No three things were more inextricably forged together than the timeless and provocative triad of ‘Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll’.
For all music lovers alike, we can all relate to a certain, inter-mutual understanding- a feeling that occurs- when we’ve taken a chance on a new record, somehow it seductively moves itself on to repeat, then 2 hours later it leaves us feeling like we just had the most unexpected, bitter-sweet, passionate, and mind shattering sex of all time. But better. And then for some reason, really wanted a snack and a cigarette.
Well, needless to say, this is exactly what happened to me after getting my hands on a copy of the six-song debut EP, Mountain, by Alberta-bred, rock/alt/pop band, Royal Tusk. And man, was that musical orgasm ever sweet.
This EP tells a story, builds, and fosters a theme of ambivalence- with an attitude that desperately wants to please you, yet doesn’t give a fuck about you. This record is persuasive, apprehensive, seductive, intimidating, endearing, and in your face, all at the same time. Royal Tusk bleeds with Americana-soul, blue-collar charm, and defiant, renegade integrity.
Although, it’s really no surprise that this force of nature has manifested so seamlessly, having been formed and led by singer/guitarist, Dan Carriere, and bassist, Sandy MacKinnon- two of Edmonton’s most beloved alt-rockers- best known for their Juno nominated, 12 year undertaking with Canadian band, Ten Second Epic. “When we got a chance to start a new project, we did. Cause I was having a lot of fun singing, and wanted to start singing more,” says Carriere. “I mean, before we all met, I think we were inspired to play music together. Which is what kind of brought us to meet. It was really organic”.
And I must admit, upon further inspection, that this is surprisingly, exactly what I would expect from a modern day quintet of heavily bearded prairie men.
It’s just one of those records, where every song is just as good as the last. Before my introduction to the band, I had only heard their punchy, vocally-defiant, love anthem, ‘Shadow of Love’- the band’s debut single- but after hearing the EP in its entirety, it became evident that there was a completely undiscovered dynamic to Royal Tusk, that suddenly left me just not knowing what to do with myself- except keep listening.
This record will tease you. Carriere’s endearing, forgiving inflections, mixed with the group’s punchy, melodious instrumentals will pull you in one minute- and then before you know it, the infectious choruses, and accusing, pandemonic group vocals will push you right away again- but with a complacency that’s oh, so bitter-sweet. It’s a complete journey from one end of the emotional spectrum, to the next. But you’ll have some serious fun on along the ride. My personal favorites being, Engine, and Jesus Saves.
Royal Tusk just returned from their cross-Canada tour with noted Canadian rock band, Big Wreck, and have now set out on a new journey with fellow Edmontonians, hard rock/metal band, The Smalls.
Catch Royal Tusk x The Smalls live at The Commodore Ballroom tomorrow night in Vancouver. Get your tickets, and get your recon on by scooping a copy of their debut EP, Mountain, currently available on iTunes.
I have to admit that I’m school-girl-crush-ingly excited, and cannot wait to see how this mammoth of a record will translate onto a live stage.
In the meantime, tune in below as I got a chance to sit down and catch up with Dan after they landed back in Edmonton fresh off of tour, eagerly awaiting a post-tour-habit pizza delivery, as we talk shop on all things Royal Tusk. Dan talks about the five-piece formation, tour life, prairie life, songwriting, and of course, Mountain. And oh, so much more.
Tell me about your single, Shadow of Love.
It’s funny, it’s like you do something so much, like we just did 20 shows in a row, and played that song so much, I can’t even think of the lyrics now. But when we’re on stage, I can do the whole thing. It’s weird- it turns into like a muscle memory.
But I mean, in a word, the song I would say is kind of about the tag line- ‘when you’re scared of your shadow of love’ -it’s about how you’ve conducted yourself through relationships in your life, it creates a shadow, and it follows you; because those experiences sort of follow you, and they help dictate how you’re going to act the next time around. When you’re scared of your shadow, you know you’re going to fuck something up. But in the same sense, it also has a touch of that vibe like ‘before you accuse me, look at yourself too. No one’s perfect in this thing’.
What is the writing process like? Do you generally write as a group, or write individually?
Well I usually write the bones of the song on my own, chords and lyrics. And bring it to the guys and just get stoked as they hear it and re-imagine what it could be from their own instrument- by the end we get something really cool. It’s exciting because rather than having written every part meticulously, we can watch it kind of create from other people’s standpoints, and makes you more of a fan of it. What I mean is if I wrote everything on my own, there’d be no surprises. If you bring it to the guys, you hear something you may not have expected, and puts you back in the listener position too where you can enjoy the song.
How did you guys all meet and what inspired playing music together?
Well I mean, before we all met, I think we were inspired to play music together. Which is what kind of brought us to meet. I think all of us have wanted to be in a band since we were kids, and all of us have been in many bands prior to this. You know, I’ve played in a band with all these guys in different capacities.
Sandy and I were touring a lot with Ten Second Epic, and when we got a chance to start a new project we did. Cause I was having a lot of fun singing and wanted to start singing more. I was playing in a different band with Josh at the time, and Mike and Josh had always played together, so it was really organic; we hang out with guys that like to play and it’s as easy as a call, ‘you wanna come jam?’ and it started like that maybe in January of last year. We kind of rehearsed and wrote songs for a while, and then last October we went to New York and recorded an album; it was cool enough that Hidden Pony picked it up. Since then we’ve just been trying to get on the road and of course write more.
So you just got off tour with Canadian rock band, Big Wreck, what were some of the most notable experiences and how did it differ from previous tours?
