At Home With Great American Canyon Band
Photographs by Lindsay Hite
Paul and Kris Masson have always known one another. In their early lives, when they felt unfamiliar to themselves, it was the idea of the other that led them forward. And on the night they finally encountered each other, it only took one look. There were no reasons needed, they just obliged what had already been in motion.
In the first years of their relationship they traveled the country in an old ‘82 Mercedes they affectionately named Dolly. Drifting aimlessly but steadfast, they were searching for a place that felt as unifying as the home they felt in one another. They traveled the full expanse of the American landscape. They spent a slow Southern summer in a motel on the rural outskirts of Athens, Georgia. They found refuge on the West Coast, in a small bungalow hidden deep in the hills of West Hollywood. When they would feel the restlessness of LA creeping in, they would drive out to the desert and lose themselves. Their wandering often lead them to the Salton Sea, its stillness a memory that had always existed within them. It was next to its boundlessness that Kris first whispered the melody for the song “Tumbleweed:” From this land you and I will flee, shed what ails us and rest by the sea. It was a quiet reflection, an unintentional act of expression that would eventually define Great American Canyon Band’s early works; two souls interweaved and coming to terms with the vastness of the world surrounding them. There was no intention to the process unfolding, but Great American Canyon Band was becoming the answer to their limitations and the expression of their deepest yearnings.
These early songs wouldn’t take shape until the winter of 2011 when Paul and Kris settled into a weather-beaten home on the outskirts of Chicago. It was only a shell, but they planned to live in it’s skeletal form and bring it back to life. To them, it was as much a journey as their previous years of transience. It was in this space, amidst the stillness and dust that they traced the contours of their recent journey and Great American Canyon Band was incarnated. In relative isolation, they were able to explore and realize without limitation the music that had been writing itself inside them. With not much more than a few old guitars and an aging laptop, they began creating with sonic clarity the fullness and richness of their experiences. The music was dynamic and affecting. It payed homage to the transformative production qualities of Phil Spector and Brian Eno, but remained unique in it’s voice. And by the start of Spring 2012, they had completed their first EP. Self-produced but nothing short of stadium sized, it’s reverb rich pleading harmonies, emotive shoegaze guitars, and tapestries of ambience sounded entirely new, yet seemingly timeless. Critical response to the EP was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. NPR praised the band’s “harmony-rich sound,” attesting to it’s impact as “alternately mellow, sad, wistful, romantic and sweeping.” While WXPN’s The Key hailed the EP as “a gorgeous collection of hypnotic songs that draws on [a] heady mix of dream pop and psychedelia.” The language spoke to Great American Canyon Band’s intent – to create music that is undoubtedly reaching towards whatever lies ahead.
As momentum was building behind the release of the EP, Kris and Paul were called back to their hometown of Baltimore. The band was put on pause as they came to terms with the personal loss of loved ones succumbing to illness and the inevitable toll of saying goodbye. It was during this time that the songs for the band’s debut LP, Only You Remain, began to take shape. Kris says of the time “We were watching the most influential people in our lives, people who we thought to be invincible, become human in the most brutal ways. In the end though we had to embrace the circumstances. So we let go and followed the pain to profound places.” The result is the triumphant debut LP Only You Remain was released on Six Degrees Records this year.
The title track, “Only You Remain,” brims with declaration; it’s instrumentation thunderous as Paul and Kris decree that time, in all it’s selfishness “will never break us apart!” It is a concise first statement by a band now fully formed and devoted to their craft. The sonic landscapes are wider, their musical voice stronger and the LP’s breath clearer over the ten tracks. They’ve become one voice, able to incite as much strength and celebration with their whispers as their most impassioned throes. They needed one another to fully express what was inside of them. They are artists out of necessity. It’s their way of tracking time and tracing experiences. Paul explains, “We’ve always worked with what we had, and where we were, to create the sounds in our hearts: songs that could fill a nights sky but still hold you close.”
It is with that embrace that they continue to come to terms with what it means to love fully, and grapple with the dichotomy of how life can be both graceless and so beautiful. Only You Remain, like their previous works, is theirs through and through; written, recorded and produced at home by Paul & Kris in a small space built off the back of their house. This year has been one of intensive touring. Great American Canyon Band will greet the world as a four-piece band anchored by Kris and Paul, two songwriters who find in each other a North Star.
For more information on Paul & Kris, visit their website at www.greatamericancanyonband.com and stream the record now on Spotify. Debut LP available for purchase at Amazon, iTunes, and Bandcamp. Six Degrees Records: Jeremy Valencia, 415.626.6334 (ext. 114) • jeremy@sixdegreesrecords