The pursuit of a traditional rockabilly / rock & roll sound in the year 2020 is not a common thing. Most of what you hear that’s referred to as ‘rockabilly’ at this juncture has been updated in some way, shape, or form, and as much as the music is timeless, there is definitely a marked difference between the
recordings that Gene Vincent & Eddie Cochran made, and that of any current and active rockabilly band.
Without geeking out on recording techniques and ‘era-correct’ equipment, we’ll often chock it all up to: “The 50’s were a long time ago, man!” but really, playing traditional music of any kind will inevitably set the brain’s way-back machine to a time & place back when the traditional sounds you’re making now were cutting edge, modern, and often polarizing. That view is always rose-coloured, of course. There are a myriad of reasons why remembering the mid-1950’s would bring about thoughts of inequality and dread, certainly a viewpoint worthy of respect.
Yet, the inception of rock & roll does deserve to be celebrated.
Fast forward 60-something years. Vinyl records are seeing love from collectors and critics alike, search engine optimization has enabled every style of music to be cool simultaneously, recording technology and instrument crafting is beyond what it’s ever been – It’s a great time to be a band.
Or… it was, until a couple months ago, when planet earth went into total lockdown.
Edmonton’s own Dice Cubes entered the now defunct and highly respected Sound Extractor studio with engineer and producer Stew Kirkwood to make the soon-to-be highly sought after “Make Me Motor.” A pair of singles (with video) have been posted and shared for all to see, the test pressings have been approved and the vinyl copies are in, the CD copies have been mailed out to indie stations near and far, the show was booked and the square on the calendar marked ‘May 9 th , 2020’ was circled in red several times.
Now what? I mean, records always outlive the release show. And really, a record is a snapshot in time to be forever celebrated and revered, but the fact remains that promoting the release is the same as promoting the album. So really, what now?
Dice Cubes singer James Harapiuk describes their situation as pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. Make no mistake, The Dice Cubes have lost a pile of shows intended to support ‘Make Me Motor’, but they’re at no risk of losing their houses due to the lack of income. In Harapiak’s own words,
“Money isn’t always plentiful, but passion is always plentiful.” He also jokes lightly about how he “thought releasing an album during a global pandemic might be a great idea” but I know he’s not the only one to have a thought like that cross his mind. Truthfully, a lot of musicians and artists of all kinds
have stepped up to offer their art and entertainment as solace in a trying time, but while everyone is forced to change their routines, maybe there’s more openness to really listen and dig in to music the way it was intended.
This idea only reinforces the idea behind releasing ‘Make Me Motor’ on a vinyl LP. The very format itself encourages the listener to engage in the often forgotten ritual of ‘listening to records.’ Harapiuk walked me back to his formative years in Winnipeg, parked in front of the hi-fi listening to the records his parents had accrued over the years in amazement, eyes glued to the lyric sheet, hearing the songs as the artists wanted them to be heard, and in the order they’d intended. Each member of The Dice Cubes has a similar memory from their youth, so their emphatic glee in taking part of that tradition now as The Dice Cubes find themselves pressed into the grooves of a vinyl LP record, a first for each of them.
With the loss of shows and a lot less wind in their sails, The Dice Cubes will forge ahead, progressing however possible in isolation. The continued songwriting is a pleasant distraction from the stress and worry that wraps the world like a blanket right now, but what the pandemic means for an arts community (aside from the obvious disease and inevitable loss of life) is a slowed progress. Harapiak is bracing for the impact of that slow-down. The Dice Cubes are continuing to write new songs as many songwriters are, suitably distracting themselves from the stress and worry of our new reality but there isn’t much optimism for recording these new songs, as the cancelled ‘Make Me Motor’ shows of 2020 also serve to fundraise for the next recording.
Regardless, record collectors and rockabilly fans alike can still rejoice for ‘Make Me Motor’ though, as it has been touted as The Dice Cubes finest effort to date, and if the lead singles are any indicator then we should believe the hype.
So we keep going, keep navigating this new version of normal. Just as the community has come together to support local businesses, restaurants, charities, and their own neighbors, bands on the local level are hopeful that their supporters that have been there in growing numbers over the past several years will continue to be there, even if that support doesn’t look or feel the same, it’s definitely there.
‘Make Me Motor’ will be released TONIGHT, May 9 2020, with Starlite Sessions, live at the Starlite Room. The Dice Cubes will also be making updates via their Facebook page and other social media to arrange purchase, shipping and delivery of CDs and LPs. Digital formats will also be available through bandcamp and the normal streaming channels.