Hillsburn formed almost by accident in the spring of 2014. Following a health scare that winter, Paul Aarntzen had spent a solid month writing songs. He showed some of them to Clayton Burrill, who brought his sister Rosanna to Aarntzen’s house in Hillsburn, Nova Scotia to hear them. Jackson Fairfax-Perry came along for the trip. The four hit it off and, after a couple informal sessions, Aarntzen sold his house and moved to Halifax to work on the band full time.
The new quartet recorded and released a self-titled EP that October, which garnered national attention after one of its tracks finished in the top ten in CBC’s Searchlight competition.
In The Battle Years, their first full-length effort, followed in March 2016. But by the time the group started touring in support of the album that spring, their sound had already changed. What had started as a string band now decidedly was not. Synths and electric guitar had replaced banjo and mandolin, and the addition of Clare Macdonald on drums had helped push things more in the direction of pop and rock. Hillsburn had, in other words, come into its own, and its members were eager to make a record that reflected that.