It’s no secret that I have recently discovered and fallen in love with the Montreal based band Dust Bowl Era. Their debut album The Problem with Steel was an instant hit for me, being a diehard fan of anything that is rock and roll. So, when Richard from Brothers and Sisters Records contacted me about an interview with the band, I was through the roof.
When I arrived to Bar Waverly, I was extremely nervous and shaking like a mad man. Within seconds, however, I saw that there was no need to be. I sat down with drummer Byron and with frontman Brandon and immediately saw how laidback and kind they were. I was so grateful that not only did this band have fantastic music, but was also graced with humble and down to earth band members. It took a couple of moments for us to begin the interview because we were too busy talking about our favourite television shows. Once all the excitement and talk of the fictional world went away, I began our interview.
IX: How long have you guys been playing music, individually?
Brandon: Teenager I guess, I started playing guitar when I was seventeen. I started playing in bands a couple of years later.
Byron: I started playing guitar when I was fifteen, played in a few bands and eventually moved to drums when I was seventeen.
IX: Were you both raised in a creative household?
Byron: Not at all.
IX: So, what gave you the musical drive?
Byron: I just always loved music, before much music I used to watch video hits, it’s an old show. I used to buy cassettes with my allowance money; I just loved music all my life. As a child I would tape over my dad’s cassettes and sing.
IX: When you were teenagers, who were your biggest musical influences?
Brandon: I would definitely say Nirvana. When I was 13, I remember I was working on my math homework and my parents had gone in and talked to my teacher and hearing that I wasn’t doing so well and I remember I was trying to concentrate and I was listening to Insecticide and I was like, yeah I want to do that. So that was when I got my first guitar and I didn’t play for a few years but Nirvana was definitely a first. And the Beatles, they really made an impression.
Byron: The first thing I remember is Billy Idol, and then I went to ACDC and I was obsessed with Neil Young, then Queen. I just went all over the place. I always had a thing for experimental and psychedelic, anything kind of trippy, but even now I can go anywhere. I can go anywhere from classical to electronic but as long as it has an experimental vibe. I don’t really like one type of music, as I get older I find it expands.
IX: Are there any modern bands you enjoy listening to?
Brandon: Not many, but this year Byron turned me on to the Dirty Pretty and I really like them, it had a big impact on me and made me think about our band. Panda Bear which is completely different than anything that we do; pretty much anything that has awesome melodies.
Byron: I guess right now, I get stages like before. But right now, Holy Other, Panda Bear which was a big influence on me.
IX: What’s the song writing process within the band?
Brandon: Well I guess I bring a song to the band. Sometimes it’s something that’s been sticking around for a long time. I’ll revisit it or rework it, give it another shot or else just come out of nowhere I guess. But then we’ll arrange it together, because both guys are song writers [Tom Jarvis and Byron]. They know the process so we do it together, and even when we did the album with our old drummer it happened very quick because they were both songwriters and I trusted them as I trust Byron.
IX: Did you both know that this is what you wanted? To play in a band?
Brandon: Yeah, well I retired a couple of years ago. When I was in Vancouver before I came to Montreal, it’s a really kind of dead scene there. Not many places to play and a lot of people are leaving so I just got fed up and I was tired of not getting the stuff to the stage so I just starting writing prose and poems to satisfy and I didn’t think I would go back to it until I came to Montreal.
Byron: It’s funny you say you retired, because I kind of did the same thing. I moved into my apartment and I couldn’t play drums because it was too loud. So I didn’t play drums for ten years but I was still doing music. I almost didn’t want to play in a band anymore because it’s really hard to gel personalities together but playing with Brandon worked out, we’ve become really close friends. That’s really hard especially as you get older to have matching personalities. In this art form you need it, when you’re a painter or a writer you can pretty much do it alone but a band you have three or four different heads. But we all get along well and he’s an amazing song writer.
IX: Well, it’s the most important thing. All the bands that have lasted so long, like Metallica for example, have lasted this long because of the friendship and brotherhood.
Byron: Yeah, it’s an excuse to hang out and play.
IX: When you play live what’s your favorite song to play?
Byron: I like The Swamp. I also like the new song, which isn’t out on the album yet.
Brandon: I really like Bikini Atoll. It’s quite a feeling of starting on my own and it’s very quiet before gradually getting that swell of sound. It sounds like an army in back of me but it’s just the three of us, I always really enjoy it.
IX: Do you have any pre show rituals?
Byron: Five hundred jumping jacks.
Byron: No, no.
Brandon: No, he’s kidding, four hundred.
IX: I was going to say… that’s intense!
Brandon: We usually just play a couple songs at the studio before we go to the gig just to warm up, which was Tom’s idea.
Byron: We don’t rehearse much, we do it to keep it loose, sometimes you rehearse too much and you lose the magic.
IX: When you’re on stage, is there anything you like to see happening in the audience?
Byron: I enjoy when people are moving a bit or reacting.
Brandon: Yeah, in front row when you see someone tapping their foot or something I know everything is alright. That person is in time so we must be.
IX: What are your long term plans?
Brandon: Just keep playing music really, however it ends up we don’t know, but that’s the main goal. If we do it on our own then great, maybe there will be times when there won’t be much time to focus on it but whatever the case I still want to keep making music.
Byron: The great thing about this band is that it’s not a fad; rock and roll never goes out. It’s not like dub step where in fifty years it won’t be cool anymore.
IX: Well, finally, this question is just for fun… what’s your favorite book?
Byron: 1984, I reread that book so many times.
Brandon: I like Notes from Underground or The Trial.
The interview ended, but our conversation of books lasted. The boys were incredibly easy to talk to: I was smiling the whole way through. They thanked me as much as I thanked them, but it will not be the last time I see them. On the 23rd of October, Dust Bowl Era will be playing at L’Escrogriffe, and that is definitely where I will be.