Timber Timbre, the moniker of Taylor Kirk, is the rich onomatopoeic term given to what he describes as his “very woody sounding” early recordings. A Canadian musician whose music has been described as “swampy, ragged blues” both “cinematic and spooky” the solo project has now expanded to comprise an additional two members, violinist Mika Posen and Simon Trottier on lap-steel and auto harp. I got to catch up with Kirk and co at their label, Full Time Hobby’s offices for a chat about the great acclaim of the third, self-titled release.
“I started these songs on my own, as I’ve always done”, Kirk tells me. However, while this may be Taylor’s third release it is the first with a band, outside help and the introduction of an actual recording studio as opposed to the apartments or barns previously used for what he mockingly refers to as his “crappy home recordings”.
“Kind of half way through the recording [of Timber Timbre] once I’d done the tracks as far on my own as I could, I got in touch with [producer] Chris Stringer. He is in contact with a lot of the guys in the Toronto music community and so we met up and recorded the second half of the record in a proper studio where it was engineered and so on. Mika [from the band Forest City Lovers] came in and played violin. This was all completely new to me, I’ve usually just done everything alone.”
While the album does not differ starkly from the previous independently released LPs Cedar Shakes (2006) and Medicinals (2007), with their similarities in imagery so steeped in the rural wilderness, there is one key difference and that is the not so do-it-yourself recording process described above. “Did that detract from the album’s feel or what you hoped it would convey?”
“No, I don’t think so. I used to feel that that was really important – the space – but I don’t think it’s as crucial as you’d expect.” The nostalgic element you’re trying to capture is usually there wherever you are it seems. Taylor Kirk’s childhood was spent in a rural landscape, which he has spoken of in previous interviews: “not [on] a farm per se, but I grew up on land“, and these recurrent images and stories stuck in such locales may in part explain the reversion back to rural, childhood memories now transformed into the Gothic, often macabre folk of Timber Timbre’s music.
One of the more Gothic tales on the album is “We’ll Find Out”, while just over two minutes long, making it the album’s shortest track, its dark lyrics, placed against the world weariness of Posen’s strings, are hard hitting and contemplative. “There wasn’t [any particular inspiration for the track], but over the last couple of years I had been listening to old hymnals and spirituals; I just involved those kinds of things…a lot of imagery from that“. A Gothic kind of influence then, traditional American literary greats who have told similar tales of sorrow, redemption? “I can’t really read a book on tour, but I like William Faulkner, that kind of thing.” While lexical stream of consciousness and a dense wading through words do not link the two, Kirk’s approach lyrically works as ‘less is more’, there is a likeness in their storytelling that finds a timelessness and level of relatability. Despite looming shadows there is a glorious sepia tint of beauty behind the bluesy battered sounds.
As an album Timber Timbre is not something of this era, sounding instead like a recollection of moments from a time steeped in history: old testimonies, desperate bluesy numbers, others verging on that of a preacher’s sermon; contemplations on the afterlife, redemption, guilt and trials. Kirk himself stated that the album’s premise was “to make something that could have come from any time“…both love songs and “music about music”, and yet it seems despite their authentic sound swaying from groggy ’60s blues to ’70s psychedelia, they’re very much living in the moment: Before embarking on this current tour, which finished last week at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, the three recorded a selection of songs with the hope of finishing them in the Fall. That’s something that’ll have to be put on hiatus for a time, “but it’ll probably be ready late Easter…all these neat things here [Europe/UK] keep popping up and we just can’t say no!”.