….where the only pulpit is opposite a stage and is occupied by lighting and sound guys.
The congregation is tattooed, shaven headed, leather clad and holding a beer not a bible.
There are two Preachers present with this particular travelling church.
The very Reverend Ms. Niva Chow and the very very Reverend Mr. Robert Michael Higgins.
For Higgins and Chow to be revered, is probably the least of what should happen, but it is a start.
Not too long ago this formidable pair were in a studio in Joshua Tree, California, USA, recording the now newly released (May 22nd 2012) Hawk vs. Pigeon. The band also worked on the record at their Phoebe Street Studio in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
This record must have been a pretty easy kill, the name of the cd certainly suggests as much? “Well, I am sure we will be asked about that a lot, but we pretty much already decided on the name of the cd before it was near completion. The fact that we saw just that, a Hawk vs. Pigeon on the last day of recording was a definite sign. We went into the studio with nothing and came out with some really great songs, we were truly blessed.” Tells Higgins. He added; “Had it not been for Brendan Canning, a founding member of Broken Social Scene, who helped me navigate through a difficult time, it would probably not have happened. At the time he was probably the only guy I would listen to and take guidance from.”
Canning, along with Patrick Pentland of Sloan and Dave Catching; Queens of the Stone Age, also make an appearance on the record. Not forgetting Care F and Tony Bleed of Die Mannequin, label/tour mates of Dearly Beloved, who give a punk poke to the track On Better Days.
Dearly Beloved has a new, fresh sound. Not comparable to any other thing, which these days is almost un-heard of. Both Higgins and Chow are lead vocalists and Higgins is at the fore on bass. Unfortunately the music they are producing is not considered mainstream by many music executives. The suits of the Music business like it to sound smooth and easy. Where is Val Doonican when you need him?
“It is too easy now to get someone into a studio and make them sound good, overproduce them and put them out on air. That is what has been happening since the decline of the big record companies in the late 90’s.’’ Higgins is well informed and stays abreast of changing situations in the fickle business of music. He is not afraid to share his truths, which is extremely unusual in such a seemingly cliquey business. One would worry that it is not good for the business of Dearly Beloved, but it is no deterrent for Higgins. “Eric Alper and EOne Music Canada are changing all that. They are putting real music out again. Rival Sons, Die Mannequin and The Cult are all with EOne. Of course we are still hearing new bands out there that sound just the same as someone else.
It is very difficult to disagree with that statement.
Not so un-original are Dearly Beloved. With a heavily bass lead sound and a mix of male vocal and a female vocal that could strip the wallpaper border off your grandma’s kitchen in one bar, it is hard to believe that this is the fourth piece of art for the ears from this band. Although through the past six years there have been several line –up adjustments, the backbone is not broken and the body just continues to grow stronger.
What is needed here is for Canadian broadcasters to grow some balls and play some new, more relevant music. Music with a message, something that is a little eclectic, alternative, rock based and thought provoking. We all know that Rush, Neil Young and The Tragically Hip are out there, but they could step graciously to one side and allow new noise to be heard.
“I said it before; now it is just too easy for radio stations to play the foot tapping, electrically processed stuff and feed it to the masses. Canadian broadcasters must play a certain amount of Canadian artists on air every hour but they choose dated artists or songs where there are no musicians only a backing track or auto tune.” Higgins is sticking by what he holds true.
It would be so easy to understand if Dearly Beloved and in fact many of the real musicians and rock bands out there were to just quit, give up.
“It’s really not that easy,” gives up the bands drummer Andrew McMullen. “I have to do this, it is just in me, I am just meant to be out there performing. When I am not on the road, or on the stage, it is like there is something missing.”
It is certainly a hard slog. The band endure the nightly lugging of equipment in and out of dark, dank clubs, up and down stairs, staying in often undesirable lodgings and playing salesman for their merchandise before and after a set. That coupled with daily drives of 15 hours on average, and a diet of, in the words of Higgins; “a lot of weed in the past five days,” that and snack food from gas stations, has got to be a strain on anyone’s resolve and yet it seems to fuel this band.
“It won’t be long before we are in the studio again and this time we will maybe produce 15 songs,” Higgins shares, as the band mascot, a two feet tall, dressed up mannequin of Lord of the Rings character Gollum, peers over his shoulder.
No doubt Chow, a seasoned singer previously with the band Sticky Rice, who also has a background in Media/TV production, will continue to log the travels and tribulations of this not well enough recognised, home grown, musical epiphany. It will be considered a great shame if there is no-one saving a few live shots of Chow on stage. She has an in your face energy so powerful it could be considered aggressive. The presence she gives is of someone more physically commanding in stature. Yet it is undoubtedly her voice and intellect which will raise her status as a star.
All future recordings will be well used in years to come when this band receive the recognition they have worked so damned hard to gain.
Rarely will the music world see such an honest, hardworking, un-beleaguering, hospitable, artistic, talented group of people dedicating themselves to providing music to those around them.
They should be revered at the highest level.
While you listen to this new record and await delivery of the next, purchase if you have not already previous releases and catch a live show if you are close to a location where the band is appearing in the near future.
You will quickly find yourself worshiping at the Church of The Dearly Beloved.
The only disappointment you will have is that the set is not long enough and merchandise is sold out……..
By Karen Graham 31 May 2012 16:59