The Sadies' New Record Is Arguably Their Best Yet & Drummer Mike Belitzsky Tells Us Why

By: Claire Woodcock

Mike Belitzsky has been drumming with The Sadies for over 20 years and has never been so excited about the direction the band is moving in. The traditionally roots rock kings of Canada’s sound on Northern Passengers, released back in February, preserves the band’s history while soaking the tracks in reverb and a light wash of fuzz.

The Sadies. Photo Credit: Heather Pollock Photography

The Sadies. Photo Credit: Heather Pollock Photography

The eclectic country western rock quartet recorded album number ten in the basement of members Dallas and Travis Good’s parent’s house. The brothers come from a family of musicians- their father and uncles formed The Good Brotherswhich Travis and Dallas actually played in for a stitch before forming The Sadies back in 1994 with their lineup of bassist Sean Dean and drummer Belitsky.

The instrumentals on Northern Passengers are in tight sync. And Belitsky’s musical style is to keep it that way, balancing creativity with keeping the other parts audible. Part of that stems from the band not feeling pressed for time when recording the album.  

“If we wanted to speed [a song] up 10 beats per minute we could just redo [the track] and it wasn’t a big deal,” he said.

Some songs only took a half a day to track. “But for others, [we] would do it and then three days later somebody would be putting the guitar track on and say, ‘You know what, this is too slow, we’ve got to redo the whole thing.’” he added.  

Photo Credit: Derek von Essen

Photo Credit: Derek von Essen

The album came out in February as The Sadies’ first record with Dine Alone Records. Highly respected in North America for a dynamic blend of rock’n’roll licks and country western harmonies, the veteran indie band collaborated with Neko Case and Andre Williams and opened and accompanied greats like Neil Young. And Kurt Vile, who played a killer set at Project Pabst in Denver last weekend guests on Northern Passengers with “It’s Easy (Like Walking),” which sounds like a traditional Kurt Vile song. (He sure likes to walk, doesn’t he?)  

Photo Credit: Rick White.

Photo Credit: Rick White.

Belitsky’s drums compliment every vocal, guitar, and bass track on the album. “Everybody sort of just assumes that you get the drum sounds and then bang! The drummer just bangs out a track and goes home,” he said, “...[But] I don’t like to be just the guy that plays super straight and just keeps the time. I want to be creative and I want to be someone who plays the song not just to the beat and within that realm in those parameters. I don’t want to be so busy that I’m stepping on someone’s part or taking away from the melody. I don’t want to lose the backbeat but I still want to be creative and play to the song as much as I can, where there’s still a strong feeling of a backbeat and a rhythm, but [the drums] still manage to embellish the song to highlight the other parts.”

Artwork by Jeremy Bruneel

Artwork by Jeremy Bruneel

Catch The Sadies when they’re passing through Denver this Friday, May 26th at The Bluebird Theater. Justin Towne Earles headlines and has a new single out this month. Tickets here.

-Claire

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.