BY MARK WEBER
Edmonton’s rock quintet Royal Tusk are joining Collective Soul on their current Canadian tour, including a stop in Red Deer April 23rd at Red Deer College Arts Centre.
The guys are also gearing up for the release of their full-length debut DealBreaker on May 6th.
Royal Tusk was born with a shared love for the craft of music, and a natural chemistry that manifests itself in the band’s songs and in its fiery live performances.
Daniel Carriere (lead vocalist) and Sandy MacKinnon (bass) spent 12 years in Juno-nominated Edmonton band, Ten Second Epic and knew they weren’t done making great music.
They rounded up Quinn Cyrankiewicz (guitar), Calen Stuckel (drums) and Mike James (keyboard/guitars) for a jam session, and just 10 months later the band headed to New York to record Mountain with Gus Van Go.
Meanwhile, DealBreaker was produced by the award-winning Eric Ratz (Big Wreck, Monster Truck, Arkells, Billy Talent) and captures the true raw energy Royal Tusk wields.
The result is loud and guitar-driven with hints of Americana and soul. The first single, Fever, premiered on AMBY and embraces a dynamic evolution in the band’s sound.
“Often when you are in the music business, your brain can get a little convoluted with the strategic steps of what might do well on radio and what might not,” explained lead vocalist Carriere. “But we’ve been in bands for a long time, so going in we just thought let’s do what we like best, which is playing guitar – so there is a lot of guitar on the record. Every time we played live touring the last record, people would say we sounded heavier to see live then what we sounded like on the record.
“So we wanted to do a more accurate representation of our band which is influenced by classic rock and guitars,” he said.
“We’ve always been a guitar-driven band, but Mountain focused on highlighting our pop songwriting. For DealBreaker, we wanted to maintain that songwriting integrity, but make an old-fashioned heavy-guitar record.”
Carriere describes the essence of Mountain as having more of an alternative, modern rock sound. “The guitars are done in more a quirky style on that record. I think it came across as a little more ‘polite’ and slick.”
Ratz was certainly the ideal guy to guide the project along. “I talked to him today – he’s working on Billy Talent’s new record,” said Carriere of the accomplished and in-demand producer.
“He was on our wish list – listening to all kinds of records, we found that we like everything this guy had done. He’s done a lot of punk and heavy metal type of stuff. He’s accomplished and he’s been at this for a long time.”
Carrier said that Ratz also injected a stronger sense of confidence in the band during the sessions in Toronto. “He made us feel good about ourselves. Music in itself can be a self-deprecating venture because it’s not like a video game that you win,” he said. “You really never get to the end and there’s always going to be that next step.
“There’s no clear finish line – it keeps your nose to the grindstone. I think Eric also liked how we sang and how we played – we reminded him of a rock version of the Eagles – that made us feel good! So there was a lot of inspiration going on in the studio,” he added. “And I think you can hear it on the CD.”
The CD was recorded in five weeks, which suited the guys just fine as shorter sessions tend to keep things invigorated. Too much rambling around in a studio can drain away the vitality. “Sometimes you go down a path and before you know it you’ve lost the spark of why it started in the first place. I’ve learned that with music, don’t get ‘precious’ with it. Just follow the instincts of the tract.”
Carriere has had a passion for music since his youngest days. “I was playing violin right away,” he recalls. “My parents would have parties with big jam sessions. So I think that for a little kid to watch people play music that sounds good – I think that really decided it for me before I even knew.
“But I wanted to be in a band when I was in elementary school.”
He later picked up the guitar and the rest is history. A very successful stint with Ten Second Epic would follow, and eventually Royal Tusk was launched after Ten Second Epic members decided to call it quits in 2014.
Meanwhile, the disc has been masterfully crafted from start to finish, opening with the compelling and robust cuts Dynamo and Curse the Weather. That attention to building on a foundation of solid guitars continues with the superb Soon. Don’t Get Me Wrong reflects the guys’ expressive talents in yet another stylistic light. The disc ends with the exquisite So Long the Build Up which features Ian Thornley of Big Wreck’s mesmerizing guitar solo on the track.
After touring extensively and sharing the stage with artists including Big Wreck, Dear Rouge and Metric, Royal Tusk has spent the past year writing, embracing growth in their sound and songwriting.
“We took a long time to find out what we wanted to sound like. And we’re at a spot now where we really like where it’s headed.”
For ticket information, visit www.blackknightinn.ca.