Black Hat Brigade

Black Hat Brigade: a Ragtag Group of Dudes

I was at the Horseshoe Tavern last week watching The Balconies play their set, when I first met Bryan David Ward of Black Hat Brigade (BHB). I wasn't surprised to see him there; The Balconies would be opening at BHB's CD release party, so a little band-support isn't unexpected.

BHB is a Toronto indie rock band that has been kicking around the scene for a couple years now. They are just about to release their latest EP, Fathers, which is a dynamic mix of danceable bar songs, instrument-laced build-ups, and a few tracks that I could only describe as sea-chanty's that David Bowie would create. I recommend track 2, 'Zombie City Shake'. At eight tracks, it's actually on the longer side as far as EP's go. As Bryan describes it: "It's hearty, very filling. It's like a big meal on a small plate."

A week later I met up with Bryan at Nirvana and asked what I thought would be a seemingly simple question, and got a complex answer.

What do you play?

"We don't have a set instrument line-up. We kind of just do what feels right and what works. We have an auxiliary drum kit and sometimes I'll be playing the guitar, and then play those drums for half the song. Or maybe Rob [Hauley -vox, keys, bass, guitar] will start the song on drums and then pick up a guitar. I don't know. There's a lot switching up instruments."

During the songs?

"No, not during. But in between I'll take off my guitar and pass it on, and someone will switch over to keys... even vocals. It's becoming a group effort. Same with the song-writing."

How does that work when you go to record the tracks?

"On all of the songs, everyone has set things they play in every song. It's not like, 'oh I'm going to play guitar this time, and next song you play this'. Every song has set players, it's more about when the song is being written and nothing is really coming to me, I'll hand the guitar to Rob. It's always the best when it just happens."

Everyone is more or less self-taught. As Bryan puts it:

"If the glockenspiel didn't have the notes, we'd be screwed. We're a pretty ragtag group of dudes. We kind of just hit stuff, and hope that it sounds good."

On Fathers it seems as though they're hitting average is pretty good. They play tonight at the El Mocambo as part of the Pitter Patter Festival and it will also be their official CD release. After that their next show two Toronto shows will be part of NXNE.

Photo by Tobin Photography.


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