Hey Rosetta’s singer/songwriter frontman, Tim Baker, is gushing about U.S. weather while the Canadian band takes a short pit stop somewhere along a Washington state highway: "It’s sunny every day here! It’s beautiful: I’m outside, in a t-shirt -- in March! I’m convinced it’s just like this every day, coast-to-coast."
When I pull a Debbie Downer to his enthusiasm and remind him of the brutal storms blanketing much of the East Coast in epic snow, he laughs and pushes on: "Well ... compared to where I live, it’s true."
Oh, what a difference a border makes. Take one northern step over it, and Hey Rosetta sells out 2,000-seat arenas on any given day; go south of it, and they’re playing to 50 folks at the Bartlett in Spokane.
The chamber pop/indie folk seven-piece (scheduled to perform at Soda Bar on Tuesday, March 10) has spent the last 10 years touring tirelessly across the vast expanse that is Canada, and their hard work has paid off: No. 1 albums on iTunes Canada music charts; 50,000 Facebook fans; heck, even their tune "Red Heart" was hand-picked to be played during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Even so, that’s all up north. Stateside, we’re the band’s great, white whale.
"There’s definitely a real barrier," Baker admits, referring to the separation in success between North American neighbors. "It’s challenging. I mean, it’s f---ing hard to tour in a van for months at a time. It sucks on so many levels. [laughs] Especially after you’ve already done it! We burned ourselves out doing this for 10 years in Canada -- it just takes years off your life, leaving it all on the stage night after night. And down here, it’s almost like we’re starting from scratch all over again."
He pauses for a minute, reconsidering.
"I guess it’s not entirely like that. There are people that have heard us, and even though we play to smaller venues in the states and there are less people at the shows -- they’re usually really big fans. It’s a small, concentrated kind of love. And everyone’s really attentive and respectful. In Canada, we’ll play these big arenas and there will be 1,500 people drunk and chattering."
If anything can change that, it’s the band’s latest Sonic Records album, "Second Sight," which dropped in the U.S. in January [listen to it here]. The band has always had a penchant for channeling heart-on-your-sleeve emotion, and heart-wrenching performances to go along with gorgeous, oftentimes acoustic indie pop balladry. But on their new record, they’ve really honed in on their sound -- getting even more expansive and dynamic than before; setting broad, musical scenes and allowing themselves ample space to explore them.
"['Second Sight'] was a big record for us and we were adamant about taking the time that it required," Baker explained. "Every record we’ve done so far has been pretty rushed, or actually extremely rushed -- no money equals no time in the studio, you know? But as we do this job more and more, you learn how important the sound of your record is. It’s not only about the strength of the songs and the power of the performances, it’s about the soundscapes too. So yea, it took a while. And it’s a credit to our management that I don’t really remember how long it took and how much it actually cost. [laughs]"
When I ask him if he’s even able to appreciate the grandiosity of the record for what it is, or if he’ll always struggle with an (understandably) skewed perspective of it, he realizes that’s an uphill battle. Although he’d love for the chance to hear it with completely unbiased ears.
"I’m always searching for that [objectivity]," Baker says. "There’s a great feeling that happens very rarely -- when you hear your own song on the radio or while you’re doing something else, and you don’t quite realize it's you. Sometimes I won’t even know it’s us until my voice comes on and I'm thinkin', 'hey that band's not bad!' [laughs] And it makes you think, 'what would you think of yourself?' or ‘would I even be a fan of this band?’ You actually don’t even really know -- but I would hope the answer would be yes!"