Published Oct 16, 2013This year, Canadian music industry lifers Hawksley Workman, Steve Bays (Hot Hot Heat, Fur Trade) and Ryan Dahle (Limblifter, Age of Electric) teamed up to form the super-trio Mounties. So far, the band have signed with Light Organ Records and released a couple of singles, but this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as their material is concerned.
Sitting down with Exclaim! on the patio outside Vancouver's Greenhouse Studios, the three musicians explain that the initial idea for the band dates back several years, to the 2009 Juno Awards.
"We [Workman and Bays] were talking about how we were digging on each other's stuff, and that I'm a huge fan of this guy [Dahle]," remembers Workman. "So then all of a sudden, the three of us were all in a room, having wines, declaring that one day we'd be a band. Then a few years later — well, I always think that you've got to put it in the schedule. If you put it in the schedule, it might get done, and then it got done."
They finally got together about a year ago, and since then, the trio have amassed a wealth of songs, with Bays estimating that they have come up with around "43 hooks." These were born during lengthy free-form jam sessions, during which Dahle handled guitar, Bays played keyboards and Workman was behind the drum kit.
Dahle reveals, "Within a day, we'll have probably about seven 40-minute jams. And within those 40-minute jams, sometimes we have probably five songs — or one song that's lots of parts."
These jams were then chopped up and edited in the control room, with the trio splitting up vocal duties and turning their improvisations into concise pop-rock songs. And while the material is based in jamming, Workman stresses that Mounties aren't a "jam band" in the Phish or Grateful Dead sense of the term.
"When there's a hook that starts to materialize, everybody's mind goes into emphasizing that hook," he reflects. "So when we're listening back to an hour's worth of playing, it's not about guitar solos and drum solos and extravagance. It's really about mining those moments that are hooky enough to become a song. "
The band are in the process of whittling down their many songs to around 10 tracks, which will make up their debut album. Entitled Thrash Rock Legacy, they hope to have it out before the end of the year.
Bays says of the title, "Ryan has a photo of a boat, this dilapidated, super shitty motorboat. You can faintly read that at one point it said Thrasher Rock on the back, back when being into metal was so cool, maybe."
Mounties have received an overwhelmingly positive response to their early singles, and following a stellar set at Victoria's Rifflandia festival, they are now eager to play shows. They will be joined during live dates by Bays' Fur Trade/Hot Hot Heat collaborator Parker Bossley on bass.
"I set out on this musical journey to be the drummer in a band, and I became the singer by accident," Workman says. "All of a sudden, I'm doing exactly what it was I always wanted to do. For me, the idea of playing drums in front of audiences and being the guy responsible for delivering a sweat punishment to an audience — I'm so over-geeked about it."
Inevitably, promoting Mounties will mean frequently being labelled a "supergroup," but the collaborators insist that they don't feel any pressure or baggage associated with the label. "It's pretty 'super' what we do," observes Workman, prompting a burst of laughter from his bandmates.
"No, honestly!" he continues. "That's coming from a place with, relatively speaking, all humility and tact — I'm humbled by being in a band with these guys. They're super-ness is not lost on me at all. Their super-ness is what I want to work up to."
Meanwhile, the three-piece all have various projects on the go. Bays has finished a new album with Hot Hot Heat, which he co-produced along with Dahle (who is also playing in the band's live lineup). Dahle has a new Limblifter record complete, and he has taken on a number of production and mastering gigs. And Workman has also been doing production, having helmed the new record by blues singer Megan Lane, and he will be bringing his one-man play The God That Comes on tour in the coming months.
The trio agree that playing in Mounties has rejuvenated their enthusiasm for their long-running music careers. Workman offers, "I'd recommend to any 30-something-year-old Canadian indie rock guy to just keep phoning weirdos up and seeing if you've got some collaboration you can do, because it's been 100-percent inspiring to not do your day job."
Read a full interview with the band here.