There has always been something magical about nighttime. For as long as creatives have been contemplating love, life, and the meaning of it all, they have simultaneously reflected on the mystery and stillness of the night; of the moon and stars, and how the darkest part of the day is the one that leads to the brightest moments of enlightenment.
For Taylor Knox, this epiphany was especially true and present on his sophomore album, Here Tonight. Forever a creature of the night, of cozying up near candlelight with a book to indulge and press pause on a hectic day or moment, Knox’s preference for night became thematically important on his second LP. Here, he thought precisely what he was thinking about—and what he wanted to do or say with it. To use this time for reflection purposely and deliberately, not wasting the gift of insight that nighttime stillness provides. “I really try to make sure the songs I write come from a place of not something I want to write but something I kind of have to get out. What I’m feeling below what I’m thinking,” he says.
Here Tonight sees Knox continue his power pop arc; crunchy, loud guitars mixed with powerful drums and catchy, anthemic hooks. Yet, Knox’s influences are less retrograde in rock music, and more tuned into the pop zeitgeist, seeking guidance and inspiration on production and songwriting by The Weeknd, SZA, and even Prince. Additionally, Knox turned to a person—and almost otherworldly realm—outside of traditional pop: the heavenly matron of feelings, Joni Mitchell.
Knox began working on Here Tonight almost immediately after Love. He whittled down 30 songs to 10 for this record. He worked again with Josh Korody, as he did on Love, at Candle Recording. Korody pushed Knox toward a different path; maintaining his essential sound and style while generously incorporating what he loves in music today. “Josh said: ‘What if you made something that was like My Bloody Valentine, Kate Bush, and The Weeknd? What if you took all the things you like from those artists?’” Hesitant at first, Knox’s trepidations were quelled by Korody’s production innovation; gently peeling out specific elements that would work within the structures of the new songs. He moved toward using electronic keyboards, to creating sparkling, even shimmering guitar tones. The intro for “Little Creature,” for example, pulses so dramatically, you’d believe it was fit almost entirely for the club. But it works tremendously, and beautifully, here. “Being open to everything sounds exciting.”
Knox worked on a few songs with Rob Schnapf, too, in Los Angeles at Mant Studios. (Schnapf has recently worked with Dilly Dally and Kurt Vile.) Schnapf helped make “One In A Billion” on Here Tonight sound like the best Oasis song to not appear on an Oasis album.
Knox reflects on the spontaneity of his sessions with both Korody and Schnapf, saying that this is perhaps the biggest difference from this LP and his prior work. A considerable amount of room was left open for unrestrained music-making; for creative magic to occur. Leaving behind a rigid sense of schedule and timing of when a follow-up record should come out, Knox was able to tap into energy below surface that translated to his sessions. Doing this, he says, “leaves a little bit of room for discovery with the collaborator and room for their influence. I’ve always tried to do that but I did it more this time because I have confidence that I’ll be able to come up with it on the spot.”
This, he says, is where Joni Mitchell’s influence was felt most. Voraciously consuming all things Mitchell, including reading up on her process, he noticed how less pressured Mitchell was to produce work. That she worked on her own timeline simply to work and demo. If something materialized out of that, then there might be a record.
Ever a central figure within Toronto’s expansive rock scene—a friend and collaborator with almost everyone working today—Knox brought on friends and musicians for Here Tonight. Here Tonight features a number of collaborations that are subtle and unbeknownst. “Everybody Knows” was co-written and produced with Peter Dreimanis from July Talk, featuring, too, a speaking part for Dreimanis, and Leah Fay on vocals. “Live It Up” features Dave Monks of Tokyo Police Club on bass guitar.
The opening track of the album, “City At Night,” is a perfect encapsulation of what Knox has done on Here Tonight. In the dark, it’s easy to see how grim everything is. But he so poignantly says that music’s essence is tied to the night and how that is profoundly positive. Musicians write at night, concerts occur at night, even walking through the city at night can feel cinematic and perfect, with the music you’re listening to almost like you’re scoring your own life. “There’s a sense of trying to hang onto the things that are positive,” he says, and you believe that that is exceptionally true on Here Tonight.