By Christine Leonard
CALGARY — Summer is the perfect time of year to relax around Winnipeg’s Dead Ranch. Prized for their sprawling stoner rock vistas and pummeling prairie thunderstorms, the gritty quartet has been beating up the tour circuit since the release of their stunning 2013 LP, Antler Royal. A visceral onslaught of rib-cracking riffs ensnared by sludgey inflections, Dead Ranch’s ominous skill set reads like the menu at a Roadkill Cafe. Breaking away from the fray to record their first new album in three years, guitarist/vocalist Chad Alsop and company enlisted gun-for-hire producer Jesse Gander (White Lung, Japandroids) to breathe life to their latest creation.
“We were always considering using our buddy Jesse again,” Alsop says. “We decided to fly him out to Winnipeg this time and recorded at Exchange District Studios. The album’s called Brumation, hopefully it will be out in October, but we’ll see. We’re also going into the studio in September to do a split with a great noise-rock band from Halifax called Botfly. The split going to be released through Dwyer Records, and then, once the artwork by Kate Francis is done, we’re looking for a different label to support our new full-length.”
In addition to seeking fresh label representation, Alsop, along with drummer Ryley Divine and guitarist/vocalist Andre Cornejo, are adjusting to the addition of a new band member following the departure of bassist Steve Henderson. Despite being a recent addition to the rough-riding foursome, Dead Ranch’s incoming bassist/vocalist Alana Mercer (Chica Boom Boom, The Quiffs, The Blowholes, The Gunness) has a long history of kicking ass and taking names.
“I first encountered Alana when I was 16 or 17 and used to sneak into shows in Winnipeg, I saw her in this band called The Quiffs; just four girls playing the grossest most awesome punk ever and I was all ‘Holy shit!’ A few years down the line, I get to meet her and she turns out to be one of the coolest people and best musicians that I’ve met. Things weren’t really working out with our other bass player, that’s kind of the way it goes sometimes, and she asked if she could learn some of the riffs. She picked up on it so fast and now she’s a contributing writer. We were hoping to get someone to go on tour and she was like ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do and I really dig your music!’”
Picking up Dead Ranch’s trail where the staggering majesty of Antler Royal left off, the cacophonous tension of Brumation offers a glimpse inside the inner churnings of a band that has never shied away from the waking nightmare of existence.
“I think Brumation is an uglier, meaner album than Antler Royal, which has more eloquent, technical sounding parts,” says Alsop. “The shit Andre and I were going through at the time is reflected in the music. It’s definitely a cathartic release. Dirtier and more distorted with lots of anti-chords that convey the sense that something ain’t quite right. The way Andre and I accent each other guitars, and Riley’s drumming too, just produces an uneasy mood. We recorded the songs a while ago, but couldn’t wait to play them live. It was eating us up inside!
“Continuing the animal themes: our first EP, Birds of Pray, referenced birds, Antler Royal [referenced] mammals, and so Brumation describes hibernation for reptiles — where they’re in a state of suspended animation, and then they thaw out, and they’re back. Kind of like how we’ve been inactive for a while, but look — we’re still here! We’ve got new stuff! We’re not dead!”
See Dead Ranch on their Western Canadian tour in August. They perform August 6th in Saskatoon at Amigo’s, August 8th in Edmonton at Filthy McNasty’s, August 13th in Vancouver at the Waldorf during Burger Fest, on August 17th in Siksika First Nation, on August 18th in Lethbridge at an “ask a punk” (secret) location, and on August 19th in Calgary at Distortion.AB, Alberta, Amigos, BC, British Columbia, Dead Ranch, Distortion, Filthy McNasty’s, Siksika First Nation, Waldorf Hotel