On our last day on tour in Barrie we jumped on stage and played Highway to Hell with the guys of Big Wreck, which was pretty fun; for an end of tour kind of thing. We kind of blew it but it was pretty fun! It wasn’t planned or rehearsed or anything so we just had to figure it out in you know like 4 or 5 seconds. But it wouldn’t have been as cool if we had practiced it or planned on it or anything.
But I mean, they’re a notorious, well-known band; they’re just incredible musicians. Not only was it inspiring to play with these guys who are just, you know, next level, but there were big crowds and really energetic music fans there, so it was just a great match for us, the crowds were really receptive. And playing in front of big crowds like that every night is definitely a plus. We usually play at just small bars and what not, but this was around 1000-2000 people a night.
How does that change the tone of the show for you guys?
Well I think if we didn’t enjoy playing like, in the garage, then there would be no point to get to that level. You know we always try to bring the energy no matter what size the venue is. When you look out and there’s tons of people, you get just that much more hyped, but really I think even if we’re playing in a small bar, we’re just going to have the same amount of fun because that’s what we like to do.
Tell me about tour life; what’s an average day like for Royal Tusk on the road?
Often you wake up really early cause you have to drive somewhere, but you’re usually still drunk and feeling kind of fucked up. You just quickly kind of just get into the Van, drive for a couple of hours, stop to get breakfast. Everyone’s got to be quick, you know there’s 5-6 of you, so you’ve got to get all your shit done really quick.
After breakfast, get back in, but make sure to buy some like Gatorade or like Vitamin Waters with bigger spouts because we pee in the bottles in the van usually so we don’t have to stop. And you know, when you stop for gas, throw the pee bottles out.
If you’re not driving, you’re usually sleeping cause there’s just something about touring that’s really exhausting. And then you know, get to the show, load all the crap in, soundcheck. You’re usually rushed, so it’s hard to find a good meal, so you usually just like order pizza to the venue or something. Just like we’re doing now haha.
And then yah, just get ready to play, get out there and play, and go hang out with people, drink a bunch of beers, and hopefully if you’re organized you go to where you’ve already planned to sleep; sometimes if you forget to plan where you’re going to sleep it’s a pain in the ass at one in the morning when you load out and there’s no where to go. You don’t know if you should get a hotel or what.
So you typically get out in the crowd post show, and meet the fans?
Oh yeah, that’s always the funnest part. I love to hear like ‘oh man, that one song’s great but that other song I fuckin hated’. It’s cool, you know you kind of get feedback and meet people. You know, that’s part of it. I think that’s why people write music, whether they know it or not, is to connect with people. I mean if you’re not going to meet the people that have come to listen to you, I don’t know what the hell you’re doing.
What are some of your favorite venues from the tour?
Got to be the Commodore, and Corona theatre in Montreal is very nice- that might have been my favorite.
So you’ve just wrapped it up, and made it back home to Edmonton. What’s your favorite part about living in the prairies?
It’s kind of cheesy but when you grow up in the prairies you kind of just love them; at least for the nature of it all. The big skies, and there’s something about living in a blue-collar town that feels good; kind of down to earth in some ways.
It’s good for different things, a lot of people come out here and get stuck in the money game, working in the oil industry- there’s a lot of money to be made here- but it’s not all we’re known for; there’s actually quite an art scene- in the prairies you have nothing to do except jam and make music, write, and create.
How would you say that the band’s music has evolved since you started playing together?
I feel like as a group we’ve kind of more found out about who we are and what we sound like. it’s hard to explain, but I guess we’ve found more of an identity just by jamming a lot
Who are your influences?
Everything. I just love music. We listen to pretty much anything, from gangster rap to like black metal. We literally listen to everything. And the influences, they kind of come out in your music through osmosis you know, you just kind of like soak stuff in that you listen to.
What’s your favorite song on the album?
Ah, it’s always changing. It depends on the night. Sometimes we got out there and just shit the bed on one song, and do another one really well. When you write a song, you get the joy of getting to create it and write those words, but I think sometimes when you’re playing it a lot it turns into like, you have fun in the performance side of the song. So it really depends on how well the band does that night. Some of our most fun songs to play live aren’t even on the record.
Well it’s apparent you’ve had a pretty successful and intensive year since the release of the EP; what have been some of the most notable experiences so far?
You know for me, it’s always just getting on the road and performing. I mean that’s why this is all done, so we can get out there and play music. And I mean as far as notable, I mean getting recognized by different musicians that we’ve played with is pretty cool, you know our peers, to enjoy it, it’s definitely a nice thing
So the band is starting up on another tour ASAP here with fellow Edmontonians- hard rock/metal band, The Smalls– what do you expect from the tour?
It’s going to be nice and gritty. They’re such a cool band. And we’re honored to share a stage with them as well, so we’re just ready to get in there and play hard, and leave it on the stage .
Do you have any planned tours aside from the Smalls, or are you just going to spend some time writing and recording?
Yeah, we have a couple of weeks free after The Smalls, and then we go out to Ontario for a little bit at the beginning of December. And then who knows from there, it’s always touch and go.
What can all your fans expect to see and hear from you going forward in the New Year?
Well they’re just not gunna get any bullshit. We’re gunna release a full length. And I can promise you it’s just gunna be honest tunes. We’re not catering to anyone, we’re just into making really good music and we challenge ourselves. If it’s not quite good enough, it won’t make the cut.
Before I let you go, what was one of the craziest, most memorable experiences from the Big Wreck tour?
Well, um… [laughs] it’s hard to know which one was the craziest but, um, I’d suggest for anyone reading this… just come hang with us to find out. I can’t really put that into print.
Well said, Dan, well said.
Well folks, I invite you to put those words to the test yourself, and cop your tickets for the Royal Tusk x Smalls show ASAP, for tomorrow night here in Vancouver, at The Commodore.
See you there!
WORDS: Samantha Rozon