Night Committee’s debut album, Crime, shows a lot of influences –– a bit of garage rock here, some residual post-punk energy there –– but what it doesn’t sound like to me is roots. But, as singer/guitarist Andrew Wedderburn tells it, that was the direction in which this band was going at first.
He’s a man open to change. In 2009, the Calgarian was still in Hot Little Rocket, a band with four albums and a musical footprint of which to be proud. When they split up, he wanted to take up the songwriting reigns in his next band.
“I had these ideas for stuff that was more specific, where I wanted more control from the idea through to how it sounded as a finished song. It didn’t necessarily fit directly with the tone of feeling of what Hot Little Rocket did,” he says.
He brought that attitude along when he started Night Committee with Hot Little Rocket drummer Joel Nye. Bringing in guitarist Brooker Buckingham and bassist Laurie Fuhr, they started in what Wedderburn calls a “country and western direction.”
While he was the songwriter for the band, everyone still participated in the arrangements. “It’s not like I hum all the parts the night before on GarageBand and come in with a blueprint.”
Eventually, with the idea of being a roots band still in their mind, they brought in Lorrie Matheson on organ. The Cowtown scene stalwart had produced Hot Little Rocket’s last album and Wedderburn had enjoyed working with him.
“I remembered seeing Lorrie playing the organ in a band way back when, called Thousandsticks,” says Wedderburn. “We went to him, and he was like, ‘I’ve actually got carpal tunnel, so it’s actually really painful for me to play.’ And I was like, ‘Well, what if you stretch your wrists…’”
Eventually though, Buckingham and Fuhr had to leave the city, and that’s where the band you can hear on Crime began to take shape. Originally, the three members were looking for replacements because, as Wedderburn says, that’s just what a band does.
“I was like, ‘Well, we have to get another guitar player, because I can’t be the only guitar player. We’ll have to get a bass player, because you have to have a bass player.’”
At some point, the idea occurred to them to continue as a trio, with Matheson filling in bass parts on the organ. The three-piece sound now defines them. The songs are direct and no-nonsense, with no unnecessary frills to be seen.
At the time, though, they couldn’t know the lineup would work so well. Wedderburn remembers having his doubts right up to when they were playing their first show as a trio.
“It was really frightening. I was wondering if this was going to work. In a lot of ways, we’re cranky traditionalists about stuff. ‘Aw, you got to have a bass player because bands have to have bass players. If it breaks the rock ’n’ roll rules, don’t do that.’
“But then you realize that’s the stupidest possible reason to do something, just because it breaks some rule.”
Getting away from the rules of music is an effort Wedderburn’s always trying to make.
“What initially attracts you to punk rock as a kid is that it’s exciting and new and you’re supposed to be able to do anything you want. But then you very quickly fall into, ‘Yeah, punk rock, you can anything you want, as long as it’s like this, this and this.’
“It gets very codified. You think to yourself you’re too smart to think like that, until you’re standing in the crowd at the Night Gallery, thinking, ‘Yeah, this is nice, but these guys aren’t actually punk rock.’”
Night Committee might not be punk rock or country, but they are damn good and that’s all Wedderburn needs.
Night Committee are playing Friday, August 3 at Broken City. Feral Children and Miesha and the Spanks open.
By James Brotheridge
Photo: Brenda Bazylewski