It’s been 20 years since Canadian blues rockers Wide Mouth Mason released their album Stew – and to celebrate, they’re giving it a reissue this fall. We had a quick chat with frontman Shaun Verreault to find out what’s it like to listen to the album now, their musical tastes two decades ago, and what fellow Canadian acts they’re diggin’ these days.
From The Strait: Now that it’s been 20 years since Stew was released, how do you feel when you listen to the songs? It must bring on a lot of nostalgia.
Wide Mouth Mason: It’s time travel! My mind flashes back to the sessions, the weeks of writing and recording in Saskatoon, Edmonton and Toronto, we and Gordie Johnson honing the jams to a sharpened point between meals and laughs and record listening sessions.
FTS: What music were you listening to 20 years ago, and how does it differ to your current musical tastes?
Wide Mouth Mason: Stew’s landscape was directly inspired by a bunch of vinyl records we listened to. R&B, Soul, Funk records. The Meters, Sly and the Family Stone, Isley Brothers, Prince.
We pored over the way the instruments worked together, the groove science, and wanted to make our funkiest record. We branched out with instrumentation including keys and strings. Horns. Developed a signature bass tone using a tiny guitar amp that emulated Stevie Wonder’s keyboard bass tone. I played a telecaster for a lot of it, inspired by Prince. We wanted it to be buoyant. Punchy.
FTS: When touring is possible again, where can fans expect to see you on the anniversary tour?
Wide Mouth Mason: A number of festivals we were booked for in 2020 have been rescheduled for 2021. We very much miss playing live. Every social media “what you were doing this day last year” prompt is a bit of a kick in the gut. When we finally do play again it will be surreal and exhilarating.
FTS: What are your musical “guilty pleasures”? (We don’t believe in guilty pleasures, except for the sake of a Q&A!)
Wide Mouth Mason: I really don’t feel guilty about liking any song. It’s all wiggling air, right? My guilty pleasures are probably more guitar gearcentric. There are tones I’ve gravitated to: vintage amps, analog fuzzes, not much delay, not much reverb. I like that they are unforgiving tones to play with, with nothing to hide behind, really transparent so every nuance is amplified.
My guilty pleasure is every so often floating into guitar tones I usually don’t use, like really saturated gains, really echo-y delayed affected sounds.
As vices go, it’s not so bad.
FTS: As veterans of Canadian Music, what are some Canadian bands you’re diggin’ right now?
Wide Mouth Mason: I like Mother Mother and Reignwolf and Big Sugar and Matt Mays and Cobra Ramone and The Bros Landreth and Ariel Posen.
Check out the video for “Smile”, the leadoff single from 2000’s Stew!