Tragically Hip

The Backyard Saturday, June 22

Sure, the Tragically Hip have made a half-dozen astonishingly underrated records and proven themselves as can't-miss live showmen. But when you've got a real live Canadian like Hip frontman Gordon Downie on the phone, can there be any more relevant topic than hockey?

"Whether we like hockey or not isn't usually even a question," Downie says, "it's just naturally assumed."

In fact, Downie says the band's latest record, Trouble in the Henhouse, is their most hockey-influenced set yet; recorded in a studio the band had built into a limestone Kingston, Ontario home that bordered a turn-of-the-century, man-made pond.

"In the winter, it freezes into an idyllic, perfect Canadian scene sheltered by trees," Downie says. "It's absolutely beautiful, with impeccable ice. So while we were making this record, it became sort of this parallel Zen experience -- this other thing that we did every day. None of us are great skaters but we love the thought of skating and the wind in our hair, making the moves, and the whole physicality of a 2-2 game.

"The ice kept getting chopped up, and then there would be a thaw, so we'd constantly worry and concern ourselves with the upkeep and maintenance. It wasn't unlike a Shoeless Joe experience. It allowed us this incredible distraction, to go out and think of nothing while we were making this record. It made us feel hearty and alive and made us remember being kids. It really helped the record, to come back from the pond each day unable to fuss about anything"

So what does a hockey expert like Downie make of our new expansion hockey team, Austin Ice Bats? "It's plural and that's a good start," he says. "There has to be a team of somethings. The Colorado Avalanche doesn't make any sense, so in Canada they'll call them the `lanchies' or the `avs.' It has to be the `Penguins' or `Televisions,' so you're doing alright because it's a collection of ice bats."

Then why not the Tragically Hips?

"Hey, we're not a hockey team man, we're a collective... an autonomous collective working under a major label." -- Andy Langer

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