Drawn Ship is Lyn Heinemann (guitars & vocals), Trent Hopton (guitars & vocals) and Gregg Steffensen (drums). Formed in 2010 by Heinemann and Steffensen, the band established its career as a two-piece, and released Low Domestic in 2011. They toured, and decided to add another player who would fit with their minimalist, intentional approach. The duo invited Heinemann's long-time collaborator Trent Hopton to join them on guitar. In 2013, Drawn Ship recorded Ghost Weight, the sophomore 10-song album featuring vocals by Hannah Georgas, Leah Abramson (The Abramson Singers), and Ryan Guldemond (Mother Mother).
OTHER than a song about Louis Riel and a cover of a favourite Richard Buckner tune Drawn Ship pretty much stick to their topic on Low Domestic - the down and dirty business of a breakup and its aftermath.
The band (made up of guitarist/vocalist Lyn Heinemann, formerly of Portico, and Hinterland drummer Gregg Steffensen) have been working on their debut album as a twosome for some time and started putting down the basic tracks just over a year ago at Mushroom Records.
"Initially it started out being a breakup record - maybe not the most original idea but I went with it," says Heinemann. "And then I just kind of got sidetracked and started writing songs about other things but it is still pretty dark. All the songs seem to be about death and falling apart. There's nothing particularly uplifting."
That statement is misleading as there is something uplifting and inspirational in just about everything Heinemann does as a musician. Up until now fronting Portico has been her main gig since moving to Vancouver from back east in the summer of 2004.
"The original version of Portico actually started in Ontario," she says. "We recorded a little demo and played a couple of shows but I was wanting to move out west. I quit the original version and came to Vancouver and started it up again with new members."
Portico lasted for three albums but haven't been together for more than a year and Heinemann is now directing all her creative energies towards Drawn Ship. She'd crossed paths with Steffensen many times on tour before they decided to team up. Both live in the same East Vancouver neighbourhood and were thinking of a similar stripped-down approach to music.
"I wanted to do something that was a bit more minimal-sounding," says Heinemann.
"Less intricate than Portico musically and a little more straight forward. Gregg was really into the idea of doing a two-piece so we just kind of stuck with that. We thought that if it sounded really hollow or if we felt we needed more members than we would add them but it never came to that."
Heinemann works as an addiction counsellor on the Downtown Eastside and her experiences on the job pop up in some of the darkest tracks on Low Domestic including "The Best Ones Go" and the harrowing "Glass Eye."
"(The latter song) is not about anyone in particular," says Heinemann. "Sexual abuse is a pretty common story for most of the people I work with. The narrator of the song is actually me which is pretty rare as I don't usually write songs from my own perspective. It's like my role in their lives and how I'm part of a system that's set up to help these kids out but ultimately falls so short of what they really need despite everyone's best intentions. It's a bit selfaccusatory, I guess."
Low Domestic is a tour de force of Downtown Eastside noir filtered through Drawn Ship's decidely postpunk esthetic. The musical sources for the band's songs range far and wide but some of the sonic DNA can be narrowed down to a particular time. "As a teenager I was super into Neil Young and Elvis Costello," says Heinemann. "Those are like the first songs that I learned. And, of course, I was coming of age in the mid-to late-'90s so I was into all that grunge stuff. Even before I started playing I was always interested in music. Do you know the magazine Sassy? Maybe not. It was this mid-'90s out-of-New York magazine aimed at young pre-teenage girls. I read that thing religiously and they actually had awesome taste in music and so I totally got into The Pixies and The Cure and Sonic Youth and a bunch of those bands thanks to Sassy. They had good taste."
The Buckner cover, "Buckner," worked quite well with the rest of the mix and actually beat out some of Heinemann's own tunes for inclusion. "Lyrically I just love that song," she says. "I think it is so clever. I love the images in it, it's just such a strong song. It just fits so well
with the breakup theme. It's the ultimate breakup song."
"Execution" is part of an ongoing Louis Riel project that Heinemann has had on the backburner for awhile. "Lee Abramson of the Abramson Singers is a good friend of mine and one day we jokingly said, 'Let's write a musical about Louis Riel.' I don't even know why or how it came about. We were just hanging out and so we wrote tons of songs between the two of us. We have an album's worth of biographical, chronological Louis Riel songs but because we are lazy musicians we never recorded it as a whole together. She's released a couple of songs with the Abramson Singers and I've done a couple with Portico and now one with Drawn Ship. There's still a ton we both have and they are all good songs. I imagine some day they will all see the light in one form or another. It would be nice some day to record it together and see what happens."
Four other original tunes were recorded for Low Domestic but didn't make the cut. "They were all kind of superhappy sounding," says Heinemann. "One of them in particular is a duet with me and Ryan from Mother Mother. It's awesome, it's such a good song but it's really super-poppy - an over-thetop breakup duet full-on. It's really cheesy but in a great way. It will get released at some point but it just didn't fit on this record. We're going to wait on that."