Success is sweeter — and more sorely won — the second time around for the reassembled band Big Wreck, a headliner at Alberta’s Own Independent Music Festival in Lacombe.
The group that rose to fame with the Top 10 hit The Oaf in 1997 and then disbanded due to internal squabbling in 2002 was born again when the band’s two founders rekindled their musical relationship in 2010.
This time, vocalist Ian Thornley and guitarist Brian Doherty are like a couple determined to make a marriage work — they are putting their friendship first.
“It’s really important that nobody’s harbouring any bad feelings, that there’s no unfinished business, that the communication lines are always open,” said Thornley, who performs with Big Wreck on Friday, Aug. 24, as part of the festival lineup.
“We don’t want to let any stuff creep in there, the personal stuff that hindered us the last time.”
Nothing has stopped the group’s meteoric single, Albatross, from occupying the No. 1 spot on Canadian rock charts for six weeks earlier this year. And following this success, the band’s 2012 same-titled album is now due for a fall release in the U.S.
Big Wreck was initially formed in Boston in 1994 by musicians who had met as students at the Berklee College of Music. The group with the Canadian-born singer had some U.S. radio play, but really took off in Canada, where That Song and Blown Wide Open followed The Oaf as chart-topping hits in the late 1990s.
Considering the band lasted less than a decade before breaking up, its musical impact was wide ranging — both hard rockers Submersed and American Idol winner David Cook cited Big Wreck as an influence.
Thornley believes a lot of old fans are thrilled that the group is back in its new incarnation, judging by recent audience reactions.
The reassembled Big Wreck, based in Toronto, includes guitarists Doherty and Paulo Neta, bassist Dave McMillan and drummer Brad Park, who previously performed in Thornley, a band that carried Ian’s last name.
For a while, Thornley’s namesake group played on double bills with the reformed band, but Thornley said it has since been put on hiatus so the musicians can focus on touring as Big Wreck.
“We didn’t really intend for there to be a (new) Big Wreck album,” he recalled, but the more he and Doherty played together the more their former sound resurfaced — although in a more refined and textural form.
“It feels like there’s more ebb and flow now, and the guitar solos have more shades,” said Thornley, who believes there’s no formula to the group’s blues-tinged rock.
“The main rule is there are no rules. I’d rather be happy musically and be broke than play three chords (attempting a successful pop song format) and be broke,” he added, with a laugh.
The singer, who’s now 40 and married with children, wishes he could savour more of the highs of being in a flourishing rock band the second time around. “But I still suffer from not taking enough time to smell the roses and sit back and enjoy it. I’m always pushing forward, thinking, OK, the first single went to No. 1, what’s the next single going to do? . . .
“I should be enjoying it more, because I’m really lucky to be able to do this as a career. . . . It’s definitely a blessing.”