Home Hear Area Resident | Quasar: Exclusive Album Premiere

Area Resident | Quasar: Exclusive Album Premiere

The Ottawa indie artist takes us on a spin through his sixth (and possibly best) album.

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Artwork by Andrew King (andrewkingstudio.com).

A little over a year ago a psychologist told Doug Hempstead most people with his degree of ADHD are not successful.

But time and time again he’s somehow found a way to use his hyperactivity and distractibility as a superpower. Usually, this has to do with what he calls his “never-ending” career as journalist — where no two days alike and each of them divvied-up into conquerable, promotable creative tasks with the potential of acclaim. It’s perfect. And for all the same reasons he was a great cab driver and — seeing as we’re all here — a dynamic and developing songwriter who churns out new material at near-Pollardian rates.

Hempstead began his Area Resident music project in the summer of 2016 and hasn’t changed his formula much since then: DIY, in the basement, using Garageband (of all things!) and then sending everything via WeTransfer to long time pal Jordon Zadorozny of Blinker The Star, who loads all the music into ProTools and augments what needs to be augmented, adding overdubs as required, then mixing it and mastering it. JZ also chooses the song order. They’re essentially a duo who have never recorded an Area Resident track together in the same room, or even the same city.

Stranger still is Hempstead’s approach to songwriting. Simply put, you might say he doesn’t. Nothing is ever written before it’s recorded. He chooses an instrument and finds a hook and then creates something around it. Perhaps the hook is the chorus, maybe the bridge, maybe the verse, and sometimes — the part he started with gets cut out entirely by the end. Lyrics are the last thing tackled.

We asked him to go through the new album and explain what’s going on.

Vyvance

“This started off as a song about the Confederation Hotel in Kingston and began with a banjo loop. The loop is still there, it starts the song and acts as a refrain. Except it’s chopped up, slowed down, distorted and backwards. There are no real drums in this song, and I don’t think anyone plays on it but me, which is weird and rare. There’s still 24 tracks. That’s ADHD for you — in fact, Vyvance is the name of the medication I’m on for that very reason.”

Fight The Florists

“I was feeling pugilistic, but I’m not a tough guy. So, fighting florists seemed like a good way to illustrate this. The song is a veiled wise-crack at my ex, my girlfriend’s ex and an excuse to name-check the city I was born in: Whitby, Ontario. The melody was derived from John Lennon’s phrasing of Semolina Pilchard, which somehow made it in there as well even though it makes no sense. Jordon plays drums and lead guitar and that’s me on everything else.”

Science Fiction

“This song used to be called Max Peck, 1961 and was left off the first Area Resident album at Jordon’s suggestion. I decided to give it a re-listen and figured I’d learned enough in six years to take it where it needed to go now. I scrapped the vocals and melody, re-did the bass after borrowing Jim Bryson’s $300 red Squier at Christmas, scrapped the guitars — but left the bridge about failing, dying and feeling nothing outside. That bit is about a spacewalk, because Max Peck, 1961 was about the astronauts chosen for the Gemini/Apollo missions. They all had to check into the Rice Hotel in Houston under that name. This is my favourite on the album. My partner Chelle sings back up, Jordon plays synth and a bit of guitar but most of it is me.”

Dare Devil

“The name of this song came from me befriending Thomas Morolda of The Toms. I asked him for a title. He told me he was always getting asked for halloween songs and suggested Dare Devil. I started off with a loop of strings, chopped it up and distorted it. It’s that refrain that sounds like rapidly-strummed guitar. Lyrically, the song is about my decision in December 2020 to quit drinking. (I’m still off the booze!) My Dare Devil won, and I owe a lot to Chelle for that. Jordon plays the great solo at the end and the rhythm guitar over it, otherwise it’s all me.”

Spout-bec

“This was the first one written for the album, begun when I was still living in the same house as my ex. Written and recorded on my $200 Gretsch Jim Dandy, with a bit of acoustic bass and keyboard kick and ride. The star of the show here is John Higney (Two Minute Miracles, The Flaps) on lap steel. Jordon provides backing vocals. The name comes from the words inside the opening of any Canadian milk carton.”

Quasar

“The title track was one of the last songs recorded. I set out to write a banger because the album needed one besides Fight The Florists. I wanted to get in a line referencing one of my daughter’s favourite Spongebob quotes — everything’s chrome in the future. This one started off very Weezery and Jordon made it much cooler with his Albini-surf guitar. That’s also him on drums while he and Chelle share backing vocal duties. The lead vocal is sort of interesting-sounding. It’s sung quietly because I did it outside Chelle’s son’s basement bedroom door while he was sleeping after a night shift at McDonald’s.”

Chrysalis

“I’ve never done an instrumental before, so I wanted to do one. Last year Jordon put out an album of covers called Arista. I thought that was cool, so I named this after a different record label — Chrysalis. He plays drums on this, otherwise it’s all me. My beloved Chinese five-string 1987 Squier Strat and my new Eastwood Tenor Baritone.”

Rorschach Test

“I got the idea to call a song Rorschach Test from an episode of the podcast The Beatles Naked where they kept mentioning it. I told Chelle about my idea and she immediately started singing ‘You see what I see’. It was that easy. This song started on the bass. My Mexican Mustang PJ. Adding to Jordon’s guitar is Pat Lawlor (The Flaps). JZ also plays drums on this.”

Holy Hell And Holy Days

“This is another re-visit of the first album, except this song actually made the cut. I just decided I could do it better. This was also an opportunity to see if I like playing with my new pal Wayne Coulis. (I do very much!). This was recorded at his farmhouse. Well, my drums and his guitar parts were. The rest was in my basement and is all me. It’s about my mom. She was dying when I wrote this in 2016. She died in November that year after the first album came out.”

Check out Quasar and the video for Spout-bec above, and follow Area Resident on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.