Who says rock is dead? (I mean, besides Nielsen music and Gene Simmons and pretty much all methods of measuring popularity and profitability.) Canada’s the Glorious Sons are alive and well and thriving in our books. Their modern take on the big, melodic, stadium rock sound has been paying dividends. They just opened for the Rolling Stones, their feel-good hit “Everything Is Alright” peaked at #1 on Alternative radio and was just certified Gold, they snagged this year’s JUNO for best rock album, and they’ve got sold-out shows across the nation. Okay, so they’re not shattering the Beatles’ records or anything, but by CanRock standards, they’re doing, well, alright for themselves. (Get it? We referenced the song there.)
As the band preps for their fall Canadian tour, lead singer Brett Emmons spared us a few minutes to talk about being in a rock band in 2018, why he doesn’t feel that Canadian, and the time he punched a man on his wedding night.
So, I’m going to start with the obvious question: how was it opening for the Rolling Stones?
It was good. Everyone keeps asking me and I keep explaining it the same way. It felt the same as any other show, except for when you looked out, there were 60,000 people watching. So everything was more magnified than I usually go through in a show. But it just came and went really fast; it wasn’t really a celebration or anything. You know, you get up there and play and try to win over the crowd. I think we definitely did that. In Marseille, the day after, people were stopping me and they recognized me from the stage. It just goes to show you how gigantic of a community the Stones have created. I guess 60,000 people in any city is pretty crazy but it was pretty cool walking along the water and getting stopped by French people that I couldn’t speak a lick of French to, and just saying, “Merci beaucoup.”
What was the biggest audience you’ve had previous to this show?
10,000 I think.
What do you want people to think of when they think of the Glorious Sons?
Wow. I want them to think of honesty; I want them to think of a band that tries. I think one of the best things about us is that there’s a lot of effort put into what we do. It’s an honest collaboration of people who are willing to go out and sweat and work for their fans and work for the connection they’re making. Nothing’s really come easy to us over the past seven years. I mean, we’ve had some luck, of course, you have to to get to this point. But everything that we’ve done has been a war of attrition and I think there’s something about that. I think our fans take pride in it; we have a good amount of fans but I know we have a lot of fans that are die hard, that really believe in what we’re doing. That’s because we’re willing to sweat and bleed and get better in front of everybody’s eyes. We’ve gone through a lot of different stages, and we’ve improved in front of a very dedicated fanbase and we’ve got them to take that ride and support us throughout.
Do you notice a big fanbase anywhere in particular outside of Canada?
Well, it’s definitely smaller in the States and Europe but it’s starting to show itself there as well! And I’d say it’s around the Ohio region; those people seem to keep on coming back and they seem to really love the character and our stamp that we put on rock and roll. And England seems to be pretty into us, but that stuff is hard to judge because we go from a show of 300 people and then a show with 1,000 people, then a show in Australia in front of 100 people. [Laughs.] It’s kind of hard to figure out tangible numbers, but it’s kind of just get-up-and-go and hope that people are connecting.
Congrats on your JUNO win this year.
“The electric guitar is a great instrument — it can still be used but if you’re just playing Lynyrd Skynyrd riffs nobody is gonna give a shit.”
Have you noticed any changes after that?
Not a single bit of change. We didn’t expect it to change anything. We’re very happy that people tip their caps to us and it was an honour to get the award but it still doesn’t change that nobody cares about these awards or the statistics or records you’ve sold. They want to get behind something that means something to them. The only thing that’s really changed is people, during interviews or in front of an audience will introduce us as “JUNO winning” instead of “JUNO nominated” and people kind of politely clap. Other than that it doesn’t change that you have to go out there and win people over, one song at a time, one stage at a time, one video at a time.
Given that rap and electronic are the most popular genres these days, is it challenging being a rock band in 2018?
That’s a tough question to answer. In a way it makes you stand out a little bit more. I think that maybe at the start it made our audience a little more middle aged, which is fine. I guess it is a little tougher but I think the problem is a lot of people are looking at rock and roll as a nostalgia-based genre, that people want to go see bands that sound like the bands they heard when they were younger. And I think that that’s a problem with the genre because it’s not going to be relevant to kids, who, no matter which way you cut it, are most important for starting a movement. You need the kids and these kids that are growing up don’t give a shit about the ’60s, they don’t give a shit about what happened in the Vietnam war. They don’t care about these things that happened 60 years ago. I think that rock and roll has been through a lot of different phases and right now, what’s happened in the past 10 years is that it’s gotten back to its roots. Which is a good thing because it’s classic — it’s dirty again! It reminds you of something simpler. But at the same time, you have to find a way to make that relevant in the new age, for kids in the 21st century, about things happening in the 21st century. The electric guitar is a great instrument — it can still be used but if you’re just playing Lynyrd Skynyrd riffs nobody is gonna give a shit.
