HE’S SO much fun, right? Sub Pop’s favourite Albertan singer-songwriter, Chad VanGaalen – he’s made his whimsical home at the Seattle imprint since 2006’s Skelliconnection – has revealed that actually, horticulturally speaking, he’s the World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener; well, actually that would be musically too, since that’s also how his new album will be known to the world; and multimedia auteur that he is, he’s also created a gorgeous animation to go alongside the first, announcing single drop, “Samurai Sword” – you can dive into that world below.
Never anything but beautifully, eccentrically candid, Chad says of this new track: “I had just ripped a bunch of old leaking copper pipe out of my basement in a reno job that I jumped into willy-nilly. Realizing how magical the pipes sounded, I put them on some dirty styrofoam and banged out the janky beat that introduces the song! Garbage is life.
“It just spilled out in a couple minutes. I didn’t try to stop it because I was smiling like I was just cruising through my neighbourhood. Simple like a sandbox. An ode to the simplicity. It’s hard to let things be simple. But simple is easy on the mind, and being jovial in song is something I find really difficult. Why? What?”
And that dinkin’, plinkin’ pipe beat is the perfect insouciant beat for a raggedly wonderful tale of a samurai sword missing in action, as Chad sings: “Has anybody seen a samurai sword? / It may have fallen off my belt onto the forest floor / And I’m hoping maybe somewhere here has possibly seen it … it has a blade that’s been tempered by the blood of the gods / And a tiny little sticker of a dog.”
The video adds about 50% timewise to the album version – but then, what a glorious backstory, weird ‘n’ wunnerful junkyard reclamation beings and all.
Chad elaborates: “I was drawing black and white plant backgrounds for this song because of the great old samurai movies of the past.
“I like how nature sometimes takes the lead. I was getting all knotted in my mind about the sky. I looked at my dad’s watercolor paintings of a sky, and felt like I couldn’t get the feel right. So, I just borrowed his sky for a scene and then I realized that my dad’s paintings were perfect and already full of real-life energy.
“I used them to finish the video and felt like we got to go on this quest together. In my mind. Fuck time.”
Competition time: Chad’s also launched a Samurai Sword Scavenger Hunt contest, with Easter eggs hidden throughout the video. He’s sharing a list of some of these hidden objects every week, and challenging fans to find them.
He says: “To stop myself going squirrely over the last few months, I started hiding things as I animated this video.”
Every week for the next three weeks – through to February 18th – one lucky person will win a prize pack of stuff from Chad, including a copy of World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener, as well as some unique personalised items made by the man himself. At the end of the contest one person will be awarded a grand prize (You need to enter all three phases to win the grand prize!). To enter, please visit https://chadvangaalen.com/samuraisword.
All that AND an album, 13 tracks, written, performed and recorded at Chad’s Yoko Eno Studio in Calgary.
He might be the world’s most stressed out gardener, but he has one vegetable plot tip – and that’s this: “I get down on my knees and graze. It’s nice to feel the vegetables in your face.”
Chad VanGaalen’s World’s Most Stressed Out Gardener will be released by Sub Pop digitally, on CD and on orange-gold vinyl with blue and red trails (!) on March 19th; you can order yours direct from Sub Pop’s Mega Mart; Flemish Eye in Canada, and select independent retailers in North America and in the UK. There’s also a new T-shirt design.