The first EP from Hamilton four-piece since 2014 showcases their alt-rock, prog-rock, and country influences.
Hamilton-based four-piece Checkerboard Floors has just dropped their first EP since 2014 release Art Project. Their 2021 drop, Music You Dance To, showcases the band's improved chemistry and passion for classic alt-rock. The act includes Derek Palango on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, Tyler Wilson on lead guitar, Matt Outerson on bass, and Kevin Barrie on drums. You can spot each of the bandmates' pipes featured on the backing vocals of Music You Dance To.
"The style and sound of our band is more of a sum of it's parts, if anything," said Wilson. "Take an intelligent, brooding alt-rock singer-songwriter, add a Motown-inspired rhythm machine on bass, a wild country-rock lead guitarist, and a quirky drummer who is probably more familiar with obscure prog-rock than he is with any pop or classic rock tune- and you get Checkerboard Floors. Our years of playing together have earned us an almost instinctual knowledge of what the other members are going to do before it happens. This is the backbone of our sound. A collection of our individual influences and the years of pounding the pavement together as a unit." Some of the demos for tracks included on the EP were created as far back as 2015. "For one reason or another, as can happen with four busy guys gigging and balancing families, we probably didn't get serious about a new release until a little more than a year ago," said Palango. "As we started talking about it, we wanted to bring these new songs out live first and foremost. Then the pandemic hit. We were sort of faced with an obvious choice- we needed to press on and release these songs. The only way we were going to be able to do that, for the foreseeable future, was in isolation. So we got to work around early 2020, and now here we are with the EP available on all streaming services!"
Music You Dance To was written, produced, mixed and mastered entirely by the members themselves.
"We started by listening to early demos and setting up guide tracks, we'd share the session files with one another, and basically work it that way, with everyone adding what was needed in the order that made the most sense," said Palango. "When we were done tracking, Tyler compiled everything and began the mixing process. After everyone got a chance to review, we basically had what you now hear on the EP. Tyler prepared the tracks for distribution to streaming, and friends from Bird & Bee Vintage in Paris, Ontario, provided us with the photo that would be used for the cover. I mentioned we had hoped to road test the songs before "going into the studio". However, it didn't end up being a huge concern since we've played together for so long. We just went for it." Track number one, "Couldn't Ask For More", was written about a bright, spring day. "Almost like the first weekend after a long thaw, when you can shed the heavy coat, and things just feel easier," said Palango. "It wasn't a big jump from there to decide to make the lyrics about love- and because the words are fairly hopeful, I wanted the chorus to hit hard, and also to have the song take some different turns throughout to hopefully keep it interesting." Palango wrote the second track back in 2015.
"A few things were happening when I wrote "Canadian Tuxedo"," said Palango. "I lost my grandmother on my mom's side early that year, later I lost my grandmother on my dad's side- and I was about to become a father for the first time. It made me reflect on my own marriage, and this idea of simply trying to put your best foot forward in life, and knowing you've got someone with which you can do that. The birds that you can hear singing in the last seconds of the song were recorded from my back steps, back in 2015. I put that at the end of the demo I made, and we kept it for the EP."
"Sunshine" is about whatever the listener wants it to be about.
"Adding a little sunshine to get you through whatever’s ailing you can mean love, sex, drugs, candy bars, music, etc." said Wilson. "I like to leave things open-ended so that people can make the tune relate to their own experiences." The fourth track, "Oh My Stars", is a cautionary tale.
"I think this one started with the chords, which is often the case with me," said Palango. "The progression kind of has a mood to it. It felt like it needed a big exclamation to go with it, hence "Oh My Stars". From there, I got taken down a path thinking about false idols and the dangers of letting yourself fall in love with images portrayed on a screen. So this became a kind of a warning. I wanted the song to bounce, and sort of fire the listener up, in a slow burn kind of way." The EP's final track was the most recently written.
"The driving force behind "Carry You Through" was to ideally sit nicely late in a live set, when everyone is already having a good time and feeling receptive to even more good vibes, you could say," said Palango. "The content for me is a fictional conversation about seizing the moment, listening to your heart and embracing the fact that time is of the essence. The song was built around a groove, so I wanted the bridge to really blow the whole thing up before reigning it back in for the last chorus." Checkerboard Floors hopes their audience jumps to their feet while listening to Music You Dance To. "We'd really love it if people danced to Music You Dance To," said Palango. "When we play a show, that is the goal, every time, and we pretty much always achieve that goal. We love having people up dancing. It would be great to play these songs live to a crowd, one day, when it's safe to do so. Until then, we hope it gets people up at home, or even just pumps them up on a drive, or a walk, and that they keep these songs with them for a long time. That's the dream."
You can help support the band by streaming their music, following their socials, or donating via the Bandcamp link below.
"First and foremost, find our music on your preferred streaming site!" said Outerson. "We also have plenty of merch options available at fatdave.ca. For anything else band-related, you can search our hashtag #musicyoudanceto, or head to our website."
(Postponed due to COVID-19.)