By Julijana Capone
CALGARY — Winnipeg bass-and-drum combo Duotang have a new record, called New Occupation, their first full-length since 2001. Considering the band’s demise began in Calgary (during an argument-turned-fist-fight over ordering chicken or pizza), it only makes sense then that the reformed duo should launch a Western Canadian tour in support of the album from the same city where, over a decade ago, it all imploded.
After a string of successful reunion shows in 2014 and 2015, which led to some new material surfacing, all signs had been pointing to a new album. While Duotang’s sound has always been informed by a number of sources, on New Occupation they haven’t lost sight of those garage-infused touches. With 15 more years in, it’s confident, minimalist rock ‘n’ roll fuzz ornamented with vox and self-aware lyrics. Not of one particular time, and still best served live.
“I was ready to be done after our first reunion show in Winnipeg at The Good Will,” says drummer Sean Allum. “It was like this perfect night. We played great. Everybody loved it. I was the one pushing to do that show. Rod didn’t really want to do it. Then Rod brought in these new songs… This is by far our best album. Duotang 2016 is what Duotang 2001 always wanted to be.”
“We have nothing to worry about and nothing to prove,” adds vocalist/bassist Rod Slaughter. “That’s a nice feeling. We’re just making music that feels right.”
The album’s tongue-in-cheek lead track sets the tone with the repeating refrain “nostalgia’s a vice and I lack self-restraint,” a jab at those who’re stuck in the past. “We all know people like that, who are like, ‘It’s not good if it’s not from 1966,’” says Slaughter. “By the end of the song, I realize I’m the exact same way. I’m that person that I’m complaining about.”
While two-thirds of the album’s content is new, some of the material was written at different times. “Friends,” for instance, originally appeared on the band’s first 7-inch. Even still, it all comes together into a cohesive narrative, commenting on the struggle to balance work and responsibilities (“New Occupation”) while fulfilling other passions (“That’s What Keeps Us Alive”).
“I think the main theme is poking fun at people like us that are working a 9-to-5, and are still focused on doing the right thing to keep the roof over our heads,” explains Slaughter. “But we’re not whole, we don’t feel right. We need to fill our lives with other things—whether they’re creative or destructive.”
In the decade or so following their split, both members have settled into careers, and Allum now has two children (his 11-year-old daughter, Abby, appears in the mods-versus-rockers-themed video for “Karma Needs to Come Around”).
Despite the fact that Duotang never did achieve any substantial level of notoriety, they still managed to make a permanent mark on many within the Canadian indie-rock scene of the late-‘90s and early 2000s.
“If there was ever anything to say about Duotang, it’s what this guy once told me in Calgary,” says Allum. “He said: ‘You’re never gonna make it, but you’ll influence some bands.’ At the time it was kind of a knock on us, but you talk about Duotang now with people that were in the music scene, and they really liked us. We never had a huge audience. The small following of fans that really dug us, a lot of them were musicians.”
Now many of the musicians that got behind them in their heyday are showing their support once again. Stomp Records founder and Planet Smashers frontman Matt Collyer is releasing New Occupation on his label. Vancouver power-pop act Uptights will be joining Duotang on all of their Western Canadian tour dates. Apparently, Uptights organist Jesse Gander (also a well-known record producer) reached out to Slaughter after hearing the band was putting out a new album. As well, Brent Oliver (Duotang’s manager) will be resurrecting his long dismantled outfit, Slow Fresh Oil, with Lyle Bell (of The Wet Secrets) for Duotang’s Edmonton date.
“Admittedly, we were never very big, and now most people have no idea who we are,” says Slaughter. “But the fact that some people who we really admire and respect are saying it’s great that you’re doing this, that means the world to us.”
“It’s all coming back full circle,” says Allum.
Duotang perform at The Palomino on October 28 (Calgary), 9910 on October 29 (Edmonton), Canmore Hotel on November 2 (Canmore), The Biltmore on November 3 (Vancouver), Copper Owl on November 4 (Victoria) and The Good Will on November 12 (Winnipeg). To purchase New Occupation, head to stomprecords.com. Also listen to the track “The Mentors,” which premiered on BeatRoute.ca earlier this month.9910, AB, Alberta, BC, Biltmore Cabaret, British Columbia, Canmore Hotel, Copper Owl, Duotang, Good Will Social Club, Manitoba, MB, New Occupation, Palomino