Rich Aucoin and pals at the Public Publication EP release show last year at Tiger Bar.
It’s kind of like the Groundhog Day of tours: starting this week, Halifax-born-and-based experimental popsmith Rich Aucoin begins his month-long Rich Aucoin & Friends tour, which will take him from New York to Toronto, to Montreal, to Ottawa, and back again (and then again), as he embarks on venue residencies in multiple cities—all at the same time.
It’s an ambitious schedule that also includes a mid-tour flight home to perform at the Canada Games opening ceremonies, features stops in Waterloo and Brooklyn, and wraps up with three more East Coast dates in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
The idea of multiple shows in various cities initially seemed like a good one to Aucoin, though he tells us on the phone from Halifax that it wasn’t until everything was booked that he realized what he was getting himself into.
“When they gave me the schedule they were like, ‘Yeah, we meant all at the same time.’ So that’s not as appealing for actually getting to see the cities that I love. But it should be fun!”
The tour includes three Toronto shows at the Drake Hotel (February 2, 16, and 23), and though Aucoin laments not getting to spend more time in any of the cities, he certainly isn’t at a loss for time here—in fact, he calls it his home away from home. “My brother’s been living there for [about] a decade, and so I’ve been visiting for a while and staying with him for extended periods of time. Last year I stayed all of January there. I pretty much come up once a month. It definitely is ingrained in me.”
And the music is ingrained in him, too—his brother is Paul Aucoin, mastermind of local supergroup the Hylozoists, as well as a general multi-instrumentalist and producer about town. Rich first got to releasing his own musical projects with 2007’s Personal Publication EP, a self-made (he played and recorded over twenty-five instruments) indie-pop soundscape that was composed in sync with Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (He later got a cease and desist order for the online videos.) Most recent is the Public Publication EP (this time composed to an edited narrative of over forty public domain films), a teaser for the upcoming full-length of the same name. As the name suggests, the creative process was sort of the opposite the second time around.
“It took two years. I went across the country with my computer and microphone and just recorded people in studios and bedrooms and churches and jam spaces. All kinds of different spots . . . I just wanted to record with as many friends as possible. It just kind of ballooned into this much-larger-than-originally-intended number. I was going to make it with a few people, and then a lot of people, and then a crazy amount of people.”
Without knowing the details of the EP, it’d be easy to hear its anthemic synth-pop as another home studio creation. Aucoin, though—being the fan of fun that he is—insists on carrying the communal experience over into his highly praised live shows, an engulfing mix of multimedia, props, and crowd interaction, all anchored by Aucoin’s own presence.
“I usually call it crowd karaoke. The whole crowd sings things together, and it’s a dance party on top of that. The visuals are all in 3D, so you can stand at the back and just watch the movie that’s playing on the screen. I cut up all these movies and I write the music to sync up to the movies that show in the background.”
The shows have certainly helped with the buzz building around Aucoin; recently, a misinterpreted Facebook update started a rumour that he would be performing on the Late Show with David Letterman. For an artist with a rising profile, it didn’t take long for the rumour to take hold and spread. (Guilty.) “I wrote the specific words ‘I’m going to Letterman next week,’ because I won tickets while I was down in New York. Then I went away from the computer and came back and within, like, two hours, there were like seventy comments from people congratulating me. I was like, ‘Oh no! No!’ I’m glad that people that know me are as positive as possible! [But] I’m pretty sure you have to do some big, big tours and stuff like that before you can get on Letterman.”
With his late night TV appearance still in the wings for now, Aucoin readies for New York nonetheless, and admits that he still contemplates making the move to his home away from home.
“I’ve been telling friends for like four years that I’m moving to Toronto. But now since I’m coming up like once a month, I get to live there without having to leave my home base out here. I really do want to live in Toronto at some point, though.”
The first of Rich Aucoin’s three Drake Hotel shows is Wednesday, February 2. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. $10.
All photos by Corbin Smith/Torontoist.