyond what his audience had enjoyed, instead encouraging him to follow it with something even more daring and intelligent. “I felt blown away and really humbled by what people had to say about Versicolour.” While he hopes Small Reveal will be received just as positively, he feels that “this album is more ambitious, challenging, darker in some respects,” adding that “there is a lot more to love in terms of how the sounds go together: melodic things and lyrical things.”
As Aidan Knight has evolved from a solo artist into a full-fledged band, it’s evident that he is ecstatic about Small Reveal and how it will expose his process of cultivating music through narratives. “I feel really proud of this new record, and the work that all five of us put into it,” he says, chiming succinctly, “Aidan Knight the artist versus Aidan Knight the band.”