By Jenna Lee Williams
EDMONTON — Soulful, swaggering rockabilly outfit Sam Spades hail from Edmonton and were “birthed on all hallows eve” less than two short years ago. On their upcoming full-length Wolf, they’ve adeptly captured the high level of energy, intensity and sound that you will hear at one of their live shows. BeatRoute had the pleasure discussing the origins of the band and upcoming release with three members of the outfit, including Sam Heine (vocalist and guitarist), John Richards (double bassist and vocalist) and Gregory Hann (vocalist).
After only three short practices, Sam Spades played their first show on Halloween of 2013, opening for Montreal pyschobilly outfit The Brains. When asked how things came together so quickly, it all came down to the larger Edmonton music family that they are all a part of. Heine (who was a member of Sam Hate and the Jackals) played a show with Richards’ band at the time (the Benders) and this is where the two initially met. Time passed; both left Edmonton and returned.
In the summer of 2013 they reunited when Heine acted as wingman for Richards on a date at the Empress.
“The date was so successful that we had to go jam in the river valley. It was bedlam. I almost destroyed my instrument,” chuckles Richards.
“We started rehearsing in Mill Creek ravine,” adds Heine.
After those first few summer jams, school began and Richards met Hann. Both were students at MacEwan University and enrolled in the Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Popular Music program. While Hann’s musical experience was far different (as a former member of the Cape Breton Celtic band Sprag Sessions, the drummer had toured internationally), he was interested in playing rockabilly. Sam Spades was born. Later on, guitarist and fellow music student Trevor McNeely and organist Danica Long (who also plays in a jazz trio with Hann and Richards) joined. They know describe their sound “as soulful, with plenty of swagger.”
Spanning six tracks, Wolf was recorded by Doug Organ (who played organ on “Last Call” and “Burnt out Satellite”) at Edmontone Studio. The recording was mastered in Halifax by Jay Lapoint (Archive Mastering); their first single is the title track. In an interview with Jasper-based publication Fitzhugh, Heine noted that “Wolf” will shock people.
“It is so raw and straightforward,” he says when asked to elaborate. “I think it is kind of incredible because how that song is written; it does rely on some innuendo, but not very much. It is just really straightforward and shoveled out. We come from a time; we are living in a lifestyle right now, where we are all on the hunt. We are all wolves.”
“I think lyrically, for rockabilly, that song is a bit more forward that a lot of the sort of traditional rockabilly tunes. If we play at an outdoor festival during the day, moms are going to be covering their kids ears for that one,” adds Richards.
Heine points out that although it sways from the style of traditional rockabilly lyrics, it is hard to shock people anymore.
Whether or not you find Sam Spades’ sound shocking, you will definitely not be able to resist the dance floor.
“You know that feeling you get at a show and it feels good you are having a good time? I want to give that to people,” concludes Richards.
Catch Sam Spades CD/LP release in Edmonton on January 31st at the Pawn Shop with The Frolics. Catch them in Calgary on February 12th at Oak Tree Tavern and on March 20th at Wine-Ohs.AB, Alberta, Oak Tree Tavern, Pawn Shop, Sam Spades, Wine-Ohs