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Initially released at the height of ‘90s Can-Rock and a vibrant Toronto scene, Universal Honey’s fourth release, Fearless, represents an innovative response from Leslie Stanwyck and Johnny Sinclair to the changing creative music and business landscape swirling around them.

Fresh off the creative rock-funk, power pop, and blues excursions that distinguished the preceding Universal Honey disc from earlier outings, guitarist/singer/keyboardist Stanwyck and bassist Sinclair challenged themselves to reinvent their sound on what was initially envisioned as a “down-tempo mellow” release.

“It was a fruitful time for us creatively,” recalls Sinclair. “We were off the road for a while so on Friday night’s, we would make dinner, have a few cocktails, then start writing and keep the process going all weekend. We had a lot of songs written this time.”

While the Stanwyck/Sinclair musical collaboration may have started in their living room, it certainly did not end there. Based on their earlier collaboration on Universal Honey, the couple tapped veteran producer/engineer/mixer Dale Penner (Nickelback, Holly McNarland, SM6) for an expanded collaborative role on Fearless.

While all vocal, guitar, keyboard, and bass performances were recorded at Vyner Road Studio along with drum parts, the two were experimenting with “new technology” that Penner also embraced, with the producer expanding their sounds with drum loops and instrumentation. With Penner’s coordination, violinist Jesse Zubot  (Zubot and Dawson, Long John Baldry) contributed programming and strings orchestration, working and recording remotely at the Henhouse studio in Vancouver.

“Around this time, I started really getting into drum programming and electronics, and on the Universal Honey album I did both strings, small violin string sections, and some drum machine programming,” says Zubot. “This was when remote recording and sending tracks through the internet kinda’ really started getting going. Nowadays, it is extremely popular and everyone is doing it, but at that point, it still wasn't a very common thing.”

Penner further diversified the Fearless sound by recruiting drummer Craig Hunter, of Toronto funk-pop band The Philosopher Kings, for the sessions.

Other than the beautiful ballad “Real Love,” every song clocks in at less than 4 minutes, with Sinclair’s spare-but-poignant lyrics and Stanwyck’s like-minded vocal phrasings leaving room for comparatively complex arrangements and instrumentation.

The single “Think You Know” is a solid representation of the end results achieved through this collaboration, a sly mid-tempo acoustic guitar shuffle complemented by strings, loops, guitars, keyboards, and both live drums and electronic percussion. With lyrics focused on the bliss of approaching life with a glass half-full vs. half-empty approach, the song did well regionally across North America, eventually earning a spot on the Top 100 Songs of 2002 at Toronto radio station CHUM-FM.

The Fearless record represented the fourth Universal Honey album that would find success in the world of commercial music placement, with “The Word” appearing on Party of Five, “Won’t Find You” on Dawson’s Creek, and “Home” had multiple uses on the Food Network’s Surreal Gourmet.

 

Fearless Track Listing (Expanded Release)

  1. Fearless         3:30

  2. Beautiful        3:21

  3. Won't Find You         3:16

  4. Real Love      4:02

  5. Think You Know       3:58

  6. Price Of Love            3:00

  7. Waiting Online          3:27

  8. The Word       3:01

  9. Hard Enough 3:45

  10.  Better Than This     3:40

  11.  Like A River 3:10

  12.  Home 3:28

Bonus Tracks

  1.  Fearless – Demo Version

  2.  Depending On You – Demo Version

  3.  Another Day – Demo Version

  4.  Waiting Online – Demo Version

  5.  Like A River – Demo Version

  6.  Real Love – Robby Takac Remix

  7.  Won’t Find You  - Robby Takac Remix

  8.  Think You Know – Robby Takac Remix

UH EP 2020.jpg

Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any stranger… Toronto’s alt-pop rockers Universal Honey Release New Music for first time in 15 years with UH EP 2020.

In making honey during this challenging musical period, Leslie Stanwyck and Johnny Sinclair are releasing their first new music in over a decade with UH EP 2020. 

Re-energized by global activities in these last few months, Universal Honey principals Stanwyck (lead vocals, guitars, keyboards, production) and Sinclair (bass, vocals, production) co-wrote the six songs on UH EP 2020 in a creative burst. The couple’s trademark melodic power pop is in ample evidence across these fresh tracks. The first single, Rolling Back Time, lyrically is of the time – it’s all about looking forward and not getting caught in the trappings of past ideals.

Joined on these recording by two Canadian rock veterans, guitarist Kurt Schefter (Alannah Myles) and drummer Don Kerr (Ron Sexsmith, Rheostatics), the six tracks on UH EP 2020 extend the distinct “ear candy” sound Stanwyck and Sinclair created across seven earlier Universal Honey releases. Universal Honey’s distinct blend of melodic vocals, punchy guitars, and “can’t get it out of your head” hooks and choruses are in abundance here.

UH EP 2020 is being digitally released October 19th to all streaming sites, with compact disc format to follow.

Stay tuned, as Universal Honey continues to release the remainder of its largely unavailable catalog to streaming sites into 2021.