by Johnny Papan
VANCOUVER – The Damn Truth are a hard-rock group from Montreal, Quebec. Influenced by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, the Beatles and 90s grunge-rock, members of the band found it hard to fit into their local scene, which, at the time, was mostly producing indie-pop bands. The group, however, still felt a thirst for old-school rock n’ roll, releasing their first record; Dear in the Headlights in 2012 and are now touring in support of their follow-up; Devilish Folk.
“The album is really a collection of short stories,” explains lead guitarist Tom Sherner. Devilish Folk explores a classic, aggressive rock style layered with fuzzy guitars, pounding rhythms, and outlaw vocals from frontwoman Leela Baum. “Devilish folk is who we all are. We all have the devil inside us. What we do with it makes us human,” Sherner continues.
As their partyful “Heart So Cold” video would suggest, the Damn Truth eat, sleep, and breathe sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, proving that they are no strangers to exploring their devilish side. Bassist PY Letellier recalls some of the band’s wildest tour stories.
“It’s evening time on the Rock Legends cruise and everybody is half cut,” Letellier explains. “The artists had their own bar tucked away somewhere on the ship and it’s the after party. Dave and I decided to head out to the hot tub in front of the main stage where Bad Company were playing. On our way to the top deck a fan waved us down for to snap a photo and slipped us a ‘magic chocolate’ bar as a gift, warning us to only eat one piece.” The magic bar in question was filled with psychedelic mushrooms.
“As hundreds of fans were screaming for Bad Company, we slipped into the hot tub and joined in the festivities. At some point everything around us began to melt!” Letellier recalls. “I can’t remember anything after a certain point but I came onto the upper deck, two guys in Hazmat suits pressure washing the ship. Trippy to say the least. Dave was carried by two escorts as they took him away to his room, I assumed. I was in a state of confusion and delirium as another set of escorts attempt to coax my room number from me, to which I replied ‘I can’t walk, I’ve lost my sea legs.’ I ended up being taken to my room in a wheelchair covered in towels to protect my spotless reputation…”
That’s not the craziest of them. While playing a festival in Ontario alongside the Glorious Sons, Letellier remembers drinking until the green groom had been completely dried out of booze. After somehow convincing the hotel they were staying at to supply them with more alcohol, Letellier and a tour manager walked out to find cigarettes. After getting smokes from a grinning radio host at four in the morning, Letellier and his tour manager had an encounter straight from a horror movie.
“On our way back towards the bus we saw a figure walking towards us who looked like he was wearing a pink shirt,” Letellier states. “As he got closer, we realized he was wearing a white shirt covered in blood and his index finger was sort of hanging off. The moonlight glinting off his bone. He was panicking and telling us he was going to die.” Letellier continues: “When we got to the party, I yelled for duct tape and whiskey. We were gonna fix this guy up the old fashioned way. I cleaned his wound with water and bourbon and then wrapped it with gauze and duct tape. After the wound was closed and secured I asked him to do one more thing for me. I looked past the fear in his eyes and said: ‘Take this shot, you’re fine!’”
Not everything outside the musical aspect of the band is booze, shrooms, and duct-tape. Lead vocalist Leela Baum recalls some of the more touching moments for the band, particularly when it comes to their songwriting.
“‘Just a Reflection,’ off our first album Dear in the Headlights, is one of those that came to Tom in a dream,” Baum exclaims. “He had just heard that a good friend of his had committed suicide and the next morning he woke up with a gift of song. ‘Just a Reflection’ has always been extremely emotional to perform live and when we recorded it we were visited by a ghost. You can hear it on the recording. The studio we recorded in had never heard anything like it before or since.”
Baum continues: “During the writing process of Devilish Folk I found out I was pregnant and a lot of what Tom and I were dealing with at the time started pouring into the songwriting. Fears and doubts. ‘Would we be good parents? Can we not make the same mistakes our parents made? How is this gonna work with our rock n roll dreams?’ There was also the intense fear that we were making a huge mistake, how could we be bringing an innocent baby into this fucked up world? Songs like ‘Pirates and Politicians’ and ‘Plastic Flowers’ came from that place. There was of course joy and wonder as well as vulnerability. At our first ultrasound we recorded our baby’s heartbeat and it fit perfectly into the opening verse of Devilish Folk.”
It’s no secret that being an artist is a risky and rocky road. At the same time, drummer Dave Traina feels that sometimes there just aren’t any other options, and things will work out if they’re meant to be.
“By the time we were kids we all knew we would make music our lives. We didn’t choose it, it chose us. We’ve worked for years at our instruments, our art, and our relationships. Our attitude has been to push our music as far and hard as it can go. Everything else in our lives has sort fallen into place. Work hard, have confidence and anything is possible. 2018 is probably one of the best times to be an artist ever, the playing field is as level as it has ever been..“
Traina concludes: “We love hitting the west coast. Coming from across the country, it’s really incredible to be able to travel and play music. When we hit the stage, we explode, we thrive on stage and give every person the room a glimpse into our souls. We really put it all out on the stage.”
The Damn Truth play at the Byrd (Surrey) on March 28, the Cobalt (Vancouver) on March 29, the Royal on Baker (Nelson) on March 30, Doc Willoughby’s (Kelowna) on March 31, the Starlite Room (Edmonton) on April 4 and the Night Owl (Calgary) on April 5.
https://tools.applemusic.com/en-us/details/1112246197?country=ca&media=all&term=devlish+folk&type=albumbyrd, Cobalt, the damn truth