Article by: Colton Eddy
Sticky Magazine has the chance to chat with Dinosaur Bones' Ben Fox and Lucas Fredette.
Nearly two years ago, a sound crept through Toronto’s music community, a dark distortion with muffled croons, think The National after being trapped inside garage with a few drinks, multiple spins of The Strokes' albums. And now they’re moving forward with their sophomore record, Shaky Dreams via Dine Alone Records. It’s a forward step, marching down a complex path that they have paved themselves.
Following their ferocious, mammoth set at this year’s EdgeFest, singer-guitarist Ben Fox and drummer Lucas Fredette took a breather with us. They reflected on the new record, the pressures of shifting roles in live performance and that lingering influence of Steely Dan.
Sticky Magazine: This isn’t your first time here; you’ve done EdgeFest before.
Ben Fox: We have. We’ve played once on the side stage and then once on the main stage two years ago. And that was a really fun show for us because we had just toured with like half of the main. It was us, then after us were The Reason, Arkells and then Tokyo Police Club. These were the bands that we had just gotten off a tour with. Hollerado was there, so it was not only chalked full of friends, but guys we had been in close quarters with.
Sticky: EdgeFest feels to be that kind of thing. A communal group of select bands.
Ben: I think Toronto has a bit of that vibe.
Lucas Fredette: Yeah, Toronto – despite what people might think, you know, that Toronto is just a fucking sprawling of whatever. Or that there is no scene. There definitely is.
Ben: I wouldn’t even necessarily say “Edge” bands, but there is definitely a community in Toronto of like-minded people and like-minded bands that kind of hang out with each other whenever they can. We have definitely fallen into a great crew of bands that we love and respect as musicians and that are also great people.
Sticky: Is there something you take from EdgeFest each time? Something it provides?
Ben: Well, it’s funny. Shows like this are obviously on a scale – on a big, fat outdoor festival stage like this is a very different experience than the majority of shows that you play or club shows. So for me it’s like, whenever you get a chance to play a show like this, you kind of have to harness that experience til the next time that you’re at a show like this. At this point, we’re no festival veterans by any means, but having done it a few times, I feel like we’re getting better at shows on these big roomy stages where the guy next to you, who is normally five feet away from you is fifteen feet away from you, which really changes the vibe on stage. I think the more you do it, the more you learn to adapt to that. Hopefully you’re able to harness that big sound system, big stage and be able to kind of convey something that people can get behind.
Sticky: Finding that balance to still be able to connect.
Ben: Exactly. It’s really important to communicate with people on a human level, beyond just singing songs. Get them feeling like they’re a part of it, which they are obviously. The more you do it, the more you learn how important that is and you can find ways to do that.
Sticky: Do you find yourselves, as a band, separated as an opener or among a collective like this? Do you enjoy earning the new fans or celebrating your own?
Lucas: I don’t know if there is any difference in the approach that we take towards a bigger show or a smaller show or anything like that. But it is definitely gratifying to go in front of a large crowd of people that have never seen you before and you can see them all of a sudden start singing along. That is great.
Ben: Over the course of one set, you could see it happening. But that’s also a position that we’re very familiar with. The majority of the tours that we did on our last record that we put out were support tours, so we’re very comfortable playing for other people’s audiences and we’re confident, hopefully, that I think we can draw them in and at least entertain them and, at best, get them on our team.
Lucas: So both situations, you absolutely have to bring your game. You’re either going to be capturing their attention or you have their attention already and you have to follow through.
Ben: So there’s no taking a night off, either way! [laughs] Either way, it’s just different pressure.
Lucas: It’s good too and it feeds the show. That’s what it thrives on, that is what the whole thing thrives on.
Ben: I also really love when I go to see a band that I love and I have paid money to see and the band before them surprises me. So I definitely try to keep that in mind when we’re playing shows in that scenario.
Sticky: Do you think that you have a different appreciation now that you’re in that role? Like once you’ve worked at a supermarket and then you recognize the quality of stocked shelves. Like, "That guys works pretty hard".
Lucas: “These are some nice shelves!” [laughs]
Ben: That’s definitely something that I have come to appreciate as a music lover and also something that I think we have tried to carry into shows to convey it to new people that may be seeing us for the first time.
Sticky: With your second album Shaky Dream dropping soon, how do you know that it is time for a new album?
Ben: Well, this is only number two for us, as far as full-length. We’re very excited about it. So part of it does feel natural – you put out a record, you tour a whole bunch and you feel tours slow down and there is an available window that you kind of just have to pounce on. But that does tend to conveniently coincide with right about the time that you’re growing sick of your own songs. Like even this time, I think we’re just getting better as a band and we’re getting more used to touring and we’re also getting more used to working on songs on the fly. I think we’re going to be tightening up; I think that new albums will come even more frequently for us now.
