“Our first, natural reaction was, ‘How do we continue?’ and then we realized we have to continue,” Mike Belitsky explains.
The drummer for Canadian alt-country rock band the Sadies describes their persistent desire to continue the music and legacy of their former frontman, Dallas Good. Good died suddenly on Feb. 17, 2022, at only 48, following a recently diagnosed heart condition.
For many groups, this would be the end of the line. Yet for the Sadies—in their 29th year—it’d be a crime against Good’s memory to stop. Especially considering they’re touring on their 20th album, Colder Streams—a psychedelic mix of folk and the Zombies—recorded before his death and released last July.
“It’s cathartic,” Belitsky continues. “It’s the only thing we know how to do and the only way we know how to deal with grief: head on.”
After almost three decades of constant touring, it’s virtually unimaginable that the Sadies aren’t a household name. Chalk it up to most Americans’ knowledge of Canada consisting of the word “eh,” cheap prescription drugs and hockey. Regarding entertainment, “Letterkenny,” “The Kids in the Hall” and Strange Brew—for you older hosers—come to mind. But as far as lasting forces in the music world—Nickelback doesn’t count—there’s Neil Young, Rush and the New Pornographers.
But the Sadies should be part of that group. Google them, and journalists like Vish Khana claim they’re the best band ever. In 2017, Vice called them “Canada’s Greatest Living Rock Band.” From famed producer Steve Albini to Sloan, Randy Bachman (Bachman-Turner Overdrive/the Guess Who) and members of the Sheepdogs, Tweets rang out abundantly following Good’s passing.
For those who know, the Sadies have a massive, well-earned cult following. They’ve played and collaborated with hitmakers like John Doe, Kurt Vile, the late Justin Townes Earle, Neko Case (who once said her “favorite Sadies experience is the live Sadies”), John Spencer and—yes—even the man himself, Neil Young.
“The Sadies have always been able to work with—and forged relationships with—other musicians,” declares Belitsky. “But I think we’ll tour hard for a couple years on this record and then step back to think about what we want to do.”
Formed in 1994 by Good and bassist Sean Dean, they soon recruited Good’s older brother, Travis. The Goods grew up in a musical family; their dad and uncle are two components of the Good Brothers, a bluegrass-folk band who’ve played with the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Grand Funk Railroad and more. Belitsky joined in the late ’90s and became a full-time touring member in the early 2000s.
Four months before his death, Dallas Good wrote the bio—or anti-bio, as he put it—for Colder Streams. He opens by claiming the record, “is, by far, the best record ever made by anyone. Ever.” It’s a tongue-in-cheek testament to Good’s sense of humor, but he spends some quality time with this record, and it becomes hard to disagree. Produced by Arcade Fire’s Richard Reed Perry (who also appears on backing vocals for three tracks), it’s undoubtedly the best thing they’ve ever recorded, which—with their credentials and discography—is a hell of a thing to say.
Unlike other Sadies records, often recorded in days or weeks between tours, Colder Streams was started before the 2020 lockdowns. During the pandemic, the band recorded separately from each other, sneaking out of their respective houses, breaking curfews and driving six hours each way to hit the studio.
“That being said, during the pandemic, there was nothing else to do,” laughs Belitsky. “So, driving 12 hours to do some recordings versus—what? I hadn’t left my house in months. Like, ‘sure, I’ll do anything!’”
The songwriting is an important reason Colder Streams stands out as a milestone in the band’s repertoire. Tracks like “Message to Belial” and “So Far For So Few” are dreamy, psychedelic dances with romantically profound lyrics anchoring the listener from floating too far into space.
Then there’s “More Alone Than Alone,” a haunting song about loneliness and loss—with a touch of eerie foreshadowing—penned by Dallas the day after Justin Townes Earle’s overdose in 2020.
“I paid my respects to a close friend I lost yesterday/ I’ve learned to accept that there’s nothing that anyone could say/ It hurts me to think about what could’ve been and everything that won’t ever be/ He died all alone, but he was never alone.”
“It speaks to so many different aspects of our shared tragedy as a band,” Belitsky says. “You can hear that song and—without knowing about Justin—think Dallas was writing about his own passing. I feel more connected to it now.”
The Sadies perform Wednesday, March 1, at 8pm. $28 plus fees. The Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. thecrepeplace.com