Monster Truck are a Canadian Rock n’ Roll band from Hamilton, Ontario. For an idea of their sounds think: Grand Funk Railroad meets Deep Purple At the Drive-In.
Their first album “Furiosity” was released in 2013. The band have announced that their second studio album entitled “Sittin’ Heavy” is to be released via Mascot Records in February, 2016.
We chatted to guitarist Jeremy Widerman in London about trucks, Sittin’ Heavy and how this whole thing started…
Jer had spent the previous day thundering around the Metropolis in a monster truck (albeit a roadworthy smallish one.) But do Brits ‘get’ Monster Trucks? If you asked an average englishlander what a ‘Truck’ was is they would probably tell you it was a lorry…
“Yeah! It was a lotta fun running around London in a truck. When our fans in Canada woke up and found out what we were doing, they were, like “Hey! Oh! Why weren’t you doing that in Canada?” And we were, like “I dunno. Maybe the people who had the balls to pull it off are over here!” So it created a bit of a scene… ”
Of course, many associate power and energy with Monster Trucks.
“I think that it works better over here. In the USA and Canada they still have Monster Truck shows all the time. Everywhere. So some people [back home] think that our name sucks. They make fun out of of it. ”
“It’s fair to say that it certainly started as a bit of a ‘joke’ name for us. There were a few times when we thought about, possibly, changing it. But I never wanted to…because I loved the simplicity of it. And I do think it conveys the idea of what we are trying to do musically, really well. And we were very happy to see that when we got over to Europe and the UK everyone who came to see us was saying ‘That’s a great band name…’ And we were ‘Yes!’ [He throws his fist in the air in an excited and victorious gesture.] Because we were taking shit for the name in Canada. I think it still conveys the same thing back home but it’s so cliched. It’s a bit corny. Because people think the ‘Monster Trucks’ themselves and the ‘Monster Truck shows‘ are a bit corny. (Though half the people still love it…) But there’s a certain beauty to the band name… because it is so simple. When you hear the band name you get this kinda mental picture of what you think the band is gonna sound like and we fulfill that for people. That’s a real comfort-level thing. When someone hears the band name… they have a vision of what they think they’re gonna hear… And then they hear it! It’s very comforting (for people.) It’s quite the opposite of what could happen… You could name your band Monster Truck and then sound like Oasis! That would confuse the shit out of people!”
So what’s Jer’s background in music?
“I started out listening to a lot of classic rock as a kid. My father was a huge classic rock fan. He had lots of great vinyl. He got me started on Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath… Then I forged my own path in the punk rock realm, as a teenager, (at that age you are gonna naturally rebel against anything your parents are into) — then once I got tired of that, I ended up finding myself where I first started. With those same great bands. By then I was in my mid-to-late twenties. And that was about the time that this band started. That was the Spring of 2009. ”
“I was friends with everybody who is in the group now. Ahead of time. I had been friends with John [Jon Harvey ] our singer for many years. We had been good friends and had a lot of the same favorites from the Classic Rock era. We bonded over a mutual love for Grand Funk Railroad [1970s American blues rock.] And we would sit there and romanticize Zeppelin, Sabbath, Floyd and all those bands that made a difference. Though we noticed that Grand Funk got lost by the wayside a little bit. Mostly, perhaps, because they changed their ‘sound’ over the course of the mid to late 1970s. ”
“I knew Steve our drummer [Steve Kiely ] from a previous band I was in. And I met Brandon on tour when I was with that band.” [Brandon Bliss, keys.]
“So once we had the idea of forming Monster Truck it was easy to grab all those guys together (they are all my favorite people from different facets of my life) and they were all in a position to start another group. To this day I still think it’s the strongest element (or at least the biggest factor in our success to this point) the four members really coming together in a way that kinda fits together like a jig-saw. Everyone has their own vibe. But they’re all cut from the same cloth. And they all add a different element to the group. That is extremely useful and powerful when it comes to creativity. ”
Jer mentions Pink Floyd quite a lot in conversation. Were they a major influence?
“Well, all the bands I mentioned came from the era of my father’s tape collection. But it was simply that I had Pink Floyd’s The Wall on tape, as a kid. And it scared the shit out of me. It really hit me. And cut me deeply. From an emotional standpoint. Because it’s such a frightening album. For a little kid. I would listen with my headphones on. With such attention. It had to have an impact. ”
Is it fair to say that the music of Monster Truck is elementary?
“Yes, I think that’s exactly what it is. And, again, it comes back to the band name and the simplicity of it all. And, literally, that was the conscious design. It was a design decision that we made on the very first day we had a rehearsal. ”
“Although it’s fair to add that, back then, the decision was made so that we could get drunk and play at the same time. [Laughs.] It’s changed dramatically from that. But it’s something that we thought about and something that’s been a huge factor in our success. And I am glad that it reverberates in a lot of positive ways. ”
How important is the keyboards element in the Monster Truck sound?
