By Neil Mcdonald
It’s fair to say that Moncton, N.B., fuzz-rockers The Motorleague have had their share of ups and downs.
Since forming in 2006 with members culled from the remains of beloved East Coast bands like The Ditchpigs, The Monoxides and Hope, the band has gone through 11 lineup changes, won two East Coast Music Awards and destroyed a van in a collision with some wildlife on the 401.
In June, the band released Acknowledge, Acknowledge on Halifax indie Sonic Records, the follow-up to their successful 2009 debut Black Noise. As the group’s lead singer and guitarist Don Levandier explained in a phone interview this week, however, recording sessions for the album actually began in 2010, with more lineup changes and all manner of bad luck responsible for the holdup in getting the album out.
“There was just delay after delay after delay getting that record made,” he said, while waiting to soundcheck before a show in Kingston, Ont. “We were definitely in what people call ‘record hell,’ just with this epic record that’s never going to come out. You know, people quit the band, it’s like, ‘The band’s got no future, the record’s never going to come out,’ and it was a pretty dark time.”
Having to fly out from Moncton to return to the studio in Toronto “seven or eight times” to fix things up also didn’t help the timeline or the band’s finances, though Levandier said producer Steve Rizun (The Flatliners, The Creepshow) “did a fantastic job on the record.”
Levandier continued: “I think we just went through every kind of (bad) thing that you can go through and I just look at it as a test of character, just that we could actually survive it as a band and for me to see if I could actually weather it. But we did, you know, it’s out now. I can’t really speak for the other guys but I’m very proud of it, maybe not even (just) musically but just the fact that we went through every degree of hell. And we wrote a van off making that record. We hit a deer on the 401 and just destroyed the van, so we had lots of hair-raising experiences as a rock and roll band making that record.”
Heavily influenced by the driving punk of Bad Religion and the fuzzed-out California stoner rock of bands like Fu Manchu, Black Noise earned the band two East Coast Music Awards and a Music New Brunswick award in 2010. Levandier, who is the band’s main songwriter, said the follow-up marks a change from the amps-on-10 assault of their debut.
“From the first album to this album, they’re night and day different. We started off just wanting to be a really … riff-y rock band like Fu Manchu, Kyuss, really dirty single-string riffs through super-fuzzy, dirty amps that sound like they’re on fire, and just straight ahead, everything four-on-the-floor and loud.”
For Acknowledge, Acknowledge, however, Levandier said he “figured for this record we would need to be a little bit more diversified and tone it down a bit, so this one takes a breather. Maybe we’re just getting older, too, and we can’t play as fast, I don’t know, that could also be part of it.”
The band’s latest video, for the Acknowledge, Acknowledge song Failsafes, is made up entirely of screenshots from old-school video games like Leisure Suit Larry and Sim City, a somewhat nerdish salute to early-’90s gaming that might seem out of place for a hard rock band. Levandier, however, said he grew up playing games like these and Dungeons and Dragons and said the video is “kind of an ultimate inside joke” for himself.
“It was a very easy video to make in the sense that I think anybody with a bit of computer knowledge could make it. It’s not that technically difficult to do. So I just put it together and it was just kind of for fun, I didn’t really think anyone was going to take it seriously,” he said.
“I love old computers, I’m just a dork for that stuff.”
Though lineup changes have been a constant for The Motorleague throughout their career, the current roster has now been together for almost two years and includes Levandier and fellow original member and guitarist Nathan Jones, along with the band’s fourth drummer, Francis Landry, and, by Levandier’s count, their seventh bass player, Shawn Chiasson.
Levandier said the sheer number of changes to the band’s rhythm section has become something of a Spinal Tap-like running joke among the band and their friends, though any thoughts of packing it in are far from his mind.
“There’s always a reason not to quit, no matter how trivial it is. There’s always some reason to keep going and some reason to want to get one more person in the band but I think that the fact that we’ve been able to keep putting new people in the band also makes it so it doesn’t get boring,” he said.
The Motorleague at Capers, 1 Queen St. N., Kitchener as part of the KOI Music Festival // Saturday, Sept. 14 // 4:15 p.m. set time
The Motorleague w/The Flatliners, Warbride // Club Vinyl, Guelph // Friday Sept. 20 // $13 advance, $15 at the door / All ages / licensed // Doors 6 p.m.