Last winter Blewett musician Cam Penner spent 10 days holed up in the Kootenay wilderness with his collaborator Jon Wood working on his latest album Sex & Politics.
The pair forbid family and friends from interrupting them while they crammed into his homemade recording studio and got to work.
“There was a skeleton and that’s all we had, so we had to build the body,” Penner told the Star.
“I had a sackful of ideas and we threw everything against the wall. We plugged everything in, shared a jug of something and just started howling at the moon.”
For inspiration Penner would trek out into the wilderness and ruminate on his surroundings, returning to work late into the night — often until 2 a.m.
The resulting album, which straddles multiple genres, is concerned with social justice and the ever-growing gap between the rich and the poor. It was released in Canada last month.
“There’s definitely a theme in the album of exposing the people who are taking from society rather than giving.
“We’re saying we’ve had enough, we can’t do this anymore, society can’t work in your favour anymore and things need to change.”
He considers his song “Hey You! (Lovers of Music)” to be a call to arms.
“It’s about the 99 per cent rising up. I’m trying to play my part.”
And that’s a message he’s spreading worldwide, having toured through Scotland, Wales, England, Ireland, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands this year.
Penner also made an appearance locally, at the Tiny Lights Festival, but his upcoming concert at Scout’s Hall on Saturday is his first Nelson show in a while.
“I don’t play a lot in Nelson, and I try to keep it that way so I can be a regular member of the community,” he said, noting that he’s been working at Stepping Stones.
His experiences at the shelter have provided him with inspiration, and he values the relationships he’s built there.
“I love working in that environment and hanging with those cats, and that stuff has always extended into my music.
“I’m always trying to define the balance between the dark and the light. There’s a lot of suffering, but I also want to bring the goodness.”
In one track he repeats the phrase “here comes the healing” like a mantra, a message he hopes will have an emotional impact.
“We’re trying to pull the rug out from under the audience, but also from under our feet as well. You’re going to feel something, whether it’s something hopeful or something that will grab you by your heart and mind.”
Penner said he will be “spinning a web of stories” between songs, reflecting on his 10-year anniversary with Wood. The concert will serve as a kick-off to the MASSiF Music Festival, which is the following weekend at the Legion and Spiritbar.
“The organizers have been putting on these shows in the Kootenay Co-op Radio basement, and they’ve captured that spirit of rock n’ roll and wanted to keep it going,” he said.
“It’s so great to see them building on it, because quite often there’s no place for this kind of rock n’ roll, music with some thunder to it.”
Penner has new music videos coming out, including one for his song “Broke Down,” which was shot on his Blewett property. Sex & Politics is a 35-minute album, the typical length of a vinyl record, which was a purposeful choice.
And they’re already looking forward to their next project.
“We’ve got a lot more ideas and we don’t want to stand still.”