“What a great asset! It can do anything. It can support guitar. So if I were to take a solo that ‘bottom’ wouldn’t fall out of it. It can go off on its own and provide a lot of tension up in the higher register. So, when you need that extra gear to shift to, at the end of a song or for a climax, you’ve got that wheeee! [He provides me with a high-pitched whirring sound to simulate the sound of the organ…] It can play with the bass… and find those root notes. It basically covers the entire sonic spectrum. And can be utilized in any way that we need to support our needs. Or it can take off on its own…”
“I don’t think I even realized how great an asset it was gonna be until we really started working with it… And it was all credit to our singer/bass player Jon who basically demanded (from the second we started the band) that we needed to find a rock organ player. Literally the second I said “We should start a band called Monster Truck” He said “In that case we need to find a rock organ player…” And I didn’t understand why. Of course, I knew Deep Purple, but I didn’t understand why it was such a fundamental element to their sound. And a huge reason why they sound the way that they do. It was almost as if I needed a re-education. I needed to understand why the keyboards would become a useful tool in creating a full sonic pallete.”
Tell us about the first album “Furiosity” (released 2013 )
“It was a classic story of having your entire career (up to that point) writing your album. So we were able to ‘cherry-pick’ all the best bits for it. And get it honed down. To exactly what we wanted to have… Which was a very powerful debut album. An album that didn’t stray too far from our sounds. We didn’t want to confuse people. So a lot of the record sits in one specific area… And there’s a couple of songs that may deviate a little bit… But for the most part it’s one idea. And that’s kinda why that’s what we’ve done with this album too. We decided to kinda stick to that formula. But deviate a little further now. For us it’s walking that line of keeping the core-fans happy but at the same time, showing people that we have another side and we have another direction we are willing to delve into. And it’s true that, as we do those longer shows, we will want to have those peaks and valleys where we can bring things up to a fever pitch then bring them down to a more chilled out and jammier landscape and then smash [he claps his hands] bring ’em right back up again.”
How do you translate your famous ‘live sound’ into something that is equally vibrant and electric in the recording studio?
“That’s the hard part! Playing live, for us, is the easy part. It has been since we started. Trying to capture that into a bottle and putting it on a record is the difficult part. I don’t think we’ve been able to do that as good as we can… What I mean is that we haven’t reached our potential with that yet. The idea is, perhaps, to play things through in one take. But when you think about doing that, you really need the time to be comfortable with those songs. And we’re still not even there yet, with these songs. We play them well. But there’s that extra ‘notch’ that we can reach (once we have played the song for a year or two) where it’s effortless! ”
“But our product is the ‘live show’ and our recordings ‘support’ the live work. The recordings serve one of two purposes; it can be taken home after a show or it’s a ‘calling card’ something to introduce you to the band. And if you like the record, you are really-really gonna like the live show! And I am really glad it’s that way — and not the other way — around! I would hate to find out that people liked our albums but thought our live show was mediocre. The best compliment I can get is when someone says “I loved the record … And I thought it couldn’t get any better… Then I came and saw you live… And I’m hooked!” That’s the best complement we can get. And that’s why we do what we do.”
So what does “Sittin’ Heavy” actually mean? [The name of the new album.]
“It doesn’t mean nothing! ”
“We came up with it when we were sitting in a catering tent at Bonnaroo (Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, USA) and we had just played our set. And we were eating the extra-big portions you always get in the States. And our drummer, Steve (Kiely) had just eaten two big plates of food. And he was saying, like “Oh! My God!” And groaning. And I was like “Are you OK there Stevie?” And Stevie says: “Oh! I am Sittin’ Heavy…”
“So I said, “Well, that’s an album title. Right there.” And everyone agreed. Yes, it would make a great album title. And I thought ‘Holy shit! Did we all just agree on something? Did it come just right outta the gate?’ And that was that. It was done. That was the new album title. ”
So what are the main differences between Furiosity and Sittin’ Heavy?
“Well, the main thing was that we felt we had a lot of success with Furiosity. And we did a lot of things right on that record. We didn’t want to deviate from that too much. We really wanted to stick to that idea… But at the same time, kinda, push forwards. So it was ‘walking that line’. We don’t wanna disappoint the fan-base who love the band. You know what it’s like to love a band and love their first record then their second record is “What is this all about? We didn’t want to make that mistake. But at the same time, we didn’t want to be too safe. We didn’t want to write the same record again. So we kinda did a little of both. So we stuck with the fundamental ideas that worked on the first album. We pushed things a little further on a couple of the other songs. And I feel like we found a nice balance. We are really excited to get it into people’s hands… Our gut instinct is that we did a great job. And that it sounds really good to us! ”
Are you playing some of the songs live to audiences yet?
“No. We are rehearsing the shit out of ’em, though! And, like you said, we have become known for our live show. And so it’s really important, for us, that when we come ‘out of the gate’ with the tour that we play these new songs as well as we play our old numbers. So, right now, it’s really about rehearsing this album to death. And making sure we feel tight with it. ”
“And we have even started working on the next record too! We are having a lot of fun with it. We never stopped! We literally went from finishing this record to writing and working on the next one! We are on that creative stride right now!”
Well, congratulations, on such a great record. And we can’t wait to see your shows next year.
Thank you Monster Truck