Starting in 2000 as a recording project, Mathias Kom recorded, “three very strange albums with various Peterborough folks and one dance album” while procrastinating during his MA.  Eventually he found a group of people who would become The Burning Hell and recorded Tick Tock.  Their latest release is Happy Birthday, an EP of country songs.

The name for the group came from a religious tract?
A guy on the street in Toronto handed me a religious pamphlet called The Burning Hell, and I thought “that’s a perfect name for a folk band”.  That’s about it.

How did the sounds come together and how do you write with everyone?
I’m fortunate to be surrounded by great multi-instrumentalists and everyone’s always changing what they play.  Their ideas for instrumentation are always better than anything I could come up with. I write the music and the lyrics, and everyone else writes their own parts.  We generally tend to work on orchestration together.

The Burning Hell

The Burning Hell

What kind of training do you and the members of the band have?
A couple of us – Darcy McCord (cello) and Charlie Glasspool (piano) are classically trained, and the rest of us are self-taught.

How often does the whole band rehearse together?
We actually never rehearse – mostly because the constantly changing lineup and crazy touring schedule makes rehearsing next to impossible.  I think we’ve played something like 250 shows in the last year, so we definitely get our fill!

Where did the name of the album come from?
‘Happy Birthday’ came from the song ‘Happy Birthday To The End of The World’ and also coincided with the birthday cake in the painting Gabe Foreman did for the cover.

Compared to Cohen, Cash, Corpse Bride ‘style’ while being “heartbreakingly hilarious” and “brooding, skeletal folk”, even gospel – what do you make of that?
I’m happy to hear people listen and make their own comparisons, but my actual influences fall more in the neighbourhood of Nick Cave, The Handsome Family and The Magnetic Fields than Leonard Cohen or Johnny Cash (both of whom, I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t really know all that well).  As for genres and descriptions, we get all kinds – my favourite so far being ‘stoner cartoon rock’.  When it comes down to it we play folk.

The latest album explores “joys of decay and dating after death”, an interesting proposition – how’s it done?
I generally like to write about death – after all, it’s what our society is most manically obsessed with.  As for dating, well, dating leads to sex, sex to babies, babies to growth and sex and more babies, and eventually they all lead to death.  With some good times along the way.

And “beauty of age” with the “inevitable repetition of mistakes” – somewhat softer topics then decay and death, how did the subjects come together?
Death is sort of an umbrella that encompasses and affects everything we do.  But there’s more than sadness in death – there’s also beauty, humour, and the inevitability of being stupid in the same ways over and over again, whether within one lifetime or human history as a whole.  How can all that not put a smile on our faces?

What’s the story behind the cover artwork?
My good friend Gabe Foreman does all our artwork, and for the latest record he just donated an old piece of his – I thought it was perfect because it combined a general morbidity with a festive atmosphere, which is exactly the tone of the songs on the album.

Your schedule puts you from the Yukon to Europe to St. John’s, what’s that life like?
Our lives now involve a lot of sitting, driving, waiting and occasionally playing.  I don’t have an apartment because paying rent seems ridiculous.  It only occasionally feels like a grind though, mostly because we get to spend time in some of our favourite places, like St. John’s!  It’s been a fun and exhausting year; we’ll soon take a few months off to rest and recuperate.

What’s next for The Burning Hell?
We’re recording our next album in 3 parts – one in Vancouver, in Port Greville, NS and in London, ON.  After it’s done (probably around March) we’re planning a coast-to-coast release tour then back to Europe for part of the summer.  There’s also been talk of putting on a musical version of the cheesy evangelical film The Burning Hell, which would be hilarious and probably horribly offensive.

Quickly, the CD that everyone in the band would agree to listen to in a car?
‘Rumours’ by Fleetwood Mac

The Burning Hell Sampler