Interview – The Dead Mechanics

By: Sarah Ballagh

Barrie, Ontario seems to be having an uprising of talented bands oozing at the seams, and just waiting to get out there and show you what they’ve got!  The Dead Mechanics are a four piece band from the area, who are just releasing their third EP since they began together.

When did you guys begin getting together to form the band?

JUSTIN – We got together back in summer of 2009, when Jimmy called me when he moved back to the Barrie area.  Jesse was looking to play drums in band instead of his usual guitar, so that was the original line up.  We started by working on songs that I had written in my late teens and early 20’s and things just came together after that.  A couple years later when Trevor moved back to Barrie as well, we knew we needed another guitar to give us a louder and fuller sound.  We told Trev to buy a guitar and join us, so he did.

JIMMY: Duke and I played together in high school and in The Good Ideas just after high school.  I started playing with Jesse in 2003 in POTAK. Fast forward to Summer 2008 when I moved back to Barrie after university.  Duke and I wanted to play together again and Jesse had never been a drummer for a band so we started jamming.  A year later Trevor joined and the rest is history, the lineup has been stable ever since.

JESSE:  A few summers ago, Jimmy and I had previously played together in a London band named Potak and were looking for a new project. Jimmy knew Justin who’d previously drummed in a Toronto band and the trio began to rehearse and write songs in Jimmy’s basement.  Justin’s friend Trevor was added as a guitarist giving us a larger sound.

TREVOR: Jimmy, Jesse and Duke had been jamming for about a year when I moved back to Barrie. They suggested I come out to a jam, I accepted although I was so nervous I wanted to puke. The talent the three of them bring to the table is unbelievable, I somehow fumbled my way through the first jam and the rest is history.

How would you describe your sound?

JUSTIN: I’m sure this is a tough question for any musician to answer, but we try not to fall into any one category.  We are for sure a rock band but we try more to just focus on the jam or vibe of a song, rather than saying we want a song to sound like this or like that.   I’d rather leave it up to listeners to determine our sound or make their own comparisons.

JIMMY: Modern rock? We try not to focus too much on labels, there is great music in every genre!

JESSE: Our sound definitely has roots in punk rock, although we tend to stress melody, dynamics and shifting rhythms. The music is aggressive but also delicate in places.

TREVOR:  Always a tricky question, so I tend to label it rock and roll to keep it simple, although that answer normally confuses people. We have a wide range in sound but it’s rock and roll.

Where did the name for the band come from?

JUSTIN – It was early on and Trevor had just joined the group when we realized we were still unnamed.  We brought over a friend of ours, Garry, and played for him for about an hour or so, basically all the songs we had at that point.  When we were done he just looked at us and said “you should call the band Dead Mechanics”.  We really had no better suggestion at that point so we took it and ran with it.

JIMMY:  As soon as he suggested it, it just clicked with us. We liked that it had multiple interpretations and it’s always good to have plausible deniability!

JESSE: We were unnamed up to that point but had played early gigs under the name Destroy all Humans

Can you pinpoint any main influences on your music?

JUSTIN: Personally, Queens of the Stone Age and in particular Josh Homme is a huge influence for me.  The music itself and also his live stage presence factor in for me anytime I write or perform.  I think what I like the most is that he uses old rock and roll style and attitude and mixes it with modern sounds, especially their newest album.  Plus he is just a total bad ass and really embodies what rock means to me.

JIMMY: Canadian bands Ladyhawk and Burning Love were pretty big influences on some of the songs on our latest EP. We are all fans of rock-centric bands like QOTSA and RHCP but individually we have been branching out in our tastes and listening to more punk, metal, hip-hop, etc. which helps us to keep our ideas fresh.

TREVOR: Neil Young, Broken Social Scene, QOTSA, Attack in Black, Arkells and Constantines to name a few.

What is your writing process like? Do you each have your own role such as lyrics, or does that all come together as a team?

JUSTIN: That can differ on a song by song basis.  A lot of times I will just have a riff or a melody, something very primitive, and the guys will quickly fill in the blanks.  It’s one of the many advantages to playing in a band with talented musicians.  As far as lyrics, I have never really had a problem in that respect.  They are kind of always just under the surface waiting to come out.  Usually the first words that come out of my mouth are completely improvised and are pretty much what makes it to the album.  Overall it is a very collaborative effort and not one of our songs would sound the way they do without everyone’s ideas put in there somewhere.

