There are a handful of rock and roll queens scattered across Canada that are not only out-playing and upstaging grungy boys and their overly-done testosterone aggression, but are continuously rewriting the book on hot guitars and overdriven sounds. Starting in Vancouver, No Sinner, a blues rock powerhouse, is fronted by the indomitable Colleen Rennison, a force unto herself with pipes to match. Travel half a day east on our beloved Trans-Canada Highway and our very own Miesha Louie, of Miesha & the Spanks, vies for garage grit contention. In the heart of the nation, Toronto, bands like Little Foot Long Foot and the Sphinxes each feature women at the front of the stage that are not only kicking boys out of their (ostensibly) own rock and roll club, but firmly locking the door and sneering from within.
At the centre of Canada, in the isolated and blisteringly cold city of Winnipeg — a city that, in the past couple of years, is re-emerging as a fertile breeding ground for rock and roll — the Vibrating Beds, a power-trio fronted by Jenna Dangerous, have stepped into the ring and are looking to make a name for themselves.
In their short three years together, the Vibrating Beds have fit in well with the rock and roll scene in Winnipeg, largely clustered around the venerable Transistor 66 label, which puts the bleeding heart and soul of rock and roll centre stage. Blending the timeless sounds of ’50s Motown and doo-wop with the overdriven, anxious energy of modern blues guitar legends and snarling Motor City punk gusto, Dangerous and company, including Ryan Filteau on drums and Leif Gobeil on bass, have been criss-crossing Canada to growing audiences everywhere. Their strength lies not only in Dangerous’ red-hot guitar playing — which propels the band like it’s still 1979 — but their impeccable songwriting, too.
“Definitely, I take more of a rock and roll approach to our music. A lot of our influences have really hot guitars, really overdriven, really grungy-sounding stuff,” says Dangerous from her home in Winnipeg. “We’re all really into the Oblivions and pretty much anything Greg Cartwright does. We used to listen to a lot of Mean Jeans and Ryan loves Motörhead. Our sound tends to be more high energy. That being said, we do like doing ballads. I like playing the guitar, so may as well make it the focal point. We want to have a really exciting live show.”
Dangerous has been playing music since she was a child, starting with the piano when she was eight or nine. A year later, she decided that she wanted to be in a band, though the guitar was not her instrument of choice at first.
“I first picked up the drums, she says, “and didn’t really like it as much, so I saved up my money and bought my first guitar. I started playing when I was 10 and learning chords… my dad was really into Stevie Ray Vaughan and I remember he used to make me watch videos in the basement with him. So, though that, I got into the blues: I used to listen to Stevie, Jimi Hendrix and Peter Frampton,” she laughs. “I learned to solo just by playing along with their records.” On her own records, she is not timid, liberally unleashing a flurry of bluesy, soulful solos throughout.
The blues ended up leading her back in time to the soul and R&B scenes, from which she also draws inspiration. “Etta James, I would say, is one of my biggest influences,” she confirms. Onstage, her voice is deep and expressive, belting out garage ragers alongside heartfelt ballads. “It’s that great, clean instrument playing with powerful, raw vocals. She was an amazing vocalist. We really enjoy the sort of old-school, Motown sound. Ryan is really into Northern Soul and we all love the Dap Kings and stuff. It sort of naturally went that way — I’m really into the Detroit Cobras. My songwriting went that way and I found that my voice sort of fit.”
With two 7″s on their resume, one in 2011 and one this year, the Vibrating Beds show no signs of slowing down. Already, they are preparing material for a winter recording session, though if it ends up being a 7″ or a proper full-length has not yet been decided. For now, they’re playing continuously, getting out of town as much as possible and shredding up stages across Canada to growing fanfare. One thing is for certain: rock and roll was meant to be played this way.
Catch the Vibrating Beds at the Palomino on October 19.
By Sebastian Buzzalino