Sled Island 2008: Rich Aucoin

By Amanda Hu

In 1973, Pink Floyd released their infamous album, Dark Side of the Moon. Soon after, claims surfaced that one could listen to their offering along to the cinematic classic The Wizard of Oz and the songs would have uncanny synchronization to the film. The band denies, to this day, that the phenomenon was intentional, popularizing the notion of apophenia, the experience of seeing patterns or similarities in unrelated data.

Halifax indie music machine Rich Aucoin was a young boy when he discovered the album and its connection to a seemingly-unrelated movie. Rather than hoping for coincidence, he set out to sync up his first album, Personal Publication, with the children’s classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. While the notion of making an album that works as a stand-alone piece of art as well as an accompaniment seems like a great undertaking, things fell into place for the laid-back Haligonian.

“When I started to think about making this record, I went around the video store and looked at possible movies that would be cool to sync it up with,” he says. “I wanted to make a record that started and ended with the film it synced up to, so I had to look in the kid’s section for a shorter film. As soon as I sat down and started playing the songs while watching it with the sound off, I knew it was going to work really well.”

Aucoin manages to achieve a do-it-yourself yet orchestrated sound to his work. Though he proudly notes all the instruments were played by him and all recorded with one microphone, the result is anything but scattered.

“You have to be really mindful [with the parts],” he says. “If you’re making it on a midi keyboard and you’re just playing it out like a keyboard part, you’re making the instruments do what doesn’t come to them naturally. I let the arrangements flow out the way I would normally play the instrument if I was that particular person accompanying the rest of the band.

Aucoin’s diverse musical ability comes from years of school band classes where he learned to play nearly every instrument they had to offer as well as a stint in his brother Paul’s percussive, audio-carnival experience, the Hylozoists. He says recording his album was not unlike some of his days in the band room and some of the album’s grooves even came from the multi-instrumentalist spending time in Dalhousie University’s percussion department, playing rhythms on every drum he could find.

“In grade eight, I started learning the bass because my best friends played the drums and guitar and they were like, ‘If you want to hang out with us and to be in the band, then learn the bass,’” he recalls. “It’s really nice once you’re a percussionist because the whole world of mallet instruments opens up to you. Working on this record reminds me a lot of those percussion classes, where you’re playing those things all together.”

His project to record with various artists at each stop of his tour and his various charitable works adds another dimension to Aucoin’s allure. In an apparent attempt to one-up himself after last year’s bike tour, he will be running a marathon in every city, despite not having the time to physically train before heading out on his cross-Canada trip.

“I’ve always really enjoyed going to shows that I knew were raising money for people in need because it’s such a win-win, feel-good situation,” he says. “You’re having fun at the show, being entertained and having a cultural artistic experience and at the same time, there’s stuff being done for medical research for people who are sick or giving food to people who need it.”

It seems that Aucoin’s synchronized music isn’t the only thing that goes beyond accident. With the musician’s aptitude for his art and the projects that he’s taking on, his rightful acclaim seems to be rolling in and that’s no coincidence.

Rich Aucoin opens for Dan Deacon at the Warehouse on Wed., June 25 at 10:30 p.m.

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