JESSE: Justin is the primary songwriter and lyricist but everyone helps shape the songs together during jams. Regular sessions allow us to keep developing new material and also keep us sane.

JIMMY: Some songs start out with Justin coming up with sketches of a chord progression and a melody, others develop completely organically through unstructured jamming. Justin writes all the lyrics. All our songs are refined, tweaked and polished democratically with all of us in the same room over a period of weeks or months. We find all of our songs to “drift” over the years so we might play the same song two different ways at two different shows; our recordings capture our compositions at a moment in time, but they are still fluid conceptually. We love to jam and record all of our rehearsals, turn them in to mp3s and listen back to mine for riffs, grooves and other ideas.

TREVOR:  It’s kind of all over the place, often it starts with a riff or jam and evolves from there.  Justin has an incredible ability to simply come up with lyrics on the spot during any jam and they often end up being the lyrics for that song, it’s amazing to watch. Justin writes all of the lyrics. Some songs will take 1 or 2 practices to wrap, while others have taken months and have changed quite drastically in sound over that time. Everyone brings ideas to the table and we work them out and decide on what fits best.

Can you tell me a little bit more about the song “The Death of Everything”?

JUSTIN: Trevor actually came up with the guitar parts on this one, and I think he even wrote the opening verse as well.  As soon as we started playing it I just started thinking about how I wanted to take an upbeat and somewhat happy sounding song and give it a dark undertone, so we did that lyrically.  It makes me think of times where people you really care about let you down and you just want to walk away from them but you can’t for one reason or another.  Definitely pulled from personal experience but totally inspired by the opening verse that Trev wrote.

JIMMY:  This was actually the first song Trevor developed and brought to the table. It started off feeling very different to most of our material but it’s very natural now and definitely an essential part of our live sets.

JESSE: That’s one of our newest tunes, and a great example of the dark imagery in much of Justin’s lyrics. It’s fast-paced and aggressive but also features 3-part harmonies in the choruses. It’s one of our favourites.

TREVOR: This was a song I had been messing with for a while, one night I played it for Justin, he liked it a lot and said, that’s a Dead Mechanics song.

If you could open for any band who would that be?

JUSTIN: for sure QOTSA just to get a chance to meet them, or if we are talking all time, The Band or The Stones in their prime.  They are just too good not to witness them live in that era.

JIMMY:  Burning Love! Stay tuned…

TREVOR: Queens of the Stone Age, for sure.

What is in the works for you guys at the moment?

JUSTINI think just playing as many shows as we can right now, and always writing.  My main goal is to record and release a definitive full length album with songs from the EP and some new ones.  Hopefully even some of our old “B” sides that the crowds seem to respond to.

JIMMY: it would be amazing to finally tour Canada coast-to-coast and maybe even hit a few summer festivals.

JESSE: Barrie has a very healthy scene for original bands and live music so playing as many shows as possible is at the top of the list.

TREVOR:  We are currently talking about making a full length and looking into where we should record that, and as always jamming and writing new songs.

At Canadian Beats we like to ask some fun questions too, so we can get to know you better!

When you aren’t playing music what do you like to do with your time?

JUSTIN: Golf, the gentlemen’s game, usually ends with a considerable amount of beer and swear words.

JESSE: Reading books and play with my daughter.

What is your favorite ice cream?

JUSTIN: Ice Cream hurts my teeth.  Next question

Is there a musician/band that all of your band members really enjoy?

JUSTIN: QOTSA,Run the Jewels, Broken Social Scene, The  Arkells

JESSE: We love local heroes the Alpacas and For the Birds.

Where is somewhere that you would love to tour? and why?

JUSTIN: Anywhere in New York, just because I think it would be so fun to play some of the dive bars there.  Also some of the historic Clubs in L.A, anywhere on the stip.  I feel like so many great acts have cut their teeth there.  Or maybe Australia just because Jimmy is from there.  So we would know a few people and have some couches to crash on….

TREVOR: Canada. East or West coast, so much beauty in this country and by far the best beer in the world.

Is there anything you’d like to say to fans out there?

JUSTIN: Thanks for the support and be sure to check out our new EP “Victims of Influence” for FREE at https://deadmechanics.bandcamp.com.  Also take a look at our video for “Spaghetti Fight” on our youtube channel!!

JESSE: We love you.

Connect with The Dead Mechanics:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dead-Mechanics/182785508420981
Twitter: https://twitter.com/deadmechband
Band Camp: https://deadmechanics.bandcamp.com

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