As far as Hey Rosetta! is concerned, the current tour wasn't off to the most auspicious start.
"The intake manifold was full of suss or something," says frontman Tim Baker as he recounts the breakdown of their touring van in San Jose, shortly after they started a cross-country trek that began in San Francisco.
"There was coolant dripping into the EGR valve or the intake manifold or whatever. It would've ended up costing us like three times what the van was worth, so we ended up actually having to purchase a new van,” he says. “We had to miss two shows. It was a drag."
This particular tour is an important one for the band because it's meant to help Hey Rosetta! — acclaimed throughout their native Canada and often likened (accurately or not) to their more renowned compatriots The Arcade Fire — find a wider audience among Americans. Thus, the ensemble, whittled down to a mere six-piece, is touring on the back of the protracted U.S. debut of their award-winning second album, Into Your Lungs, as co-openers for Hot Hot Heat.
"It's our first real American tour. We've played a few shows in New York and Boston and LA, but never really toured from city to city. It's our first full-fledged coast-to-coast thing,” Baker says.
“We're the first of three bands, so we often are playing to less than a hundred people. But they're all watching and listening,” he says. “In some ways it's kind of better to have their undivided attention. So it's been small but very heartfelt."
Being all but unknown in a country within spitting distance of one's own might sound like an unsettling parallel-universe type of experience, but Baker takes it in stride.
"I have to say, I really like being an opening band. People don't expect much from you, and when they see something that they like or that speaks to them, they're pleasantly surprised,” he says. “It's kind of a step back in time, I guess."
The idea of playing material from Into Your Lungs as if it were brand new is another retrograde step, one that's slightly more difficult for Baker to adjust to. In many ways, it's similar to his experience re-sequencing that album for its U.S. release to include tracks from the more recent and anomalous Red Songs EP.
"I remember there were a lot of issues," he says. "I hemmed and hawed over the track order for a long time because Into Your Lungs without those tracks was very complete to me. And then we had to fit those two soft, kind of folky songs in there somehow. In Canada, it was very separate."
"It's a troubling process, sequencing, because obviously [the songs] need to flow into each other musically and mood-wise,. but also there's a lot of factors,” Baker says. “It's like making a set list. There's so many reasons why two songs can't go next to each other, or you can't have these three songs in a row or whatever, so you basically try to find something that doesn't suck and hope that it flows properly. We've just gone through it again with a new record."
The new LP, to be called Seeds, is still so freshly put to tape it hasn't been given a release date. But it will "stay true," in Baker's words, to the textural, intricate, symphonic rock that drew so many Canadian listeners to Into Your Lungs and its predecessor, Plan Your Escape. And that will, with any luck, endear Hey Rosetta! to more and more of its neighbors to the south.
Hey Rosetta! plays Hot Hot Heat and 22-20s at Empyrean on Monday, Sept. 20, at 7 pm. Tickets: $12. All-ages. Call 838-9819.