There’s nothing like a bit of quality assistance from seasoned professionals when you’re a young band, practising in a non-descriptive garage located in an obscure, industrial area of Kingston Ontario, harbouring aspirations of being the next big thing in Canadian music.
Five youngsters from the Limestone City; vocalist Brett Emmons, his guitarist brother Jay Emmons, guitarist Andrew Young, bassist Chris Huot and drummer Adam Paquette, collectively known as The Glorious Sons, received that direction when, after winning a local Whiskey Rock contest, found their first place prize was a gig opening for top Maritime group, The Trews.
“So we played our set and we must have impressed them because their guitarist John Angus MacDonald invited us to drop by their dressing room after their set,” noted Glorious Sons’ vocalist Brett Emmons over the phone en route from Chicago to Minneapolis where the band was heading for a gig that night. “So we catch their set, then one of their roadies directed us to the Trews’ dressing room where we had a couple of beers with them and John Angus MacDonald said ‘Hey, I want to produce a record with you guys”.
“We were all excited, we had never been in a proper recording studio before, we knew nothing about the process but John Angus worked with us and gave us valuable direction,” allowed Emmons. “We had about 17 songs and he went through them with us, giving us his comments, and what was good about the process was, as he was listening to the songs, two things would happen. Either we fought with him to prove our point or he fought with us to prove his point, but it was all positive.”
Out of those sessions emerged a six-track EP, `Shapeless Art’ which featured two tracks; “Mama” and “White Noise” which received substantial airplay on St Catherine’s Ontario radio station Htz-FM when it was released in 2013.
“Once they started spinning the tracks, other stations soon caught on and before we knew it, Glorious Sons was building quite a reputation,” enthused Emmons. “We could have gone straight back into the studio to finish a complete album but we wanted to gain experience touring, we really hadn’t done that before and we wanted the EP to gain exposure.”
Oshawa’s Rock 94-9 FM’s music director Doug Elliott, a major supporter of the band, feels it was the Glorious Son’s live performances which generated initial interest. “I first saw them live at the Drake, then at the Rivoli and then when they performed a showcase at the Hard Rock, I was blown away by their live performance. Right away I knew they would be awesome and no station has played them more than we do.”
It didn’t hurt that the band’s awareness on HTZ-FM led to the Sons’ winning the station’s Rock Search contest which set the stage for them to return to the studio, again with MacDonald offering his services, and the band laid down 11 tracks including remixes of `Mama’ and `White Noise’ from their previous EP. , `Union’ was released in September 2014, sparked strong airplay on a Gavin Brown-produced track “Heavy” with the album subsequently being nominated for a 2015 Juno Award for Top Rock Album, an event which forced them to take a break from U.S touring activities to attend the Hamilton Ontario festivities.
Emmons gives credit to the city of Kingston for the rise of their blue-collar rock sound which is reflective of two other bands which developed in that city, The Tragically Hip and The Headstones. “It’s all about the people,” enthused Emmons. “Kingston is a big city but it’s small enough that everyone knows each other. You can’t act like a pretentious rock star when there’s always someone you know who remembers when you were five years old and crying. When I go down to one of the city’s bars, I’ll bump into the Hip’s Robbie Baker and he’s just a cool guy.”
A club tour with Australia’s Airbourne helped perpetuate the band’s image as one of Canada’s up and coming rock bands, they’ve had some experience on the national festival circuit, and after completing a U.S club tour through March, the band will be featured on a couple of key festival dates including the Big Music Fest July 11 in Kitchener Ontario opening for Soundgarden and Jane’s Addiction and the Ottawa Blues Festival July 12th where they will share the stage with The Arkells and Blue Rodeo.
Emmons is confident that the band’s live performance, backed by encouraging radio support has helped boost the band’s public image but even he agrees that it can be tough operating as a group in the current social network age. “It’s good and it’s bad,” he allows. “With social media you can have someone shoot a $100 video that goes viral (Calgary’s Kiesza) and you can have 40 fuckin million people viewing it, that’s the good thing. But when you’re blowing your head off selling DVD’s at your concerts every night, it can get challenging.”
“ We may not have many major record companies any more but we now have to worship the gods of Twitter and Face book,” he continued .”These days, people can post your performance on You Tube before you’ve even gotten off the stage. It doesn’t matter if that night, your voice was blown or you were feeling sick, it’s all out there. I do believe some of our artistic control is being lost.”
But still, Emmons and his band wouldn’t have it any other way. Being a rock star is all he ever wanted to be since dropping out of school. “This is a lifestyle that was made for me,” he announced. “I’m with a bunch of guys were are extremely creative, as soon as we finished the last record, I was ready to record another one. It’s just the greatest thing to know that there are people listening to what I have to say and responding positively. You can’t ask for much more than that.”
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