So being relevant to the youth is something you value?
On the first album, we were a little more throwback. You know, it was about meat and potatoes. It was about playing rock and roll. On the second album, we wanted the album to step into the 21st century and challenge ourselves to mess with some new production and put a bit of a young taste on an old genre. And now, I don’t know what the next album is going to be like but really there’s no way to know what’s going to happen with this next album — how we want to sound like, or what we want to do, until you get in the thick of it. But it will be more focused on moving forward with the times and appeal to the world right now.
When I wake up in the morning and I’m worried about something or I’m on Twitter, going through that cesspool, the stuff that’s stressing me out is the stuff that’s happening now. And that’s what I believe music should be about. A lot of people use music as an escape — right now I’m trying to write songs that people can relate to on a deeper level with the times were living in and try to start a conversation.
What’s up with the “I punched a man on his wedding night” lyric in “Everything is Alright”?
Number one, you have to get pretty confused with yourself or low in order to — in any state whether you’re drunk or sober — to make a decision like that. On a night that somebody is going to remember for the rest of their life. That is supposed to be this huge thing for somebody else and you just kind of snatch it away from them by acting like such a prick. Which is one thing that always weighed heavy in my mind. It was that but it was also once you wake up from that the next day and you’re in a world of hurt, I don’t know that I really recovered from that for a long time. When thinking of myself and the image of myself, it was hard for me to accept that I was that guy. [Laughs.] And then, as well, there’s a bit of humour in it too, because that’s really all there is, as far as taking a positive thing from it. You’re that idiot. The thing is there’s humour in all these things. The album is basically all from this hazy three years of my life and it comes off as serious but I hope it also comes off as funny and stupid. You know, everyone goes through these things. I don’t think I’m the only one and that’s kind of why I wrote it.
What do you like about being a Canadian artist?
I’m a proud Canadian, but I’m not that proud. This is gonna come off as bad; George Collins once had a bit about how he doesn’t understand how people could be so prideful about where they’re born. I mean, you’re just born in a country. I understand that I could be living in war-torn Syria right now, so I’m very fortunate to be a Canadian. But I don’t really think in terms of my music or who I am artistically is Canadian. I’m not writing about the North, I’m not part of the Group of Seven, painting landscapes of the North. If anything, I’m just a North American affected by North American things.
But the great thing about the Canadian music scene is that it’s small. And it’s given me an opportunity I wouldn’t have had if there were as many bands in Canada as there are in the States, to have my voice and our brand of rock and roll to shine through to a small country that really supports its arts. They put real fundings into the arts and music, they offer grants, they really try to help us and I’m very thankful for that. And it’s a small community so I know artists from Victoria to Halifax that I’ve met along the way and they’re some of my favourite musicians in the world, who I bet most people in Hollywood wouldn’t have a clue about. And being a vast country with so many different genres and landscapes, it’s beautiful as hell, so it’s inspiring in that way. But again, I wish that I could say this more gracefully, but I don’t think our music is Canadian so to speak— Canadiana if you will.
What’s in store for the Glorious Sons’ fall tour? Have you guys developed more in the past year?
Yeah, I think each album we reach a level that we’re uncomfortable with and then we have to force ourselves to feel comfortable in it. I think we’re always getting better and as for our live shows, if you play for six, seven years together, and you play two-thirds of the year, you’re going to get better. So we’re always improving and always finding new ways to excite ourselves and our fans. If you’re not surprising yourself and impressing yourself then nobody else is going to be.
Catch the Glorious Sons’ on their Canadian headline tour:
10/30 – Kamloops, BC at Sagebrush Theatre*
11/01 – Victoria, BC at Save On Foods Memorial Centre
11/02 – Vancouver, BC at Commodore Ballroom
11/03 – Vancouver, BC at Commodore Ballroom
11/05 – Kelowna, BC at Prospera Place
11/07 – Grande Prairie, AB at Revolution Place
11/08 – Medicine Hat, AB at Canalta Centre
11/09 – Calgary, AB at MacEwan Hall
11/13 – Lethbridge, AB at Enmax Centre
11/14 – Regina, SK at Conexus Centre
11/15 – Saskatoon, SK at TCU Place
11/17 – Winnipeg, MB at Burton Cummings Theatre
11/19 – Thunder Bay, ON at Community Auditorium
11/22 – Toronto, ON at Scotiabank Arena (formerly ACC)