The Midway State pushes its own boundaries with new release

Morgan Ian Adams

Two years ago, The Midway State was on a startling trajectory.

The band - featuring Collingwood-raised Nathan Ferraro and Daenen Bramberger - had released its inaugural LP, Holes, the previous year. Ferraro found himself nominated for the songwriter of the year Juno, while the band was up for best pop album. At the MuchMusic Video Awards, they took home the top prize for best new artist and best independent music video.

It was time to come back to earth.

On Tuesday, The Midway State released its sophomore full-length release, Paris or India (Holes was preceded in 2007 by the EP, Met a Man on Top of the Hill). The album shows a maturing band pushing its musical boundaries; the music, says Ferraro on the other end of the phone from Toronto, is focused on his and the band's coming of age - making the transition from being a teenager walking the halls of Jean Vanier to manhood.

But to reach that point, after the sudden success of Holes, they had to get away.

The band retreated to studio space in the woods near Fort Erie, closing itself off from the outside world in order to focus strictly on making music.

"It was our feeling of what was right, to not think about radio or television... or the success or touring," said Ferraro.

"Music really is the important thing," he said. "If we're going to be career musicians, and build our repertoire and grow... the only way to do that is to come from the right place."

Of course, the recognition from the industry - the Juno nods, the MuchMusic awards - gave the guys some confidence. However, said Ferraro, the band - which includes Michael Wise and Michael Kirsh, who both joined Midway State after Ferraro and Bramberger relocated to the city - realized they also couldn't let that level of early success go to their heads.

"You quickly realize all that stuff is peripheral," he said. "If you place too much emphasis on the peripheral and let it define you, and not have the music define you, you run dry pretty quickly."

While Holes was predominantly written by Ferraro, Paris and India is a more collaborative effort, with bigger contributions from Bramberger and the 'Two Mikes', along with producer Thomas Salter; there's also input from Ferraro's brother, Dominic, and Simon Wilcox.

One song, Fire, originated out of a jam session - "you hit on a riff sometimes," said Ferraro; Hartley Salter's Kite started life on Ferraro's piano in his apartment.

The collaboration between bandmates "opened some new doors," said Ferraro.

"It was a shift, but I'm glad it happened."

Ferraro approached his writing the same way he did while sitting in his bedroom growing up in Nottawa.

"I just let the writing happen," he said. "You realize it's not about telling the song what it's about, but having the song tell you.

"It's important that (the aspect of writing music) makes you feel good," he said. "When I was writing as a kid in Nottawa, it gave me a sense of completeness and importance, and it allowed me to go to school and walk around like I had something up my sleeve."

But still, there are pressures.

"You have your whole life to write a first record; you only have a year or year-and-a-half to write a second," he said.

Ferraro hasn't thought about his expectations for Paris or India, whether it will garner the same level of recognition as Holes.

"I'm not sure what I'd be happy with," he said. "This part is out of our control; whether it resonates with the audience... we just do the best we could, keep touring and performing, and see if it works.

"I'm starting to see the reviews... (the critics) are giving it good reviews, and they get where we're coming from - so that's a good foreshadowing."

- iadams@theenterprisebulletin.com; twitter.com/Scoop_68

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