The Mohawk Lodge

“I don’t know if you can see this from where you are, but this is where I recorded just about all of the last album,” says Ryder Havdale, guitarist, singer and songwriting protagonist with Canadian band The Mohawk Lodge. Havdale swings his computer around so I can see the view via the wonders of modern video-telephony technology. It might be cold and dark in Melbourne at 7am when we make contact, but it’s a temperate and sunny afternoon in Havdale’s current location in Washington State, just south of the border with British Columbia. “I’m in a little cabin, and it’s pretty cool here. The ocean’s out there,” Havdale says, gesticulating into the distance. “And I don’t even have to pay rent, which is even better,” he laughs.

Havdale formed The Mohawk Lodge about ten years ago when he decided to pull his proverbial finger out, and write and record some of his own songs. “I was living in a place called The Mohawk Lodge, and I was talking this course on what you want to do with your life, and I stood up and said ‘I’m going to record in the next three months while I’m at this place’,” Havdale says.  Havdale had already played in a few local bands, though his talents weren’t always appreciated. “I’d actually been asked not to sing in one of the bands, so I took a few singing lessons and I started writing these songs, and it turned into Mohawk lodge,” he laughs. 


Initially, Havdale wasn’t entirely serious about The Mohawk Lodge; eventually, he would commit fully to the concept. “Early on it was me just learning how to sing – it was just a fun little side project,” he says. Havdale approached the project in a laid-back fashion, seeing it as an opportunity to hang out with friends and musicians he enjoyed playing with. “The goal has always been to play and tour with friends,” Havdale says. “And I always love the X factor when you’re making a record. I like making the shell, but it’s all the ideas that friends bring in when you’re making the songs.”


In an interview a few years ago, Havdale described The Mohawk Lodge as ‘reformed maths rockers trying to write '80s hits’. It’s a description that sends Havdale into hysterics – and one which he still agrees with. “I was a huge Swervedriver fan, but then I got into Don Caballero, but I literally can’t listen to that anymore – I think I burnt out on that shit!” Havdale says. 


A couple of years ago Havdale moved from his native Canada to Berlin, where he spent a colourful, and occasionally confronting year writing, recording and playing music. “Berlin’s amazing,” Havdale says. “It’s such a fucking crazy place, and it’s a pretty inspiring place. It’s heaven for the first six months, and then you start to realise the dark side. You can go there, and it feels like no-one’s working – they call it the place where young people go to retire. Time seems to work on a totally different plane in Berlin. People lose years of their lives – I’ve seen it!”


Havdale describes his latest record with The Mohawk Lodge, Damaged Goods, as his ‘punk record’. It’s a description that owes more to the attitude with which he approach the record, rather than its sound as such. “I think of punk more as the spirit,” Havdale says. “I’ve done some records when I’ve been really into Fleetwood Mac at the time, and wanted it to be big and glorious. When I think of punk, I think of it as the spirit – leave all the warts. And with the songs, I wanted to get straight to the point – in a note.” It’s that desire to cut to the chase that Havdale says characterises Damaged Goods.  “We recorded the whole record in three days in my living room,” he says. “It happened so quickly, and I think you can hear that. In the same way that I think I killed my last records by overdoing it, here it’s all there, in a note.”



THE MOHAWK LODGE are playing Ding Dong Lounge (for the First Love Records launch party) on Friday July 5, The Wesley Anne and Graceland on Saturday July 6 and The Retreat on Sunday July 7. Damaged Goods is out locally on First Love Recordings.