Mellow country with a rocky edge


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April 7, 2015 8:15 AM

photo submitted  Country rocker and Vancouver Island native Rolla Olak will be performing at The Root: Community Emporium on April 11.

Vancouver-based folk rocker Rolla Olak just finished mixing his latest album, and he’s taking his music in a new direction.

For his third studio album, Olak has turned to new production and recording methods and introduced a vintage drum machine to his sound. He will be playing these new songs on his spring tour, which includes a date at The Root: Community Emporium on April 11.

“I had an initial idea of how the album was going to be and I had the songs written and just as soon as we got in the studio we kind of scrapped everything and just started fresh,” Olak said.

On the new record, which will be available in the summer, Olak recorded the vocals before the rest of the instruments, a departure from his previous work. He says leaving lead vocals to the very end can be stressful and that this change felt good. Something he does leave to the end, though, is naming his albums. He says he likes to wait until a title pops into his head.

“A lot of the time it’ll just sort of come to you ... out of the blue, and usually those are the best ones,” he said. “I try not to think about it too much, but I’ll probably wait until the last minute until we have to release it and scramble for one.”

That laid-back attitude mixed with a sudden sense of urgency comes across on his records. Olak’s music veers from strung-out country sing-alongs with drowsy pedal steel yawns, to jagged electric guitar thunderclaps, sometimes even in the same song.

Olak says he was influenced by the classic rock albums he discovered by digging through his parents’ record collection. On his website he even refers to his music as “dad rock,” a descriptor he doesn’t find offensive.

“I don’t think it’s derogatory at all. You can take it like that, I guess, I just think it’s kind of funny,” he said. “I love dad rock. I love my dad’s record collection, that’s what I grew up on. We try not to take ourselves too seriously.”

For the tour, Olak will be traveling with just a bass player and drummer. He says the songs are versatile enough that his three-piece can interpret the music in any context.

“They’re the type of songs you can play any way. You can play them with a rock ‘n’ roll band and it’ll sound one way, or I can play it solo acoustic and it might sound another way,” he said. “So if it’s a rockin’ night out there in Lloydminster we’ll probably turn up and do a full-on rock ‘n’ roll band version of the songs.”

He says he toured and played a lot with his band, and that their friendship and camaraderie are evident in their performances.

“It’s a really good feeling to be up there with your friends, just playing music together,” Olak said. “We’re just trying to have the best time possible on stage.”

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