Solomon Dean Interview

SolomonDean - PromoShot

Whilst sitting at a nearby watering hole, doing my famous water into wine trick for a group of women with mellon heavy breasts, I was approched by a long haired hippie. Apparently mistaking me for someone from The Black Crowes, he asked about my knowledge of horticulture. Being familiar with the subject we began a conversation that eventually led me to Solomon Dean. After several shots the hippie parted and I was left with a facebook address The next morning through a hangover induced haze I typed into their facebook page and hit the play button……. What I heard was vaguely familiar yet fresh…… modern….. It was energizing, melodic….  pure rock & roll and exacly what I needed to wake my ass up. I tracked down Guitarist and Vocalist Justin Perry to spread a little light on Solomon Dean’s past, present and future.

It seems you guys have been around for a while, can you give us a brief band history?

Yes, we have.  Off and on.  We’ve been jamming together in one form or another since we were eager young freshmen in high school back on Prince Edward Island.  We officially formed the Dean in ’99 after we completed a small recording collaboration together, which became our first self-titled EP.  We started it as one band and finished up as Solomon Dean.  You could say we were the three still-breathing elements of dead or dying musical projects we had going on at the time.  That resilience and persistence is probably what carried us through the decade that followed.   After a couple fruitless years on the local PEI circuit, and a full-length release (2001), individual education and employment ambitions took us our separate ways.  We were essentially on hiatus during 2002-2007, in different bands and provinces, but we never stopped writing or recording new ideas, periodically coming together to lay down some tracks.  Finally, realizing a meaningful thing when it’s gone, we reunited in fall of 2007 in Ottawa and immediately began jamming and recording what became €œBETA€ (2009), our latest EP.  We haven’t stopped or looked back since.

Where does the name ‘Solomon Dean’ come from?

Excellent question. . . .

Could you describe your writing process?

It can vary depending on the song, but it’s still pretty straight-forward.  Kyle or I will typically bring a song idea to the table, sometimes at a rehearsal, sometimes just sitting down with acoustics and beers, and we’ll jam it out and see if it inspires us.  The song idea might be almost complete, with structure, lyrics, vocal melody, etc., but other times it might only be a riff that we then flesh out together.  Kyle might bring me a chord progression or riff and I will build a vocal melody around it, add lyrics, guitar parts.  Or I may bring him and Jon a basic song I’ve started cobbling together that still needs bass and drums.  Though I may be the principle lyricist in the band, we three typically arrange the songs together.  Some songs lend themselves easily to jamming and arranging live together at rehearsal, others require demoing out in a recording.  Whatever process the song requires, we’ll do it.

Tell us about your latest EP ‘BETA’

€œBETA€ was a lot of effort, but very gratifying because of that.  It was mostly a DIY effort: self-written, self-recorded, and self-produced.  With the exception of the rhythm beds, recorded live to mic at a small local studio, all the instrumental overdubs , vocals, and mixing we did ourselves in our own humble home studio (i.e. two mics, two monitors, a mixer, and a laptop).  Production-wise, the aim was to make it sound like a live off-the-floor capture, tight but with a rough, dynamic ambience, like what you could expect at our live performances.  Keeping production basic was  important too, because we didn’t want to over-embellish any of the songs to the point where we couldn’t properly represent them at our live shows.  After all, we are a three-piece and can only play so many instruments at one time.

Ultimately, €œBETA€ was our proof to ourselves how we could sound when we had control of the sound, and leisure to make it sound right, rather than sweating under a ticking studio clock, making compromises for the budget.  And although it’s a gritty sort of indie effort, lacking the expensive polish of big-budget productions, it is an honest offering that represents us quite nicely.  It’ll be the record we put on years from now and nod and smile.

What was the first song you guys learned as a band?

Probably “Roadhouse Blues,” by The Doors.  There were other covers we brought in from respective earlier bands, but that was probably the first SD cover.  We still play it at live shows, we like it so much.

Vinyl has been making a comeback over the last few years, do you see yourselves ever doing a limited edition vinyl pressing?

