Multi-talented singer, songwriter, musician, producer and low-key music mogul Joel Plaskett continues to dig through his vault of long-lost songs and present them to the world. Last year, he curated a sprawling eight-disc Thrush Hermit box set to commemorate his beloved old band’s short but sweet reunion tour, essentially presenting every single track they had ever laid to tape. Now, as he prepares to compose a follow-up to his Polaris Music Prize-nominated triple record, Three, Plaskett is presenting fans with a 20-track rarities comp of his own solo material called, EMERGENCYs, false alarms, shipwrecks, castaways, fragile creatures, special features, demons and demonstrations.
Out on Plaskett’s own, suddenly busy boutique label, New Scotland Records, EMERGENCYs contains charming demos and B-sides and hot-shit lost tracks like “Money in the Bank,” “Blood in My Veins” and “On the Rail.” While fans should be bowled over by this unexpected archival expedition, the collection also serves as a kind of creative catharsis for Plaskett.
“I’ve been writing lots of new songs but wanted to leave a nice little pause after my last album, Three, which had 27 songs on it,” he explains in an Exclaim! interview. “I wanted to recharge my batteries a bit and thought it’d be cool to revisit some songs and clean house a bit. There were some versions of songs from the past that I wanted to put out there and others that had ended up on the cutting room floor. So I thought curating this collection might be kinda cool. And it was a way of clearing out some of the older songs that I might otherwise go back to and try again. I just thought, ‘I want a clean slate for the next record so why don’t I really leave nothing in the closet.'”
As he enters his mid-30s, Plaskett is pondering where he’s been over the past ten years, and what that might be able to tell him about where he’s going. “I am reflective. It’s a nostalgia thing too. I like reminding myself of what my instincts were at that time in terms of recording. There’s stuff to be learned from getting older, wiser and disciplined with what you wanna do, but there’s also this unrefined excitement about these early recordings when these songs were new and fresh. That’s why I put this together.”
Exorcising some of the best songs ideas of the past has also focused Plaskett on his next record, which he’s hoping not to labour over too much. “I’m gonna turn it around really, really fast. It’s gonna come out in November and I’m gonna start recording it in late August or early September. I’m trying to take the opposite approach of Three, and just blast through ten or 12 songs, and say, ‘It’s done. Go!'”
If this seems like a slight departure for the scrappy perfectionist, fans should also be prepared for a record with less of a framework than Plaskett’s past two albums, Ashtray Rock (2007) and Three (2009), both of which were concept records in their own right.
“There are certainly connections between songs I’m hearing but I don’t think it will be as overtly thematic,” Plaskett says of his new material. “The Emergency’s gonna be involved so it’ll definitely have a rock’n’roll element to it. But yeah, I’m trying to not get too hung up on it being too thematic. This record’s gonna be about which songs make sense and being in the moment with these tunes.”
He goes on to say that the NSR single series he’s been producing — where artists like Shotgun Jimmie, Matthew Grimson, Ben Gunning, Ana Egge, Peter Elkas and Steve Poltz each release 45s — has profoundly affected his approach in making his own new full-length.
“I kinda just wanna record a bunch of singles, where a song doesn’t necessarily have to be attached to others,” he explains. “I wanna take that approach with this record and I think it’ll be strong on its own, with the dots connecting because I’m singing the songs and the band’s playing them. I think that’s gonna be enough.”