If you ask Matt Wells how much integrity there is in the music industry, he will tell you there is an equal number of those with it as without it. But faced with a choice, the Bucket Truck frontman chooses substance—and, consequently, deep debt—over style.
With their latest release, Favour the Bull, the Newfoundland-bred, Halifax-based band looked at what was on the table from major labels before rejecting the outside means of financial support, which were accompanied by creative constraints.
“We were made an offer for the worldwide rights of the band over three albums, with a promise of some tour support, and some marketing dollars,” says the explosive singer for Atlantic Canada’s foremost punk/metal group. “They offered to buy Favour the Bull for basically pennies, release it in Canada right away with no talk of priority for release in any other markets. A couple of larger indie labels also approached us, but nothing was really appealing.”
The cost of this control hit the band hard in their pocketbooks.
“We really broke ourselves with this album. Bank loans, credit cards, personal savings, you name it,” says Wells, who is also the east coast videographer for MuchMusic’s Going Coastal. “We poured our hearts into making it happen. Why would we just hand it over to someone who didn’t even offer us 50 percent of the money we had personally dished out?”
Released September 27 on MySpace, Bucket Truck’s long-awaited third full-length—their last was 2001’s Waiting to Talk—arrived in stores on Tuesday. Favour the Bull is the blistering, long-awaited consequence of three years of truly independently created music and recurrent financial crises. Loaded with blazing but melodic guitars, aggressive bass and drum combinations topped off with Wells’ inspired, open vocal approach, Favour the Bull will leave you fighting a losing battle to restrain yourself.
The process began with the band— Wells, percussionist Chris Hanley, bassist Dave Mullett, and the three Mikes (guitarists Rizkalla and Stewart, and drummer Rowe)— sequestering itself for three weeks in a haunted elementary school in rural Newfoundland community Pouch Cove, echoing the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik, recorded in a haunted mansion.
“The way that record was made was very appealing to us. We wanted to make an album exactly that way with no clock, and where everyone was together so ideas were always flowing,” says Wells. “There were lots of weird things the first few days. Lots of gear just would not work and it didn’t help our imaginations that the school was right next to a graveyard.”
The origins of the producers also came into play on the recording. Bucket Truck finished the recording in Sweden with Pelle Henricsson, Eskil Lovstrom and Magnus Lindberg.
“Pelle and Eskil were the producers of the Refused album, The Shape of Punk to Come. Between the six of us there are only a few albums we all own, and that is one of them. We dreamed of being able to work with these guys,” he says.
Bucket Truck also exercised their influence over their work in the video for the album’s first single, called “I Am the New York Times.” Released earlier this summer, the politically charged video is clearly influenced by Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” with extras holding placards emphasizing important lyrics in the song.
While Bucket Truck has no expectations for the commercial success of the record, the band that has shared the stage with the likes of Green Day, Slayer and NOFX feel they have made something that will stick in their fans’ minds.
“The same way your favourite fast food joint spits out your weekly special combo in 30 seconds, so too does the music industry with a new ‘artist’ until the audience is hungry for something new,” says Wells. “There are so many great bands, songs and shows we will never experience because of that mentality. And it’s sad.”
Nine years playing as a band and it is something Bucket Truck has come to accept.
“We have been added to large tours and then at the last minute replaced by an act with a label paying their way on, or replaced by another artist with a booking agent, or manager pulling in a favor,” he says. “It’s just funny to us now. All you can do is laugh and keep moving.”