Blues-rock band HighKicks perform at Fratters Speakeasy on Wednesday.

Heavy, loud, party rock

The fuzzed-out blues-rock band HighKicks is finding some depth in letting the good times roll. The Calgary duo of Matt Doherty on drums and Danny Vacon on bass has put out a self-titled debut album of thumpingly catchy songs designed as sing-alongs.

The fuzzed-out blues-rock band HighKicks is finding some depth in letting the good times roll.

The Calgary duo of Matt Doherty on drums and Danny Vacon on bass has put out a self-titled debut album of thumpingly catchy songs designed as sing-alongs.

The tune Your Juice has a simple chorus. “It’s basically ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa’ — real easy to sing along with,” said a chuckling Vacon, who performs with HighKicks on Wednesday at Fratters Speakeasy in Red Deer.

Although he describes his band as a “heavy, loud, party rock kind of thing,” Vacon doesn’t mean the two-man group isn’t serious about its music.

“We don’t get political or anything with our messages, but I still think of us as a deep band because we’ve figured out the secret to life.”

The answer, according to the musicians, is finding fulfilment in doing what you love. “Even though we’re poor as heck, we’re happy,” said Vacon.

HighKicks has been around since 2012, as a sort of spinoff from the four-man Calgary band The Dudes.

Vacon was already playing bass with The Dudes when he struck a kindred connection with Doherty, a drummer who was moonlighting as a bartender at a watering hole that Vacon frequented. (Doherty was raised in Abu Dhabi after his father got an oilfield job there. Before that, his dad was musician in the 1980s band The Generators, featuring Doug Bennett, who later formed Doug and the Slugs.)

Jazz-trained Doherty “was the wildest drummer I’d ever seen,” said Vacon. “I told him, ‘We’ve got to work together somehow.’ ”

They started the duo HighKicks before Doherty was invited to join The Dudes after the group’s previous drummer quit.

The difference between playing with a four-piece and being part of a duo is more freedom in the decision-making process, said Vacon. “Me and Matt, we’re totally on the same page” when if comes to deciding which musical roads to go down. “We’ve got a double mind.”

The bassist, who’s now in his early 30s, worked as a broadcaster until he figured he’d rather be making music than talking about it. Vacon recalls his family being entirely supportive of the change.

“I grew up in unconventional circumstances because my mother was 14 when I was born. But she was always crazy supportive. I remember she threw me into the Calgary boys choir when I was 10 because it was cheaper than paying a babysitter. I’d be put into every sport there was. …”

When Vacon grew up and met his father, a French fisherman living near Halifax, he discovered where his musical DNA sprang from. “I found out my grandfather used to tour in a country band called — get this — The Good Time Boys!

“It’s what The Dudes would have been called if they were around back then!”

Unsurprisingly, the first track off the new HighKicks album is called Good Life — even though it’s a song about a guy getting dumped by his girlfriend. Vacon said the tune is really about learning to roll with it.

“Something positive comes out of everything awful” — you just have to wait for time to pass and perspective to set in.

Positive things keep happening for HighKicks, which is gaining radio play in Calgary and campus stations across the nation. The band’s latest fans are from France and Germany, thanks to the group lending some tracks to a high-camp, low-budget werewolf movie made in Saskatoon, called WolfCop that’s becoming a cult classic.

“Were getting a mess of European sales,” said Vacon, who looks forward to touring there someday.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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