by Laura Stanley
“There are certain shades of blue that keep me under the covers,” creaks Michael Hansford aka Molly Drag on “Certain Blues,” the closing track from his new EP Nodding Off. It’s an EP, like his previous releases, that is built on voices in the dark. Sometimes these are strangers’ voices (“Sanctuary”) but mostly you hear Hansford’s fevered whispers. When whispers aren’t enough, he will scream (“Cold Song”) but muffle it with a pillow. On “Certain Blues” the air is warm with recycled emotions and longing. The world is on mute and he can finally hear his thoughts. It’s a song about “seeing the benefits of deconstruction / nostalgia,” as Hansford explains.
Nodding Off comes just two months after the release of Molly Drag’s third record Whatever Reason. After touring with Fog Lake in Europe in the spring, Hansford’s started writing the EP and found inspiration in family stories.
When not working on Molly Drag or playing drums in Fog Lake, Hansford makes ambient music under the name Awenda Provincial Park. These songs are, like Molly Drag’s, ghostly recordings, haunted by sounds that are sometimes recognizable but others that are otherworldly. Here the world has no limitations which makes for both a frightening and beautiful listen. “A way to make something with no boundaries in my head about performing it live,” Hansford says about making ambient music.
Hansford and I chatted on Facebook messenger over the span of a few hours one day last week. At some point, he went on a walk and I sought refuge from my work’s stifling temperature in a library and then, eventually, at home. Here are excepts (with light edits) from that conversation:
Facebook tells me you’re from Midland? But you lived in London, ON for a bit where you recorded Deeply Flawed and Tethered Rendering? Why/when did you move to Montreal?
I moved to London when I was 19 and attended college there for two years. I was taking liberal arts there. Then I ended up meeting a partner and ended up living there for another 5 years. For the last 2 and half years or more (not sure of the exact time) we lived together in this real dingy basement apartment apartment on king street (in London/ near Beal high school) which was basically a crack house, but it was close to downtown/venues and the rent was super cheap.
Anyways, in 2015 I started recording Deeply Flawed on my partner’s laptop with my friend’s blue snowball microphone on Audacity and finished recording the record in a couple months.
After, recording Tethered Rendering, my partner moved for school to Halifax. I started going through a rough time. Moved into a nice house (with a large basement where I recorded most of Whatever Reason) with my friend Jake Jackman at the time, then after a rough long distance break up, and the worst summer of my life (last summer) and with a lease ending I decided to move somewhere I’ve always enjoyed visiting, Montreal. And I moved in a small car (Jake drove me) on august 6th, 2016… and it was a good decision. I needed it. Scared to think of what may of been if I didn’t to be honest.
So now I’m here.
When did you start making music?
My mom bought me a keyboard from a liquidator store when we were living in the country just outside of Midland, Ontario where I grew up. I was about 13. And I would just learn Beatles/Coldplay songs by ear.
But I started making my own when I was about 15
Me and my buddy Jesse started a band called Charles Roberts, just me on Guitar/Vocals/Piano and him on bass… We actually recorded a full length cd together in my living that summer in grade 9 – on Audacity.. I think I had a photo of the cds we burned for that one sec
I read that Nodding Off is about your Dad’s side of the family – was there something that specifically drew you to make an EP about that?
mostly because there’s a lot of mystery surrounding that side of my family, my mom and dad divorced when I was 5 and I only got to see my dad every second weekend, and then it became less and less
I never got to meet my grandfather on my dad’s side because of disagreements between him and my dad and surrounding what happened with Len (my grandfather) leaving my grandmother Margaret when my dad was the youngest of 3 brothers and one sister… Peggy, who took her own life shortly after Len left the family. She was 19 I think… I still wasn’t born yet. This story is all I know about it all. Other than knowing my Grandfather Len was a famous sea captain. He passed away last year – and I managed to find this obituary for him. Nor Peggy or me are mentioned in it….
He ran a search and rescue mission when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank…. a famous accident
Just like, so many things I didn’t really know about in my blood.
My dad was a first mate on Len’s ships too when he was in his early twenties…
The sea is kind of in my blood I guess.
You recently tweeted “Is my music “emo”? Or is it “emotional”? Is there a difference? I feel old”. Did you ever settle your question?
Not really. Other than I know my Music is emotional
And I only listen to music that is.
Is songwriting a way for you to process your emotions?
Song writing is a catharsis for me
A way to remembrance later on in life
A portrait of an era
You use a lot of voice samples, or interjections – movies, messages, phone calls, poetry – in your music. What draws you to that? Is that another piece to the portrait of an era you describe?
Usually it has to deal with what the song is about
And what I can find that suits that
Some is personal, a lot are samples I can’t comment on unfortunately that why I make them almost indecipherable
So you’re going to tour the new EP?
Both the new LP and new EP, ya
In September / October
Ontario, and North East USA with a couple dates in Michigan and Ohio too
That should be awesome!
Are you bringing some pals along?
actually I’m going with the band Past Life from Philly
And they’re gonna back me up as a live band for the tour
So kinda? But I’ve never met them in person before!
So it’s gonna be cool
And I’m lucky.