The origins of Octoberman can be traced back to Marc Morrissette's itinerant summer of 2003. Temporarily abandoning his newly-formed collective (Kids These Days), the Vancouver songwriter embarked on an expedition through Asia and Europe. By his return to North American shores, the pages of a travel journal had been blackened with lyrics inspired by his experiences abroad. The reunited Kids These Days then undertook an industrious period of touring that allowed Morrissette to discover further metropolitan muses in New York City, Los Angeles and Portland. With a wealth of new songs at his disposal, he adjourned to Experience Sound Studios with co-producer James Henderson and commenced a yearlong recording project that would result in the debut Octoberman record: These Trails Are Old and New.
In many respects, the album's production is a testament to the comforts of home. While fellow Kids Rob Josephson (drums) and Jason Starnes (keyboards, glockenspiel) were enlisted for the recording, the Octoberman project also became an opportunity for Morrissette to tap into a well of Vancouver talent that included Brian Chan (cello), Graham Christofferson (bass), Sean Conway (mandolin), Brook Houglum (vocals) and CL McLaughlin (keyboards, saxophone, vocals). Each contributor undoubtedly leaves their mark on the effort but the end result is clearly a showcase of one man's artistic voice. Morrissette draws heavily from the tradition of the wandering bard as he shares observations concerning the people and customs he's encountered in his travels. Over lightly strummed guitars, his decidedly melancholic vocals ably evoke the rigours of an overnight Vietnam train or interminable drive between Toronto and New York. Melding the sensibilities of Neil Young and
Jack Kerouac, Morrissette's situational studies are cast in a variety of lights. Opener "X-Pat" portrays him as a self-conscious Canadian contemplating the maple leaf-emblazoned backpacks that mark his trail. Elsewhere, "Tokyo Nightmare" conjures an ominous claustrophobia while "Walking Time" conveys the contemplative isolation afforded by solo sojourns to foreign lands. Ultimately, the emotional heart of the album resides in "Merci Cornerstore." Written and performed with his older brother Mike, it is Morrissette's stirring tribute to the salvation afforded by a neighborhood mercantile. Furthermore, the song functions as a poignant reminder that not all journeys can be measured by distance alone.
Fittingly, These Trails Are Old and New's European release is slated for October 2006 by the burgeoning indie label White Whale Records with distribution by Shellshock. Having toured exensively in Northa America with with stops @ CMJ, Pop Montreal, Canadian Music Week and North By Northeast, Morrissette is setting out for an extensive Fall solo tour with stops in the U.K., Germany, Netherlands and Italy. Ever evolving, one suspects that Octoberman's trek has only just begun.