Great American Canyon Band

Paul and Kris Masson have always known one another.

In their early lives, when they felt unfamiliar to themselves, it was the idea of the other that led them forward. And on the night they finally encountered each other, it only took one look. There were no reasons needed, they just obliged what had already been in motion. In the first years of their relationship they traveled the country in an old ‘82 Mercedes they affectionately named Dolly. Drifting aimlessly but steadfast, they were searching for a place that felt as unifying as the home they felt in one another. They traveled the full expanse of the American landscape. They spent a slow Southern summer in a motel on the rural outskirts of Athens, Georgia. They found refuge on the West Coast, in a small bungalow hidden deep in the hills of West Hollywood. When they would feel the restlessness of LA creeping in, they would drive out to the desert and lose themselves. Their wandering often lead them to the Salton Sea, its stillness a memory that had always existed within them. It was next to its boundlessness that Kris first whispered the melody for the song “Tumbleweed:” From this land you and I will flee, shed what ails us and rest by the sea. It was a quiet reflection, an unintentional act of expression that would eventually define Great American Canyon Band’s early works; two souls interweaved and coming to terms with the vastness of the world surrounding them. There was no intention to the process unfolding, but Great American Canyon Band was becoming the answer to their limitations and the expression of their deepest yearnings.

These early songs wouldn’t take shape until the winter of 2011 when Paul and Kris settled into a weather-beaten home on the outskirts of Chicago. It was only a shell, butthey planned to live in it’s skeletal form and bring it back to life. To them, it was as much a journey as their previous years of transience. It was in this space, amidst the stillness and dust that they traced the contours of their recent journey and Great American Canyon Band was incarnated. In relative isolation, they were able to explore and realize without limitation the music that had been writing itself inside them. With not much more than a few old guitars and an aging laptop, they began creating with sonic clarity the fullness and richness of their experiences. The music was dynamic and affecting. It payed homage to the transformative production qualities of Phil Spector and Brian Eno, but remained unique in it’s voice. And by the start of Spring 2012, they had completed their first EP.

It’s reverb rich pleading harmonies, emotive shoegaze guitars, and tapestries of ambience sounded entirely new, yet seemingly timeless. Critical response to the EP was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. NPR praised the band’s “harmony-rich sound,” attesting to it’s impact as “alternately mellow, sad, wistful, romantic and sweeping.” While WXPN’s The Key
hailed the EP as “a gorgeous collection of hypnotic songs that draws on [a] heady mix of dream pop and psychedelia.” The language spoke to Great American Canyon Band’s intent – to create music that is undoubtedly reaching towards whatever lies ahead. As momentum was building behind the release of the EP, Kris and Paul were called back to their hometown of Baltimore. The band was put on pause as they came to terms with the personal loss of loved ones succumbing to illness and the inevitable toll of saying goodbye. It was during this time that the songs for the band’s debut LP, Only You Remain, began to take shape. Kris says of the time “We were watching the most influential people in our lives become human in the most brutal ways. In the end though we had to embrace the circumstances.”

The result was their debut LP ‘Only You Remain’ released on Six Degrees Records on April 8th 2016. The title track, “Only You Remain,” brims with declaration; it’s instrumentation thunderous as Paul and Kris decree that time, in all it’s selfishness “will never break us apart!” It is a concise first statement by a band now fully formed and devoted to their craft. The sonic landscapes are wider, their musical voice stronger and the LP’s breath clearer over the ten tracks. They’ve become one voice, able to incite as much strength and celebration with their whispers as their most impassioned throes. They needed one another to fully express what was inside of them. They are artists out of necessity. It’s their way of tracking time and tracing experiences. Paul explains, “We’ve always worked with what we had, and where we were, to create the sounds in our hearts: songs that could fill a nights sky but still hold you close.” It is with that embrace that they continue to come to terms with what it means to love fully, and grapple with the dichotomy of how life can be both graceless and so beautiful. Only You Remain, like their previous works, is theirs through and through; written, recorded and produced at home by Paul & Kris in a small space built off the back of their house. The album organically garnered millions of streams and Spotify editorial placements, as well as critical acclaim. Throughout 2016 and 2017, the band supported the record, touring the country and performing at festivals such as Noisepop and SXSW, while receiving airplay on notable radio stations, such as WXPN, KCRW and WNYC.

For Paul and Kris, Only You Remain was the beginning of what lay in wait for their songwriting. After two years of supporting the record, they moved to Nashville and went deep into their writing process. What emerged was a body of work that was adventurous and dynamic. The band booked recording sessions at The Smoakstack Studio and began to hear the new songs taking shape. Each time the record button was pressed, what played back through the speakers was nothing short of a sea change moment. What had been an indie band with aspirations was becoming a rock band realized. Over the course of 2019, the record continued to take shape with Matt Boyer moving to Nashville to be a full-time member of the band. Then in March of 2020, the world shut down. In relative isolation, and knowing the record needed to be fully experienced live, they used this time to continue to explore and realize, without limitation, the record still writing itself inside them.

In the summer of 2022, the band entered Sputnik Sound Studio and began mixing the first single from their forthcoming Sophomore record with Grammy award winning Producer/Mix Engineer Vance Powell. The moment you hear Matt’s soaring guitar and the thunderous drum entrance on the single “Fade Away” you are taken a-flight by what the band has created and is now uniquely capable of. The shared lead vocal workings of Paul (Rhythm Guitar) & Kris (Bass Guitar) in their close harmony style singing alongside this immersive soft/loud composition carves new artistic possibilities in the rock, alternative and pop genres. Matt Boyer’s lead guitar playing, now a featured part of the band’s sound, is a spectacle in tone, dexterity and dynamism, securing his spot amongst guitar greats.

Their new music was recorded inside of an unprecedented moment and yet creates an intense sense of time and place that feels declarative and triumphant. The songwriting of Paul and Kris Masson strikes an elegant and impactful balance of tenderness and urgency. The themes and ideas are immersive, even voyeuristic. Such earnestness could be an artistic risk during a complex cultural moment, but the band was never after something perfect, only to be intrinsically fallible. They never wanted to lose the importance of what they are as a band whose songs sit naturally beside their idols but are uniquely their own.