Winnipeg Free Press
Ask Keri and Devin Latimer what it's like to work together on a professional project as spouses, and you'll see smiles dance across both of their faces.
"When I'm in a writing mode, I'm kind of useless at pretty much everything else... like housework," Keri is quick to admit.
"We balance each other out," says Devin. "Keri is the songwriter, she's the leader. It's really her project -- for some reason she just drags me along."
The husband-and-wife duo, formerly members of Juno Award-winning band Nathan and parents to two young children, have branched off on their own to create Leaf Rapids, a roots band inspired by their life in the Prairies.
Their first album, Lucky Stars, came out April 14.
Devin grew up in the remote town of Leaf Rapids in northern Manitoba, and Keri used the character of the town, its people and the environment that surrounds it as inspiration for Lucky Stars.
"The town of Leaf Rapids is this isolated, small mining community far north in Manitoba, but it's a close-knit community full of people who are delightfully eccentric... probably from being so isolated," says Keri, who handles the lyric-writing for the project. "It's like the idea of being a social hermit, and I think the album has that isolated, haunting. yet joyful, feel.
"Finding the bits of beauty in a harsh surrounding -- that's what my songwriting has always been about."
The organic themes in their music carried over into the production of Lucky Stars, as the pair travelled to Tennessee to record with acclaimed musician/producer Steve Dawson, who, as Keri says, "likes to not to be too prepared."
Dawson signed Leaf Rapids to his label, Black Hen Music, and flew them down to his studio in Nashville to do a quick-and-dirty recording session last summer.
"Steve is really good at what he does. We had a week there, recorded all our parts, and then he did a lot afterwards because he's a really amazing musician as well," says Keri.
The pair notes Dawson, too, likes an organic, natural process, so it was a good match -- he'd have them play the song through a few times and that was it.
"Basically by the third take he'd say 'That's enough,'" says Devin, a chemistry instructor at the University of Winnipeg. "You might get it more perfect if you keep going, but you'd lose something as well."
On Lucky Stars, Keri took the opportunity to include the theremin, an electronic instrument that produces sounds by the player interrupting electric currents with his or her hands.
The instrument itself is incredibly difficult to learn, as very few resources are available (modern synthesizers now have settings to emulate its sound). The tones produced are eerily operatic.
"We've been looping guitar and vocals and theremin together, so it's pretty cool. It seems to draw people in," says Keri.
Keri met with a thereminist in New York last summer who gave her some techniques to try, though his biggest piece of advice was just to feel it -- advice that fit in nicely with the nature of the entire Leaf Rapids project.
"It's a big part of Leaf Rapids. She gets better and better at it, but it was quite an intensive learning process," Devin says.
"One day, I may even be able to play the thing," says Keri with a laugh.
Keri, Devin and the theremin will be hitting the stage at the West End Cultural Centre on April 17 to celebrate the release of Lucky Stars. After that, the pair will head out on tour for a slew of stops in Canada, Germany and the U.K. throughout the spring and summer.