Some musicians' parents have disowned them for pursuing careers in music. But that was never a concern for Dallas and Travis Good of the Toronto band the Sadies: Their parents were not only sympathetic to the musical arts, but performers of it. Their father was a member of Canadian country-bluegrass band the Good Brothers, and their mother was a backup singer for house bands that would accompany touring country singers. Nor were the Good parents (no pun intended) musical purists: "We'd get [a] Cramps album for Christmas," Dallas recalls proudly.
So the Sadies are not a one-trick band. While there are many roots-music-oriented outfits extant, some inspired by iconic combos such as the Band, Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Byrds, most evoke shades of their forerunners to varying degrees. The Sadies do not at all "sound like" the Byrds; rather they are like the Byrds. As the Byrds synthesized strands of Anglo-American folk, shimmering electric guitars, vocal harmonies, and a Beatles-ish beat for their definitive style, the Sadies do the same with traditional country music (think Hank Snow, Johnny Cash), 1960s garage-rock and psychedelia, bluegrass, and instrumental surf-rock, subsuming and personalizing these until they "sound like" no one but themselves.
Many of their songs are virtually audio movies, orchestrated not with strings and horns, but with reverb- and echo-soaked guitars. "We use really old gear, both amps and guitars," Dallas says. "Where our early albums were almost recorded 'live' in the studio, [more recently] we've gone for a creepy sound, [something] fucked-up and far-out." Their last two albums, New Seasons (2007) and Darker Circles (this year, both on Yep Roc), have a dark ambiance that's as palpably ominous as an Ennio Morricone soundtrack or a damp, fog-shrouded San Francisco night. Good also acknowledges an improbable muse: the Monkees. "They are just as valid [an influence on us] as the Byrds," he says.
Since their inception in 1996, the Sadies have amassed a catalog of 13 albums, including collaborations with Neko Case, the Mekons' Jon Langford, old-school R&B singer Andre Williams, and X frontman John Doe. It's uncommon for most bands to share credit with others, and it's even less common for such summits to consistently work so darn well. "All these [collaborations] started out organically," Dallas says, "often the result of drunken aftershow conversations about how 'we must play together sometime.' Lots of people say stuff like that, but in our case it's actually happened." There are plans for the Sadies to tour Europe with the Mekons in 2011, and eventually record with them. They've already recorded with a couple of legendary fellow Canadians, Neil Young and the Band's Richard Hudson, for a soon-to-be-released album of classic songs from the Band.
As for the Sadies' own work, Circles has a somber, pronounced British feel that seems to recall overcast '60s Rolling Stones songs such as "The Last Time," and "The Singer Not the Song." But Good shoots down that theory, asserting the inspiration of the Kinks and producer Gary Louris (of the Jayhawks), who also oversaw Seasons. "With my brother and I, our harmonies are more [influenced by] country and bluegrass," Dallas says, "where Gary [who contributed background vocals] comes from that British ['60s rock] high harmony [singing]." In the Sadies' music, fuzz and twang not only coexist but reinforce each other.
Dallas Good is excited to be performing again at the Great American Music Hall, and for someone who has been at it 14 years, he maintains a very real enthusiasm for his job. He sees the Sadies as part of a continuum, as "carrying the torch that was lit before I was born." And given what his parents did, maybe that's not surprising.