Published Jan 01, 2006Just over a year ago, Sam Roberts was your typical Montreal musician bum. His band, Northstar, had broken up, he was trying to get a demo together, and maybe book another bar show. But that demo was The Inhuman Condition EP, his ticket to mainstream recognition and a deal with Universal, who release Roberts' debut LP, We Were Born In a Flame, this month.
These days, Roberts is immersed in rock'n'roll business, but he's still a Montreal musician bum at heart, and Canadian to the core he can't get through an interview without mentioning hockey. "What are the things that link every Canadian?" he wonders. "There aren't many, and Don Cherry is in the top three, you know? It's a scary world we live in."
"Frozen lands, frozen minds, frozen hands, frozen times" is a line from Roberts' song "The Canadian Dream." It's far from a sober definition of Canadian life or a pumped up Molson ad, but the loose string of statements and imagery tends to take on a life of its own, particularly the line, "S-O-C-I-A-L-I-S-M is the only way," which is all ouai! in Quebec, but...
"When you're playing Alberta, you really feel the weight of it," he says, emphasising that it wasn't intended as a radically political statement. "And once, this American woman just lost her shit on us. She took it as an anti-American song, a criticism of" he laughs "the freedom-loving people of the world."
And while Roberts rejects the idea of a distinctive Canadian sound, he's first to cheer on the home team, naming Broken Social Scene, K-OS, Godspeed and the Dears as examples of Canuck quality and diversity. "Canada is on the cutting edge rather than trying to play catch up," he beams. "Things are looking up."