Keep on truckin’
Its name alone would bring Hamilton hard-rock group Monster Truck to the attention of some (mostly young, male and pickup-driving) Central Albertans.
So it’s a good thing, for the band’s longevity anyway, that its music lives up to — or even surpasses — expectations.
Monster Truck wasn’t just spinning its wheels when it released the critically acclaimed album Furiosity last year, before going on tour with the group Alice in Chains and after winning a 2013 Juno Award for Break Through Group of the Year.
The award was nice, but doesn’t mean much in the scheme of things, said guitarist Jeremy Widerman. “It’s a very superficial award that’s governed by the music industry, and people pulling strings who have their own motives and agendas.”
Monster Truck is really all about the music and the fans, he added.
For that reason, Widerman is looking forward to performing with his group at the Alberta’s Own Independent Music Festival, which runs from Aug. 29 to 31 at the Tail Creek Raceways in Nevis.
Everything about the outdoor event “sounds like it’s right up our alley,” he said, adding that it should be a fantastic time, providing the weather co-operates.
“It’s always up to Mother Nature. ... When you’re messing with the gods, it’s fingers crossed and you hope it’s a good one.”
Monster Truck is cruising through a smooth year so far, having just returned from Europe where hard rock is especially popular in countries such as Germany. “You hear about how the rock scene is on a downward turn here, but not over there,” said Widerman, who sold tons of Monster Truck CDs and played to enthusiastic crowds.
The 33-year-old admitted it’s hard to know why the pendulum has swung away from rock and towards commercial pop in North America. “I’ve given up trying to reason with it ... it’s hard to be on the other side of the pendulum, but you’ve just got to concentrate on what you’re trying to do.”
Since forming in 2009, the band that includes lead singer and bassist Jon Harvey, keyboardist Brandon Bliss and drummer Steve Kiely, has mostly been following one road map: “People liked our first two EPs (the tunes Seven Seas Blues and Righteous Smoke became Top 10 radio singles), so we stuck to the game plan and decided we’re not going to go all over the place” on Furiosity, said Widerman.
At the same time, band members welcomed the chance to show a bit of diversity on their first full-length album. The guitarist, who’s influenced by classic rock groups such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, added “We could add a few more flavours.”
These are apparent on the record’s quieter tunes. The band revealed on its website that more than a year was spent playing For The Sun live to perfect it before recording. And even so, Widerman spent two days in the studio just recording the intro and solos, leaving other band members wondering if he would ever be satisfied.
In contrast, My Love Is True was a last-minute down-tempo addition to the album, but it shows a more soulful side of Monster Truck.
Not every hard-rock band aims to have a ballad per album anymore, such as KISS’s Beth, Alice Cooper’s You and Me, or Ozzy Osbourne’s Mama, I’m Coming Home. But Widerman, who shares much of the songwriting duties with Harvey, believes it helps to stretch in a different direction every now and again.
“Canada has been very supportive of us. We’ve been getting radio play nationwide,” said the guitarist. This means Monster Truck can now show up in places where the band has never played before and still have fans in the audience.
“It makes it easier to tour the country and play.”
For lineup of bands and ticket information about Alberta’s Own Independent Music Festival, visit www.albertasown.ca.