Absolutely.  It’s like celluloid film: there’s nothing quite like it.  We would have done it already if we had the money.  With the recently established Montreal-based vinyl manufacturing outfit RIP-V (which may or may not still be the only one of its kind in the country) putting the Canadian vinyl industry back on the map, it’s a promising sign for both availability and affordability.  In fact, we have plans to do a limited vinyl run of €œBETA€ once we have the next record out.  A record like €œBETA€ belongs on vinyl.

What kind of gear do you guys use?

Bass:  – Fender Jazz electric

– Yamaha RBX260F Fretless electric
– Ibanez Soundgear SR400 electric
– Beaver Creek BCB05 acous/elec
– 90’s era SWR Grand Prix preamp  w/Peavey CS800 amp, SWR Goliath II cab (2×10), Yorkville 210 cab (2×10)

Drums: – Gretsch Catalina Maple (5 piece)

– Sabian HHX cymbals
– Vic Ferth sticks

Guitar: – 1977 Ibanez Deluxe 59’er electric

– 1978 Ibanez ST-1200 6/12 electric
– 1998 Gibson LP Studio electric
– 90’s era Magnum Galaxy II electric
– 2004 Yamaha Compass CPX-8SY acous/elec
– Marshall JCM900 / 1960A cab (4×12)
– 1971 Traynor YGL-3 Mark III amp (2×12)

Vocals:  – Shure SM58, Apex 420/430 mics

Coming from the Island (P.E.I.), do you have any local influences?

PEI locals? Not anymore. It’s been a while since we were on the PEI scene, so I imagine our old contemporaries (who were also influences to an extent) are now defunct and moved on to other projects.  The tour finale this August in Charlottetown may allow us to see who from the old days is still lurching and breathing besides us.

What brought you guys to Ottawa?

Jobs, women, education (in no particular order).

What is the Ottawa music scene like these days?

There’s a lot of great musical talent here, along with a few laudable live rock venues that still patronize original music like ours (at least more than we had back on PEI).  But, aside from the metal and punk scenes, there appears to be not so many collaborations and joint shows amongst Ottawa bands, which is where we feel the magic happens.  Mind you, it could just be us. . . .  We have always been the black sheep of any music scene.

What can people expect from a Solomon Dean show?

Drinking music.  We’re classic meets contemporary, dusty vinyl with a digital precision.  We like to create a dynamic in our live shows that ranges from dirty old twelve-bar blues to blistering bottleneck slide and hard rock riffs.  Our sets mix covers with originals, often in seamless medleys, so the soundscape may seem strangely familiar but not something you can quite put your finger on, like déjà-vu.  We’re classic rock vinyl-fed, but learned our licks during the 90’s east coast grunge scene, so that finds its way into our music and shows.  We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel or make a definitive musical statement here. . . we’re just playing what we are and where we’re from.  Perhaps that’s statement enough.

What’s in the future for Solomon Dean?

We’re planning a brief eastern Canadian tour in August with our old friends, Charlottetown-based rock trio Arrows in the Air.  We’ll start in Ottawa, head through Quebec and the Maritimes, and finish up in PEI.  Till then, we’re gigging locally and working on some new material for the next record (no ETA).  Beyond that, the fog gets thick indeed. . . .

Any indie bands you guys work with that we should know about?

The tour with Arrows in the Air this August will be a significant joint effort.  No consistent local collaborations as of yet, but we expect that will change soon.

If you could co-headline with any band at any venue, who and where would they be?

Oh, man, that’s a hard dilemma.  Past or present?  If past, I think sharing the stage with ZZ Top at The Warehouse in New Orleans, April of ’74, would be near or at the top of our list.  That show was recorded over two nights by Jim Reeves and came out in part as side A of the ground-breaking €œFandango€ the next year.  To have been there would have been insane.  Sadly, the venue no longer exists, but happily the Top does.  Probably always will too.

If present, I think touring with a band like Grady would be an awesome experience.  Any venue, really.  Perhaps in their hometown Austin, or even up here in the west, like Calgary.  They’re a significant influence on us and we try to catch their pleasingly small but powerful shows anytime they pass through Ottawa.

Define Solomon Dean with a haiku

We are a triple-
shot of pure belly-fire in
a tall glass with ice

Check out Solomon Dean at http://www.myspace.com/solomondean