Lucas: We might be able to work on stuff while we’re on the road touring the previous album or something like that, which we haven’t really done before. where it has been like it’s the end of this and the beginning of something else. To be able to melt the two together and keep a constant flow would be awesome.
Sticky: Would you be content, writing that album that you’d consider a masterpiece – burying it away and not having anybody listen to it?
Ben: [straight-faced for the first time this interview] No.
Lucas: Does it get discovered, in like sixty years or something? [laughs]
Ben: Ultimately our goal is always, and I hope for most bands, is to make music that you love and that you could get behind. But ultimately, it is an art form that is meant to share with people. It is made to be experienced.
Lucas: And hopefully the reason that you love it as an artist and as a person making it is the same reason why anyone else would love it.
Sticky: I could guess one thing that is very exciting about a new album is that these songs, they’re only half-finished or not even. Once you take these songs on the road, they’ll continue to grow and find a new life as you strip it down or change things.
Ben: Yeah, this album definitely has a little bit more of that than the last time. The last time, because it was our first record, we had songs that we had been playing for years before we actually put them down and recorded them. By the time that they were recorded, they were old news to us, so they kind of gelled into what they are whereas there was a lot more creative flexibility in this session, when we went to record this one. There is a lot more spontaneity and a lot more creativity on the fly.
Sticky: Was there a conscious effort made to how it would fit in with the current set?
Ben: For me, it was the opposite of that. Or not necessarily the opposite, but I find that a lot of the music that I like engages me in different ways. I didn’t want us to make a record that just had one tight little pallet of sounds and the same drum tone in every song, the same guitar tones in every song and kind of shuffle things around and that’s the album. I didn’t want to do that. Definitely with the songs that we write and the vibe of the band – we kind of pull in different directions. I wanted to kind of nurture that and capture it and follow it through to see where it went. So there is definitely a conscious effort to allow songs to go where they went, even if they went a little bit outside of where the other ones ventured to.
Sticky: Does the band have individually different musical tastes that blend together?
Lucas: Definitely different across the band. We link up at certain points. We agree on certain things unanimously. But, very rarely I’d say that we agree on the same thing [laughs]
Ben: I don’t think that any two of us would have, let’s say, a favourite band. Everybody is listening to their own thing, which I think is great!
Sticky: Which band is it for you?
Lucas: Ah, you’re going to make me say it! Okay – Steely Dan.
Sticky: Nothing wrong with Steely Dan! Did you see them last weekend at Molson Amp?
Lucas: Yes I did. It was fucking amazing. [laughs]
Sticky: Did they play the hits; did they play "Bodhisattva"?
Lucas: They played "Bodhisattva"! Yes. Yes, don’t even worry about that!
Ben: You’re getting some bad intel here! [laughs]
Sticky: Well, what’d you think of The Darcys' Aja?
Lucas: Yes! It was killer. That’s great to see someone these days, paying homage to. They are just good songs. I feel like you could just put them into whatever kind of style that you like, you could play them however and the fact remains that it is just a good song. It is going to translate.
Ben: The Darcys are our roommates actually - we share jam space. They have been forever. But for me it is usually songwriters or lyricists, I mean Bob Dylan is obviously. The Walkmen, I’m a big fan of. Cass McCombs, who is like a smaller guy but -
Ben: Spoon. Yeah, that’s one of my favourite bands. But yeah, I catch myself really falling in love with really old school songwriters, folk guys and wordsmiths.
Sticky: With The Darcys sharing studio space, do you ever share tracks and gather opinions on each other’s work?
Lucas: We kind of have our own schedule; we can’t go in when The Darcys are in. Not because we don’t want to cross paths with them or something like that.
Ben: It’s just professional courtesy. Although! They have been talking to us about doing a remix. Those guys love doing remixes. So they’re probably going to do that in the future. So there will probably be collaborations.
Sticky: If you had to suggest three essential albums to anybody, the only rule is – no compilations.
Ben: Let me see. Bob Dylan, Highway 61! Best album ever in my opinion. There’s one. Your go! Your move, Lou!
Lucas: Oh, this might take a second though! Like, a hot second. A long second, though.
Ben: But yeah, no seriously. Highway 61. I got another one also – Here We Go Magic. I don’t know if you know this band, they’re so fucking good. Their new album was produced by Nigel Godrich, Radiohead’s guy. They walk that fine line between – they have really happy, sort of upbeat shuffley songs, but with a really intense, emotional poignancy to it at the same time. They’re geniuses at balancing emotion without being melodramatic ever. And keeping things light, keeping things poignant at the same time. Your move, Lou!
Lucas: I don’t know. Hmm. There’s added pressure.
Ben: Hail to the Thief by Radiohead is their best record.
Lucas: Yeah, okay. I agree with that one.