By Brad Simm
CALGARY – When The Rumble emerged five years ago they were a Clash-influence rowdy bunch of rockers playing for beer and the love of being alive. Since then there’s been a few line-up changes although the core of band, Thomas Coles frontman and vocalist playing chord crunching guitar with some keyboards, Luke Thomson the lead twangmaster, and T-Bone Miller, maniac behind the drum kit, has remained the same.
Coles says, “We’ve mellowed a touch. We’re more singer-songwritery than a big loud rock band now, I suppose. But we’ve never wanted to be a band that does one thing. We’ve avoided being a band that does one specific thing on purpose.”
Multi-directional they are, largely due to Coles’ sense of wonderment and to get off the beaten path, quite literally. A year ago he pulled up stakes when The Rumble’s band house expired as a party zone, and left Calgary retreating to his mom’s cabin at Sylvan Lake.
“It’s not really a cabin, it’s not really in the woods. But I tell people I live there all by myself.” While not quite the isolated eccentric, Coles definitely travels down the literary, artist bohemian road and is not someone who’s afraid to get his hands dirty. Attending Red Deer College taking philosophy and English courses in the morning, he works as an “odd-jobber” in the afternoon, then records demos on a port-a-studio at night and plays gigs on the weekend. As an oddjobber, he talks about some rather grungy cleanup work that involves sifting through a maze of spider nests beneath rotting trailer park homes and clearing out used hypodermic needles from an abandon warehouse.
To offset his unglamorous, waging earning activities, Coles has taken to fantasy literature. “Yeah, I’ve been discovering the world of fantasy novels. Fantasy is great way to go. I’m finishing the Dark Tower series by Stephen King. And I’m just starting the Name Of The Wind in the The Kingkiller Chronicle series, which is pretty popular, very Games of Thrones-like.
Does fantasy come into The Rumble?
“No, not yet. Not until we hit our prog phase, which I’m kind of getting into,” chuckles Coles. “I don’t know, maybe it’s coming.”
Band members are giant Ween fans, having made the pilgrimage to Colorado last summer to see them. “We’re all Ween freaks. Maybe that’s our model on unpredictability and variety. But we don’t do anything silly. I don’t think there’s much of a comparison between The Rumble and Ween.”
Not yet. But forge some fantasy with spider nests, used needles, a budding interest in prog-rock and a Ween-like future might be a good possibility. At the moment, however, The Rumble with their literary leanings posses he potency of storytellers like Townes Van Zant and Lee Hazlewood along with a strong injection of rock ‘n’ roll dramatics.
Less Medicine is their second full length that traverses off into numerous directions but still remains unified. The lead track, “Locked Away,” sets the multi-dimensional pace with a bouncy, melodic electro-pop feel that’s chopped up by some funky rhythm guitar and erratic beats. What seems like back-up female vocals is actually Coles hitting the high register sounding very ‘60s’ girl group cum ‘70s’ disco.
“Yeah,” laughs Coles, “that’s all me doing the falsettos. That’s our catchy pop song that starts off the album. It’s a fictional account, a made-up love story about some guy that’s been locked up in prison and tries to get with his old girlfriend when he gets out.”
Reverting to a more rumba-like groove, “Ciabola” has swampy overtones fuelled by a furious guitar riff provided by Coles unleashing Nashville flash on the fretboard with some zany gang vocals overriding everything.
“That song is rooted in a real story, in that’s it’s based on this character in Stephen King’s The Stand, which both T-Bone and I really like. And such a long story for so few lyrics. In the book most of the world’s population is wiped out by a disease and all the good people go to Bolder, Colorado, and all the evil people follow the devil to Las Vegas.
“There’s this character called the Trashcan Man, a schizo and a pyromaniac, who’s guided by these dreams and the demon promising him paradise in the desert, which he calls Ciabola and takes off on a bicycle to pursue. So that’s what the song is about: this crazy dude riding across the desert singing Ciabola to himself. King describes it (the melody) as different words to a popular song at the time. So we decided to write music for the Trashman’s ditty. The funny thing is that the tune King was referencing was a Tower of Power song, no doubt about it. Shame on us for knowing our ‘70s’ funk disco.”
Delving deeper into the lyric book, “Talker” starts off with a moody piano and Coles’ plaintive vocals….
You should have known all along
And I should have too
Love is more than mixing leaves
And boiling water
It isn’t that I lied when I said I love you
All it is, is I’m just another talker
Just talking to myself now…
“There’s some dark shit on that one. That one’s a bummer,” says Coles quietly. “It’s about guilt, I guess. Stuff that you don’t hear enough of. You hear lots about anger and sadness, but you don’t get enough guilt in breakup songs, you know.”
“Cabinet,” which is filled with cabaret swagger contains the line from which the album’s title is taken from… “You don’t need a bigger cabinet, you need less medicine,” making reference to the abundance of life’s addiction and distractions. While it’s certainly fun and frolicking building into a wall of torrid amplification, there’s clearly a cynical tone that’s somewhat preachy although oozing with good Dylanesque.
“I know, I know,” admits Coles. “It’s probably a little bit preachy. But also the only song I’ve ever really written that has an answer of any sort to problem. Every other song is a problem. Just a big fucking problem with no answer to it. And it’s not just about wanting, needing sobriety, that’s why there’s so many different verses in the son. It’s about a number of things. Obviously the cabinet and medicine is a metaphor for sobriety, but I think it’s more about greed. Good old greed. So yeah, it’s a bit preachy, but it’s nice,” says Coles confidently, “to have an answer for once.”
The Rumble’s release dates for Less Medicine are Fri., May 12 at the Nite Owl and Sat., May 13 at the Sewing Machine Factory.Less Medicine, Nite Owl, Sewing Machine Factory, The Rumble