Interview – The Dreadnoughts

Top left (grey shirt) - Andrew Hay Dreads - Drew Sexsmith Fiddle - Tegan Ceschi-Smith Hat - Nick Smyth Down front - Marco Bieri Missing: Kyle Taylor Photo credit, Savonna Spracklin

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Top left (grey shirt) – Andrew Hay
Dreads – Drew Sexsmith
Fiddle – Tegan Ceschi-Smith
Hat – Nick Smyth
Down front – Marco Bieri
Missing: Kyle Taylor
Photo credit, Savonna Spracklin

The Dreadnoughts say they “aren’t really a band, they’re an advocacy group, ruthlessly promoting the idea that folk and punk music form a perfect union. They’ve been destroying stages and swilling ciders the world over, spreading their gospel to anyone and everyone who will listen.” We caught up with them to talk about concept albums, Enya, cider and, of course, poutine!

After releasing 3 full length albums and a couple of EPs in a four year span, you went on a lengthy hiatus. What was the spark that caused got the band back together in the studio?

Honestly, someone in Toronto just yelled “make a new album!” after a show and we thought: hey, why not?

How does “Foreign Skies” stand up to/differ from your previous material? What will surprise fans the most?

Well, it’s a historical concept album, a tribute to one of the most turbulent and tragic eras in western history. As the songs go along, the themes move from hope and confidence to tragedy and suffering. The album portrays the loss of innocence that our culture went through 100 years ago, and it’s still full of our usual multi-genre folk-punk craziness. A sea shanty morphs into a Balkan dance. A Klezmer romp fades down into a Queen-esque symphonic ballad. A Viking War chant crescendos into a German polka, and then again into pure punk-rock song that hearkens back to Bad Religion and The Descendants. It’s friggin’ MENTAL.

You’ve hit #1 in Quebec with “Poutine” and garnered lots of support in Eastern Europe with your penchant for polka. How do the crowds compare?

They’re very similar… whether you’re a Polish kid or a Quebecois kid, you’re growing up with a unique folk culture that is very unique, and you’re also surrounded by huge, more powerful cultures. So you retain your love for you own culture’s music and your own songs. Our band loves to play to people like that, who understand really well that folk and punk make a perfect mix.

Speaking of your travels, if I told you you could drink at any pub in the world tonight (outside of the Ivanhoe), where would you go?

Too many to list: the Grand Union Country Pub on East Hastings is (dare I say) even better than the Ivanhoe. There’s a pub in Lulworth, England called the Castle Inn which serves 40-50 farmhouse ciders and does 6-oz sampler trays. You can try virtually every type of awesome cider on the planet in an evening. Honorable mention goes to the Nag’s Head in Reading, England.

Dreadnoughts shows are known to be wild and unpredictable. What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to the band on stage?

Probably the time we lit the mandolinist on fire and it wouldn’t go out. Also there was this other time that we were supposed to play for (and impress) NOFX’s booking manager at a club in Berlin, and instead of doing a good job, we got utterly wasted and spent half the show turning the fruit they gave us into little puppets and making an obscenity-laced puppet show onstage. Needless to say, we have never played with NOFX.

A lot of Dreadnoughts songs seem to tell a story. Who are some of the storytellers, musical or otherwise, who have influenced you?

First and foremost you have Stan Rogers, Stompin’ Tom Connors, The Wurzels and The Pogues. Those four artists/groups, in their own way, have shaped what we’re all about. But for sheer storytelling genius, you just can’t beat a good Enya song.

What do you consider Quebec’s greatest export, Celine Dion, poutine or our bevy independent ciders?

That’s a close one, but the poutine, really. The problem is that Poutine never really gets “exported”… we’ve tried the Poutine in Ontario and Manitoba (not great). And we almost projectile-barfed trying the “poutine” they make in the USA. Honestly, with poutine like that, they deserve Trump.

The Dreadnoughts will release their first album in 7 years, “Foreign Skies” on November 11th. Catch them in Montreal at Coop Katacombes on November 9th, in Ottawa at Maverick’s on November 10th and in Quebec City at L’Anti-Bar on November 11th

Interview – Richard Brunette

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