The Sadies stay versatile, play the Riot Room Monday
It’s tempting to call the Sadies’ music Americana, but that label just doesn’t feel right. First, the Sadies are from Toronto. Second, the quartet’s music incorporates all things twang: country, surf, rock, rockabilly.
The Sadies recently finished recording a yet-to-be-titled 11th album (more, if you count collaborations with Neko Case, John Doe, Jon Langford and Andre Williams), which is slated for a November release. The Pitch caught up with drummer Mike Belitsky about the band’s music as he was driving his son to his first Blue Jays game.
The Pitch: One of the things I love best about the Sadies is your versatility. You’ve backed John Doe of X doing country covers, and you’re opening for Kurt Vile on this upcoming tour. It makes you guys a lot of fun.
Mike Belitsky: Yeah, it’s always a great experience — as far as being a musician goes — when you get to expand the parameters of your comfort zone. I think we’re all up for that sort of challenge. That’s maybe why we’re considered versatile, although at times, it feels like people will throw that at us as if it really comes easily. We’re working really hard, learning different people’s music and the different people’s styles that we find ourselves paired with a lot of the time.
In terms of the Sadies being known for collaborations, what sort of preparation is required to be able to switch from Neko Case to Andre Williams to John Doe?
A lot. [laughs] It’s a lot of studying. It’s a little different when we’re collaborating, because then, it’s a lot of time spent with that artist. But even if it’s songs we’ve played a lot — take, for example, John Doe. We met up with John in D.C. recently and did three shows with him, but it had been years since we had played a set with him. That required a lot of backstudy on what we did.
Then, recently, we played as the Mekons in Calgary. Then we jumped on a plane and played as Buffy Sainte-Marie’s band. That took a lot of work. I basically had to sequester myself away for 10 days to learn 20-some odd songs. It’s a job. It’s just a really fun job, because my job is in that instance to learn songs that I like, which were created by people that I admire and respect. I just get a little nervous, because I want to do right by them. I don’t want to disappoint them by not having a full grasp and a full comfort zone on their songs.
Given that you have all of these collaborations and so forth, is it a relief to get to play your own songs?
It totally is. Sandwiched into that weekend I just told you about were two of our own sets. It’s great. I cherish being able to just play — and I don’t mean just, but just to be so comfortable with the songs, because they’re our songs — and to be able to play without the pressure of feeling like I have to do right by someone else’s material. I wrote those drum parts, and I am excited to play them.
You used to be a drummer who sang, right?
I used to be. [Laughs] I haven’t sung on the last few Sadies records. I never was great at it, but now I’m just focusing on being the best I can on the drums and not dividing my skills. There are obviously some people who are great at it: You’ve got your Levon Helms and such. Those people are incredible at singing and playing drums, and are mind-boggling. I’m just not there, and I just want to be the best drummer I can be for the Sadies, and sometimes that just means I have to hum the songs in my head.
The Riot Room
Monday, August 22