Toronto pop/rock band THE MASONS, whose singer appeared on The Boomtang Boys gold-selling album, Greatest Hits Vol.1, has released its sophomore album, Brick And Mortar, preceded by the funky crush of the first single, “Kiss ‘n Tell” which was added at more than 20 Canadian AC radio stations, and played on the American television show "Side Order of Life" (Warner/Lifetime, 08/26/2007). They have also just gone #1 on the pop chart at Indiecharts.com, and have just signed a licensing agreement with MTV (US).
“As far as an initial single, it’s to the point and really establishes how we sound, other than the fact that there’s less harmony than most of our stuff. It’s very hooky, short and sweet, with a bit more edge,” says guitarist Craig Mason, who joins his brother, lead singer and writing partner Devin, at the core of The Masons.
The youthful lyric is a twist on the girl’s fear that the boy will kiss and tell. “This scenario has the boy hoping she’ll keep the secret,” says Devin.
To coincide with the release of the album, THE MASONS serviced the more accessible follow-up single, the pure Hot AC-styled “Crumble,” which contains lyrics that reach beyond a young demographic.
“The lyric in ‘Kiss ‘n Tell’ is younger, tongue-in-cheek and naughty,” explains Devin. “‘Crumble’ is a little bit more sophisticated — ‘You can crush me in your hands whenever you want/You can make me crumble.’ And the intro is perfectly suited for this weather. ‘Downtown, it’s so hot and humid, but the sweat above my brow is there ‘cause you could break me with a word tonight.’”
The album also includes the sweet, soaring harmony-driven “No Regrets” to the more Simon & Garfunkel ‘60s-vibe of “Dragonfly” and darker acoustic flow of “Lost,” and finally caps off with the fast and furious punk-rap, “The Craze.”
“I’m hoping people will think outside the box, which I always think they can,” says Craig. “I know in the music industry that things get pigeonholed or need to be, but when Devin and I listen to all these songs on the album, each one has a lot of meaning and we think there’s a story and a change in mood. It’s not a one-trick-pony album.”
“I’ll be more defiant,” adds Devin, “and say all these people who are doing one-sound albums, that’s why the music industry’s dying. If you go back to the ‘60s and [works] like The White Album by The Beatles, every song is different.”
The brothers grew up in Dutton, ON, outside of London, where they remember borrowing cassette tapes from the local library containing everything from Diana Ross & The Supremes to Supertramp, Elvis Presley and Fats Domino. When their father brought home a guitar for himself, the brothers fell in love with it. “That was it for being lawyers and doctors,” says Devin.
While they were both in bands in post-secondary school, now based in London, when it came time for university both chose academics. Craig attended London’s University of Western Ontario for engineering and Devin majored in English at the University of Toronto. Both looked at music as an “awesome hobby,” but after a year Craig felt engineering was not for him and joined his brother in Toronto. “We got a place together and started working on music,” he says.
First came the appropriately named band The Masons and a debut album entitled For The People By The People. “They were really good songs, but really weak production,” admits Devin. The album was never distributed. Next came the rock band Channel 61, more a group effort which included two songs now re-recorded for Brick And Mortar — “Crumble” and “Dorian Gray.”
“‘Crumble'--the arrangment is exactly the same still; ‘Dorian Gray’--we did some adjusting to that melodically and redid some bass and tweaked some vocals,” says Craig of the new versions.
Channel 61 lasted two years and got critical acclaim, most notably from CBC Radio’s Laurie Brown.
What followed was a complete 180 for the Mason brothers. Radiate was an electronic, dance-pop trio, which released the CD, Alien Invasion, garnering both college radio support and industry attention.
Meanwhile, Devin sang the lead vocals for T-Rex’s “Bang A Gong (Get It On)” for The Boomtang Boys’ album and performed it with the group during its live sets across Canada and in the U.S., one of which was opening for Destiny’s Child. Individually, Craig has about 500 live gigs under his belt, including a stint with rapper/singer Snow for his Mind On The Moon album, and Devin has played a couple of hundred shows.
In 2003, the siblings reformed The Masons because they felt there was some “unfinished business,” says Craig.
“It wasn’t only unfinished business; it was our sound,” Devin clarifies. “It was what we grew up with because that Radiate and Boomtang Boys stuff, while there’s certainly some nice moments in them, when you’re playing that kind of music, it’s not organic.”
Devin says he never had aspirations to do a solo album, so returning to work with his brother was a natural option. They trust each other, have the same background, influences, and work ethic.
“When we write a song, we like to sit there for five or six hours and pound out a lot of stuff. My experience is most people don’t like to write that long,” says Craig. “We also have a lot in common, musically, even though we might have the odd punch-up.”
The album, which was self-produced and self-penned, includes studio contributions from drummer Troy Feener (Tom Cochrane, The Full Nine, David Usher) and bassist Tim White (The Headstones). Craig plays all guitars, some bass, and sings the harmonies, (with the exception of his vocal lead in 'Lost') while lead-vocalist Devin writes the lion’s share of the words as well as play keyboards.
“Let It Go,” which Devin wrote himself and performed with Radiate, The Masons and Channel 61, and even tried with Boomtang, is about a past relationship with someone who wants to get back together but knows it won’t work. “Dragonfly” is about not giving up hope, and was a riff that Craig came up with to which Devin added beautiful words. “Lost,” which Craig co-wrote with some other musicians/friends, is about getting older and remembering back to a better time in your life. “Dorian Gray” is a melancholy song about being jaded and realizing it, and “The Craze” is pure fun, written in about 20 minutes.
“I tend to use things that I hear people say, things like ‘kiss and tell.’ I love to hear a new saying. It’s like finding gold nuggets to me,” says Devin. “In terms of clichÈ, I always like to twist things around. Similar things happen to people. When I write, I like to write from a populace standpoint. I’m not trying to get too fancy or obscure. I want to tell little stories and basically to do that, you’ve got the sun, the rain, the night, the day.”
“As long as it’s getting the point across and the mood in which the song is intended,” adds Craig.
THE MASONS have already put together a live band and plan on backing up the album in key supporting markets.
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