London's Acoustic Heavy Rockers Treading Zero Celebrates The Battle Well Fought On “Brittle”

There’s determination, and then there’s outright naïveté. Nobody could ever accuse London, ON’s acoustic heavy rock outfit Treading Zero of the latter; on their new single, “Brittle,” they put a tight bear hug on the former. And when they finally let go, what they’re left holding is a powerful affirmation of resilience and growth.

Making a sound as muscular as you can get on instruments that are acoustic with no distortion, the band forcefully advances the gospel that every setback is an opportunity for personal development, strength and reflection. Toughness of spirit gets top marks in a number that takes us listeners on an emotional journey from feeling trapped and overwhelmed by life’s challenges to finding emancipation through self-discovery and perseverance. It’s a stirring paean to the universal human experience of overcoming adversity and emerging a hardier soul on the other side.

Yes, but what’s it about, specifically? Now that’s a little harder to pin down. Ask the band once, and they’ll tell you “Brittle” is “a personal testament to our own journey,” with words that synthesize the players’ shared experiences. Ask again, and they’ll say they drew direct inspiration from a close friend’s remarkable return from the brink of death. But that deliberate haziness is perfectly in keeping with the song’s craftily ambiguous lyrics, which forgo concrete scenarios and character I.D.s for imagery anyone who’s ever had to struggle can take to heart:

I’m sifting through this cold embrace
Coping with the pain inside
I’m breaking through the core, encased
Knowing there’s no place to hide
You rise from the fall

The starkly poetic sentiment benefits from band’s stripped-down approach to arrangement, with singer Tony Nouragas’ hyper-dramatic vocals ricocheting over a repeated guitar figure that gradually imparts a state of true hypnosis. It’s perfect music for those who harbor fond memories of the acoustic Alice in Chains EPs (or just haven’t gotten over the absence of Days of the New).

The recording process amounted to its own study in “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” The band tracked the various parts to “Brittle” in three different studios in Goderich, London, and St. Thomas before sending the entire package to Toronto for mixing and mastering. Jesse Vallee’s drums and Rob Butterwick’s guitars were recorded at Beach Road Studios in Goderich by longtime band friend and collaborator Siegfried Meier, in a large tracking room overlooking the stunning Lake Huron sunsets. Brandon Sennema’s bass lines were captured in London by another old friend, producer/engineer Aaron Murray (who also helped assemble secondary guitar takes from the Goderich session). Finally, Nouragas laid down his vocals for recordist Chris Costa at Conjure Recording Studio in St. Thomas (where some more secondary guitar parts were also added).

The track was mixed in Toronto by Ian Bodzasi (Katy Perry, Sam Roberts, The Tea Party) and mastered by João Carvalho (Alexis on Fire, Protest the Hero, Sloan), the latter of whom has done the mastering on every one of Treading Zero’s recordings.

It fell to guitarist Butterwick to oversee the various stages of production, relying on the organizational skills he’s honed in his full-time job as an advertising producer/multimedia specialist to corral and coordinate the various studios and engineers.

Fortunately, the members of Treading Zero will have no trouble being in one place at one time when they play a quartet of upcoming shows, each of them absolutely free to attend:

July 27: London, ON – FitzRay’s (with Jupiter Hollow)
Aug. 16: St. Thomas, ON – Railway City Music Festival, Pinafore Park

The group has been positively awash in such honors recently: On May 26, they performed at Collective Arts Brewing in Hamilton, ON, as a finalist in the It’s Your Festival New Music Expo Challenge. And they were also a finalist in the recent Forest City London Music Awards, in the fan category of Favourite Artist. Seems this “overcoming hardship” business is awfully popular with the public and the powers-that-be alike. Stay strong, fellas. It looks good on you.