This gang of seasoned Toronto, ON musicians got together in 2006 for a fun Sunday residency at honky tonk the Dakota Tavern. Word of their crowd-pleasing roots rock spread and, slowly but surely, the Beauties became a serious band. A seriously good one at that, as proven by this, their full-length debut. The band, in tandem with producer Marty Kinack (Broken Social Scene, Sarah Harmer), took their time and crafted a genuine record, as opposed to just cranking out a recorded version of their high-octane live show. The results will likely surprise Dakota denizens while introducing a wider audience to their charms. Four different members contribute lyrics (the bulk from Darin McConnell), which helps account for the initially disorienting, diverse sound. The riffing on the great "Devil Do" (by Holly Golightly, and the only cover) suggests Queens of the Stone Age; "You Wish Better For Me" has a plodding, Pink Floyd-style tempo; and "Heaviest of the World" suggests stoner rock. With further spins, things gradually hang together. With three guitarists and five vocalists, the Beauties' signature is a full guitar and vocal sound, and it's captured nicely here. It's the strength of the songwriting on tunes like "Without You," "Heart Of Stone" and "You and Me" that will lift the Beauties beyond their bar band roots. Watching their progress from here will be fascinating.
Was there a mandate making this record?
Guitarist/vocalist Shawn Creamer: I think we were naïve in the way we thought we knew what we wanted. I know people expected a roots rock record from us, but I don't think that's necessarily what we delivered. There are elements of that there, but I found we became more of a band in the studio than we did on the Dakota stage. There was a lot of growth going on in the studio as we were arranging the songs and working out the new tunes.
Drummer Derek Downham: We didn't want it to be too throwback. There's nothing wrong with being a little bit contemporary. We definitely changed the soundscape here. Marty [Kinack] was great for that, and Kevin Drew as well, acting as our sonic life coach.
You've backed the likes of Serena Ryder, Justin Rutledge, Kathleen Edwards and Ron Sexsmith. Any temptation to make this a Beauties and friends album?
Shawn: We talked about that a lot, knowing that it would add, not credibility, but visibility to our record. They were all more than happy to be on it, but we thought to the rest of the country it might look like, "look who we know." Everybody already hates bands from Toronto. We needed to come out as the five guys in the gang.
Derek: We wanted to stress our collective. We love playing with all those people, and we still have projects going with all of them. (Six Shooter)