By Christine Leonard
CALGARY – When we caught wind that legends of stoner rock Barn Burner were reuniting for a series of shows, the first question that came to mind was whether, or not, the loud, thirsty, get-in-the-van, thrash metal band was on a mission from God. Having hung up their toques some five years ago, the hard partying band seemed to have flickered out after releasing two albums, Bangers (2009 New Romance for Kids) and Bangers II: Scum of the Earth (2011 Metal Blade). This parting of ways was even more painful given that the iconic group had an unproduced album still in the hopper at the time. Though unexpected, the dissolution of Barn Burner came in a manner that seemed both natural and fitting, according to guitarist ‘Handsome’ Cam Noakes.
“I think the way the band ended was appropriate at the time for everybody’s personal lives. And, there was zero animosity in that decision everybody was on the same page, so we’ve all remained really good friends,” explains Noakes. “We only put out two records, officially. We had started working on a third record, the year before we split up, and our label passed on it. At the same time, Pat (Bennett) had a lot of obligations with his other band, so we were looking for another bass player. It was just getting to a point where we all looked at each other and asked ‘Do we want to keep pushing this thing that is losing traction? Or, do we want to end on a high note?’ We opted for the high note and everybody just picked up their instruments and started new bands and new projects.”
With guitarist/vocalist Kevin Keegan returning to his home province of B.C. to take up with Dead Quiet, Noakes forged ahead with other ventures including his ‘70s power rock inspired outfit, Sick Things, which just released their self-titled debut in July. Bassist Bennett, also known for his work with Trigger Effect, Beat Cops, Firearchy, Psychotic 4, Courtaud, Mountain Dust and as a soloist under the moniker Old Boy, had no trouble finding his own distractions.
“We’ve all been super active for sure. Obviously, Kevin being back in Vancouver now doing Dead Quiet, we don’t see him very often. I still play in a band with, Barn Burner’s drummer, Taylor (Freund) and I play in another band with Pat the bass player. So, we’re all still buddies doing music,” Noakes affirms. “We’ve always joked about getting the back together and then one day we just got an offer. We were asked to play the Pouzza Fest, here in Montreal, in May and we thought about for about two seconds collectively and then went ‘Yeah, of course! Why not?’ It was a total blast! The promoter lives in Toronto and offered us a TO show the night before, and then we got a few more offers, and it just kinda snowballed. We figured why not make a trip out West and give everybody a good show?”
All that was left was for these brothers to get back into fighting shape as a functioning musical entity. By Noakes’ estimation, the process of refamiliarizing themselves with Barn Burner’s songs and signature style was as easy as falling off a bike.
“There was one day we had booked and we figured we’d show up to this rehearsal and it would just be like old times; get on and the songs would come back to us one hundred percent. The first run through of the set that we did was so terrible. It was just like we were all in complete shock at just how badly we had forgotten how to do this. We were all standing there looking at each other like ‘Oh, shit. The show is in five days. We have to haul ass on this now!”
They needed a montage.
“We were a little disillusioned,” he confesses. “But, then the second time we did it — it was perfect. We had gotten through that really busy first attempt and then right after that things just clicked! Honestly, I think it sounded even better than it had before, because Kevin’s been touring, writing and releasing music since Barn Burner broke up and then I’ve been doing the same thing with my band the Sick Things and Pat has been doing the same thing with his band. We’re all still so active in music; we’ve inevitably gotten a bit better at our instrumentation and stuff, so when we got back together to do old Barn Burner songs it was like a whole new band!”
Primed to set fire to stages across Western Canada in November, the bilingual Barn Burner has curated a reunion playlist of their most engaging and enraging tunes. Or, as Noakes puts it “What are the best songs we have? What’s going to get people moving, singing and just having the best time?”
Never ones to consider themselves tough guys, despite their affection for laying down some seriously aggressive music, Barn Burner has earned their reputation as a foundational band in their genre. And it definitely brings a smile to their faces every time they see someone out at a show sporting one of their old patches or referencing them when citing their favourite rock metal acts.
“That still surprises and it makes me feel so good hearing that from people. It’s both unbelievable and surreal and it just makes that connection that we’ve always had with our fans out west feel that much better. It’s nice to know you made a mark somewhere. But, as far as Barn Burner goes, I don’t think we’ll do anything new. Unless we just do it for fun and throw it online. I’d do it in a heartbeat and I’m sure everybody else in the band would too,” Noakes estimates. “It’s not one of those things where only we’ll perform live for $10,000 dollars. If you can help us fly out there, and give us a floor to crash on, we’ll totally play your bar mitzvah. We’ve always had a fun together, so if it’s an excuse to hang out together and have a bunch of laughs we’ll do it.”
Barn Burner performs November 15 at Broken City (Calgary), November 17 at V-Lounge (Victoria), November 18 at The Wise Hall (Vancouver)Broken City, The Wise Hall, V-Lounge