At times like these while we stare into the uncertainty of live performances in our hometowns, let alone touring across Canada or overseas, it helps a little to look back at all the great times we’ve had on the road. Or does it make it worse? Juries out. We are at the heart a touring band, and have found this adjustment difficult. We’d already been taking a little break once I had my twins last year, and were ready to pick things up again in March when it all went south. Writing this out has been a rollercoaster with highs of fond memories and lows reminiscent of the post-tour blues. In this case the post-post-post tour blues. I hope you enjoy our Top 10 songs, albums, and podcasts that get us through the extra long drives that is Canadian touring.
Turbonegro – Apocalypse Dudes (Album, song focus: Age of Pamparius)
This is a long-standing staple from my first full time drummer Justin and I, which I subsequently have forced on every drummer since. I like this to be the first highway album before a long drive. I try to time it where I hit play after we have our coffees and shitty breakfast sandwiches, and we’ve probably just filled the gas tank- that way the beautiful intro of “Age Of Pamparius” can escort us to city limits and we get to “Whoa-oh-oh-oa” on the highway as the sun starts to rise. It really sets the tone for the rest of the drive/day- something that rocks, that you can chant along to, that’s pretty ridiculous, while you wake up and get moving. So you think you’ve had a decent pizza? Well, not like this.
Eamon McGrath – Exile or Young Canadians (Albums)
The truth is we listen to a lot of Eamon McGrath on the road, and I couldn’t choose which album gets more spins. Eamon is a great friend of ours, and as of a couple years ago we also share Saved By Vinyl as a record label. Eamon tours more than anyone I know, and you can hear it in his songwriting. I think that’s why it resonates as such good music to drive to. When I’m listening to music in a van, I listen a lot more to the words than maybe any other time that I listen to music. His songs aren’t just about being on the road, gas stations, etc. Driving in a van makes you think, maybe reminisce about the past, hope and reimagine the future. You aren’t always present in the cab of that old van. He touches on everything I feel on those epic drives. I would say that sort of daydreaming happens most often on the hopeless and endless drive through the prairies, from when the mountains end in Alberta to the Canadian Shield in Northern Ontario.
A Storm of Spoilers (and other Game Of Thrones Podcasts)
Game of Thrones ended while we were in the UK for Great Escape and Focus Wales in 2019, so it can truly be said that we have never toured or travelled together without listening to Game Of Thrones podcasts, and/or watching the show- everywhere from venue parking lots while we wait for sound check, overnight in Walmart parking lots as close to their free Wifi as we can get, or in the case of the final season, in UK pubs with fellow North Americans abroad. We could spend hours listening to and arguing with these podcasts, theorizing in detail based on production and book spoilers. It was obsessive. Sean would probably say that I was the driving force of this obsession, and he might be right. If you’re curious, we were both wrong about how it ended, but we didn’t hate it… we didn’t LOVE it either.
The Dirty Nil – Higher Power (Album)
If we had toured post Master Volume, maybe it would be that album, but we toured a LOT after Higher Power, so this is the one. Sean turned me onto The Dirty Nil, I think he had been a part of their 7” mail-out club, because he had seen them before they blew up in smaller Calgary venues when they toured through. It’s exactly the kind of riff rock mixed with 90s grunge and punk that (thankfully) we both love. Actually as I’m writing this, it’s really fucking lucky that we enjoy so much of the same stuff. And we both love The Dirty Nil. Their songs are really honest and literal, which again lends to the sort of headspace that comes with driving 10-14 hours between cities.
Those Darlins – Screws Get Loose (Album)
I saw Those Darlins from Nashville at Sled Island I think around when this album came out in 2011. It’s lighter and more garage rock, has more reverb, surf, and hooks, and shuffles along for a nice afternoon drive, or better yet summertime touring through the Okanagan in BC. I don’t think it’s a prerequisite, but having seen these girls live really adds to the energy and vibes to this album. I don’t think Sean would know this album for me to just talk about it. It’s definitely one that I bring on my phone and introduce somewhere in the drive where I think we need it. Another contender for this same style and category would be New Swears from Ottawa and their album “Junkfood Forever, Bedtime Whatever.”
