Band up to blues monkey business

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An Ottawa band with time to monkey around during its western Canada tour this month chose Black Diamond as its playground.

Juno award-winning MonkeyJunk Band is wrapping up the release tour for its fifth album Time to Roll with a performance at The Stop Coffee House and Gathering Place Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. The tour is also taking them to Calgary, Jasper, St. Albert, Camrose, Lethbridge, Banff and Coleman to promote the Nov. 4 release.

“Mike (Kingston, The Stop owner) reached out to us last year and said, ‘If you have an opening in your schedule and you will be in the area we would love to have you,’” said drummer and percussionist Matt Sobb. “At that time we didn’t have an opening on that particular trip. On this trip a few things fell through that prevented us from going to B.C. so we needed to fill in some dates to cap off the Alberta tour. I went through some emails to see if we could hook something up.”

This is MonkeyJunk Band’s first performance in Black Diamond.

“The cool thing about our band is we started in very humble beginnings in the corner of a pub in Ottawa,” he said. “We’ve played all different sizes of venues from very small to festival crowds that are tens of thousands of people. Coming from those smaller, humble beginnings it’s fun for us to go back to the smaller venue.”

Concert-goers anticipating a relaxing performance in a smaller setting will be in for a surprise, Sobb said.

“It’s a high energy show, but we hope to not blow their faces right off,” he said. “We hope to melt them a little bit.”

Time to Roll was recorded and mixed in Ontario over three weeks last spring, combining aspects of the first four albums and lyrical collaborations including Tom Wilson of Blackie & the Rodeo Kings, Lee Harvey Osmond of Junkhouse, Paul Reddick and Matthew Chaffey of The Split and co-produced by Ken Friesen of The Tragically Hip and Blue Rodeo, said Sobb.

It follows on the heels of MonkeyJunk’s 2015 fall release Moon Turn Red.

“Our first four records were spaced two years apart and this is just a little over a year later,” Sobb said. “While on tour in Eastern Europe last spring we had a couple of days off and started throwing together song ideas. In a couple of hours we had seven songs. The creative juices were flowing.”

Unlike most bands, MonkeyJunk writes the music first and the lyrics follow.

“The three of us are instrumentalists first,” Sobb said. “We find it really easy to write complete arrangements. A lot of songwriters either do it concurrently with music or start with lyrics and build music around lyrics.”

Vocalist Steve Marriner, who plays baritone guitar, harmonica and the organ, has the most input on the lyrics and when he, Sobb and lead guitarist Tony D, are stuck they call in for support.

“We’ve been lucky to have some really great people that we’ve leaned on – Paul Reddick being one,” Sobb said. “He’s a very poetic dude and has written complete lyrics for us in the past. When we write a song and can’t manage to get the lyrics together we will send the music to him and he will send it back with a complete set of lyrics and it will be great.”

Tom Wilson also contributed to this album. Sobb said he originally wrote lyrics for their third record, but MonkeyJunk didn’t find a use for them until this year. The track is called Blue Lights Go Down.

“I said, ‘This is good stuff, we need to use this,’” he said. “We took his lyrics, we had a musical idea we thought would be suitable and we smashed them together.

“We rearranged them quite a bit and built the song around .his lyrics. It’s a cool tune and I’m really glad we were able to make it come together.”

MonkeyJunk Band started off as a blend of swamp rock roots and blues in 2008, but is constantly evolving with styles and influences that come and go, said Sobb.

“You go through phases of being into certain things and certain things that influence you,” he said. “We have a really wide variety of influences. All of those show themselves in different spots and different times.”

Time to Roll offers a glimpse of styles from each of the previous records combined with a snapshot of where they are now, said Sobb.

“It’s pretty wide ranging,” he said. “The basis of our sound is deeply rooted in blues and traditional blues. The band went from a more traditional type of sound to a pretty hard rocking band. There is a bit of a 70s rock and roll thing happening on a song or two. It’s definitely a more contemporary sound.”

MonkeyJunk Band’s talent and diversity earned 20 Maple Blues Awards, two Canadian Independent Music Awards, a Blues Music Award in the United States and a Juno Award.

To purchase tickets to see the MonkeyJunk Band perform in Black Diamond call 403-933-3002 or drop by The Stop on Government Road. Tickets cost $35

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