The Dice Cubes – Make Me Motor ALBUM RELEASE!

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.

John Guliak – ‘The Fisherman’

Since the advent of our new reality, and this new normal we’re all trying to convince ourselves of in a post COVID-19 world, there are a few pleasures we’re able to afford ourselves that allow us to take our minds off of the state of the world outside our homes.

One of these pleasures, for me, has been talking with the traveler and the literary, John Guliak. There’s a calming demeanor John Guliak is surrounded with in stark contrast to the chaos and mayhem of everyday life that draws me in, he’s a respectful listener and thoughtful contributor to any conversation he’s privy to, which in interesting in itself, as even as we spoke I found myself bringing myself into the conversation more that I normally would. John Guliak is just that engaging.

We discussed ‘The Fisherman’ which is a 3 song EP that’s recently found its way to John Guliak’s bandcamp site. A very thoughtful compilation of songs, starting with ‘SOS (Sum Of Survival)’ which in and of itself tells several tales of wrecked sailing vessels with no survivors. Though the metaphor of the sinking ship in relation to any adverse condition is certainly not lost on John Guliak, the fact is that he actually set out to write a song about wrecked ships without any implied political or societal implications.

But then, isn’t that the way poetry is?

The way we interpret poetry is no unlike the way someone would interpret a parable, or spiritual teaching. We apply the principles to our own lives as they pertain to our own lives. So I must then also be thankful for the introspective instrumental song that follows (Private Melville’s Vast Retreat) so that I can chew on that thought before ‘The Ballad of Roger Casement’ grabs my focus.

John Guliak’s approach to recording Private Melville’s Vast Retreat is essentially a collaborative effort. What started from a simple instrumental guitar piece grew & grew with the addition of selected respected musicians from John Guliak’s rolodex. I always know something special is coming when I learn of an instrumental song that comes from a source so well known for his lyrical contribution. It’s rare, but never disappointing.

The Ballad of Roger Casement reads like the kind of literature than my father, a literary, would have been very excited to share with 12-year-old me only to have 12-year-old me stare back blankly in confusion. I was determined not to have this happen to me again, so I admitted to John Guliak when we spoke that I spent a fair bit of time researching Roger Casement before our conversation. The many tales of one of the Ireland’s bravest heroes and civil rights advocates being praised, and eventually cast
aside for treason and targeted for his private life.

And there I go, drawing historic and poetic parallels to modern life again.

Stylistically, John Guliak brings a lot with him wherever he goes, and has been given many flattering comparisons to icon writers of several genres over the years. To demonstrate that, he’s applied his writing style to 3 different genres, for 3 different EPs to be released gradually throughout 2020. This collection of songs is called ‘The Fisherman’ and we can anticipate ‘The Farmer’ later this summer, and ‘The Fool’ to follow. This falls somewhere between releasing a full album and releasing a series of singles. Three parts. 3 movements. But with enough support, we can anticipate a formal release of all three on vinyl in the future as well.

We’re fortunate to have challenging and thoughtful songwriters in this community. This is an ideal time to dig into the catalogues of the musicians we have here, and perhaps become inspired.

‘The Fisherman’ is an excellent place to start.

FatDave Johnston

Muse Magazine Features

The Longest Weekend

View the article and all the links here

The Weekend Kids take a grown-up approach to punk rock

It’s safe to say that The Weekend Kids aren’t kids. The Weekend Kids are actually rock & roll renaissance men, and after having the immense pleasure of catching up with a ¼ of what is easily Alberta’s loudest family band, Pete Nguyen paints the picture both literally & figuratively.

If you believe yourself to be unfamiliar with Pete’s artistic resume then chances are good that you’re wrong. If you’ve ever taken a sip that was squeezed out of Edmonton’s Sea Change brewery, flipped through Avenue Magazine, perused the album covers of Edmonton’s pop punk catalogue, or watched any number of independently funded Edmonton music videos over the past 10 years, you’ve likely handled some of Pete’s handy work. There’s actually a chance that the restaurant where you’re sitting & reading this article has a Pete Nguyen mural on the wall.

It’s for this myriad of reasons that his last text to me before we actually spoke said “it’s good to be back” I couldn’t help but think… “Back where? You’re a fixture!”

I’ve been looking forward to this chat. I’m keenly aware of Pete’s artistic style, but the newest full-length release from The Weekend Kids, “End Of An Era” brings about more questions than answers. If I’m being frank, when a band falls off your radar for a number of years and then suddenly pops back into view with an album called “End Of An Era” with a decidedly different direction when it comes to album artwork, you need to know what era is coming to an end.

Q: Is The Weekend Kids’ punk rock era coming to an end?
A: Well… sorta.

As Pete describes to me the challenges of a young & hungry band spreading themselves too thin, timing the recording, releasing, and touring with razor-thin margins of error, and being broke on the road, and contrasting that with the current love of playing music because you just want to play
music (without the urgency to tour and ‘make a name’) I’m hearing more than just the words he’s saying. I’m hearing the therapeutic confidence of a man who knows how music is fitting into his already artistically expressive lifestyle, and it’s a refreshing non-career oriented approach to making music for self-fulfillment rather than for business and marketing, and music that’s crafted with that kind of honesty and conviction behind it tends to be much more relatable and pleasurable to listen to.

Ironically, that’s the very thing music careers are built on. The kind of integrity that comes out in that kind of writing is desirable, and trying to bottle that lightning COULD tip the scale in the other direction, and could end up negating everything The Weekend Kids are doing with music right now. But homogenizing and selling a pop-punk package is not the goal here, making a great record is.

Pulling back from live shows a few years back was the truest test of The Weekend Kids’ fortitude. They knew they’d either write newer, better songs, and make a record, or dissolve into obscurity. Whatever was supposed to happen would happen, and “End Of An Era” is what happened.

With this record officially released, will they keep playing? They’ll play when it suits them, if it suits them. As mentioned, all 4 members of the band are family. They’ll continue to be in each other’s lives and will ultimately always be able to pick up their instruments for the joy of playing – and if you’re lucky, it’ll be in public and you’ll be in the room when it happens.

“End Of An Era” is the album you want it to be. It follows a full 9 years behind The Weekend Kids’ full length debut (and subsequent EPs) and lyrically whisks away the 20-something problems and ushers in 30-something (or 30-nothing) problems – but that punk rock energy & angst still takes precedent. There’s a sonic push & pull of grown-up professional quality production and youthful angst and adrenaline, and that balance may have taken those 9 years to get just right for all anyone really knows.

Despite the decidedly adult view of how music fits into their lives now, it seems evident to me that deep down beneath the professional, grown up veneer, The Weekend Kids are still kids.

Maybe deep down, we’re all still kids.