CBC – The Debaters (Radio Show)
There’s points in every tour where you’re over music. Just over it. Pretty much wherever you are in Canada, you can tune into CBC. The best show is The Debaters. Second best is the one about new podcasts – that one would actually help you find new podcasts for later, so it has some hidden value. The Debaters hosts comedians who debate current news/hot topics, so it’s sort of a competition, sort of a quiz show, and full of puns and rants, and very hilarious. I have no idea exactly when it’s on, but we always seem to catch it when we need it. The only downside is that directly before The Debaters is some really bad skit comedy, and we ALWAYS catch it first, and just suffer through it, waiting for our show.
Stompin’ Tom Connors – Bud The Spud (Album)
Stompin’ Tom can be listened to anytime anywhere on a drive across Canada. But we typically save it for the East Coast. It’s Bud the spud from the bright red mud, rolling down the highway smilin’, the spuds are big on the back of Bud’s rig, they’re from Prince Edward Island! Of course Sudbury Saturday Night is also on this album, and even Bud The Spud references the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police), but something about this album just travels well in the Maritimes. If you are unfamiliar with Stompin’ Tom Connors, he’s a country-folk singer-songwriter who encompasses all that is Canada. He toured Canada more than anyone, travelling with his own wooden stomping board for his shows. Most notably you might know The Hockey Song – That good old hockey game, is the best game you can name! There’s something magic listening to a legend like that, doing what he did his entire life, just travelling town to town, playing everywhere.
PROJECTOR – Love (Song)
We recorded our last full album in Brighton over a couple of weeks that led into The Great Escape. We weren’t performing that year but we got to take a lot in, most notably our last night in town we went to a show at Brighton Electric. They were nice enough to keep our gear there until we had to catch the last train to the airport that night, while we took in some very rad local bands. We really loved PROJECTOR! They are blowing up now, but that was 2017 and their song Love was just coming out. It was the only song of theirs we had when we got back to Canada to pick up tour, so we had to download it on Spotify and throw it on a playlist. This song hit me hard though. It’s like the dark 90s, and Lucy’s voice is perfect. It reminds me of what I listened to when I was just starting to “get” music, around 13, but in my small town all we got was what was on MuchMusic (our MTV) so my reference points are stuff like Bush and Garbage, but this is so many levels above that.
Partner – In Search Of Lost Time
Partner’s songs are funny, clever, and the music is straight out of the 90s. Very punchy alt-rock. Have we been dating ourselves? We must love the music we grew up with. What’s spectacular about this album, is the interludes between songs. Remember when albums used to be pieced together with skits? I think these are real phone calls with managers and photographers, and they’re so funny. Songs like Everybody Knows You’re High which speaks for itself, and then Sex Object where you shouldn’t have been snooping in your roommates room because you found her big dildo. When should/do we listen to this on tour? Anytime, all the time, when we want to rock out and smile at some cheeky music. Probably great for a second wind. I feel like I should add that in no way is this album a joke. It’s amazing.
Mobina Galore – Cities Away
They’ve made a lot of records since Cities Away, which came out in 2014, and they’ve done a million things since this release- toured EU/UK a million times, been support to Against Me!, played huge shows! But this is what we had on hand on the road most of the time and so it became our punk rock soundtrack. They’re also a two piece like us! We play together lots. I mean really the Canadian (particularly Western and Eastern Canadian scenes, respectively) music scene can get pretty incestuous for us touring bands. It’s why a lot of our music picks for the road are bands we cross paths with, and of course fall in love with. I didn’t want to make a list that was all Canadian bands you’ve never heard of in the UK, which I easily could. So this is one of the stand-outs. Me and Sean both started in punk rock, so we love the straight ahead crunchy power chords and speedy skipping drums on this album, a good singalong chorus. I think this album usually lands on our way BACK from out East, maybe Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, while we leave the Canadian shield and make our way back to the prairies- starting with Winnipeg, also their hometown.