The five of us were not at a point where we could sit comfortably in a room together and not be awkward’ — Chris dela Torre (second from r) and his AxiCon mates share an uncomfortable silence
From experimenting with answering machine messages to enlisting the efforts of a classically trained violinist, Calgary’s Axis of Conversation (AxiCon) are unafraid to push the boundaries of their music. They are now making the jump from jamming in a spare room to a full-length album with Delusions of Safety. Lusciously layered, with a sound that is alternately melodic and experimental, the album is a pastiche of musical influences, but for the five diversely talented musicians that make up AxiCon, the project was about more than just making music.
“We almost feel like we are getting away with murder,” says ringleader Chris dela Torre. “We are all so busy, we all have established jobs, so the fact that the five of us are bothering to do this still is funny to me. We all care about the band so much. None of us need it financially, but in some other kind of way we need this band.”
When recording for Delusions began, the band was being bombarded with doses of reality — the death of a family member, a car accident and the pregnancy of their violinist Shelly Groves. Still, the gravity of those situations was something dela Torre says helped bring what was essentially a band of strangers closer together.
“At the time our band got together, we didn’t even really know each other,” he explains. “The five of us were still not at a point where we could sit comfortably in a room together and not be awkward. I think that says a lot in terms of how all of us love this music and how we believe in what we are doing.”
The now tight-knit group of accomplished musicians consists of dela Torre on lead vocals, Gerry Dacanay on the kaoss pad and guitar, Groves on violin, Eric Estor on bass and Matt Doherty on drums. With musical influences ranging from classical to jazz and hip hop, the variables available to experiment with were endless. Dela Torre, who wrote most of the lyrics, says that the tight timeline of the band’s recording process was the best remedy for sorting out their musical schizophrenia.
“It is really a combination of thinking things out for years and having only nine days in the studio,” dela Torre says. “Somewhere in there is just sort of a jumbled mix of over-thought ideas and ideas that were given no thought.”
All that experimentation and musical diversity could have turned the album into a confusing mess. Enter award-winning mixer Reuben Ghose, who has worked with such talents as Death Cab for Cutie, Chantal Kreviazuk and Kevin Drew. Ghose was the voice of reason during recording, and dela Torre admits having him in the studio was a necessity.
“He is so honest,” dela Torre says. “If it sucks he will tell you it sucks. You need that when you are making a record.”
While the band’s goals of increased touring and writing together as a group occasionally make things seem more like a chore, Axis is still a labour of love. Ultimately, dela Torre and the rest of the group agree the project is about far more than pleasing an audience.
“I really leaned on this project,” he says. “I really came to depend on it, and I still do depend on it for a certain sense of perspective and to keep my feet on the ground. I think for us it just sort of gets us through. You know, regardless of whether or not anyone is listening or anyone is coming to our shows, I think I will always be doing this.”