Maple Whiskey Rock and Roll from Alberta's Heartland
by Kortney Jmaeff
Unless you live under a rock (sometimes that seems like a tangible option), you cannot escape the Trump medal tidal wave. Recently the "orange man" himself got into hot water tweeting his love for Alberta's largest American musical export, "Nickelback," Rather than continue the article covering the idiosyncrasies of the Trumpster lets go in another direction as that is path well documented. There is a theory floating out on the great theory machine called the Internet linking Nickelback and the watering down and popularizing of rock music basically being responsible for its steady decline in the forefront of Western musical culture. It relates that taking the danger and immediacy of grunge and commercializiing into mutations of songs that even your grandma could enjoy. So the main question is: Is Nickelback really responsible for finally killing rock and roll in 2020? And is Alberta to blame for the Nickelbackers?
Let's start off with the Canadian province know as Alberta. I'd imagine that many Americans think Nickelback is all the "Texas of Canada" has to offer them musically. Guess again. Alberta has a rich heritage of birthing a diversity of artists including SNFU, Feist, kd Lang, Jann Arden, Chad Van Gallen, Paul Brandt, Tegan and Sarah, the Smalls, Corb Lund, Chixdiggit and the Brother Bicker Band. Ok, OK, so some of those artists are country and western artists, but they are still talented.
So who is BBB? And what are they all about? This group called Brother Bicker hail from Calgary, AB- home of the NHL FLAMES and the 1988 winter Olympics. Yes, the '88 Olympics are a long time ago and the Flames haven't won a cup since 1989, but hey we are taking heritage here. When they are not busy opening up for Canadian rock monsters Anvil like they did in May 2019, the BB band is on a quest to prove that rock and roll is indeed thriving in the beautiful Canadian west. A side mission is the notion that Nickelback doesn't need to necessarily define Alberta rock music.
So, who are the 'brothers'? Jeremy Hrdlicka is the main vocalist and acoustic guitarist. His guilty pleasures include ice cream and Chris Farley movies and his favourite superhero is Wolverine, the Canadian bad ass that he finds a kinship with. Tom Mogan handles the guitar and backup vocals. His favourite movie is Groundhog's Day, and his favourite band is the "constantly evolving" Radiohead. As for influences, music was in his blood, as his father was a diligent daily practicer of a plethora of classical scales and compositions. Bassist "Chill Jim" Duncan loves the Beatles and Motown as musical influences and lists "Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane at 1000 meters" as the craziest thing he has ever done. Carl "Bash" Raines is the resident skin basher and loves Jimmy Eat world and foozeball. Ben Ellard handles piano and vocals and lists a diverse cast of characters as musical influences like Blue Rodeo, The Band, Stevie Wonder, Booker T & the MG's, Pink Floyd and Mozart. His guilty pleasures include Huey Lewis & the News, Barbershop Quartets, and caramel popcorn twists.
So what about the music? A visit to the BB website sees the term "roots rock" being tossed around a bit, but "maple whiskey rock and roll" sounds more delicious and Canadian. Jeremy's got a lot of musical influences that he loves to add to the original rock songs that BB produces.
As for musical influences, he says that he prefers "the classic rock/ hard rock genre for my listening pleasure. Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Zeppelin, Queen, Tom Petty, Metallica all rank highly on the list. I think that Pearl Jam and the Trews would be at the top. Pearl Jam is so iconic and one of those bands that has stood the rest of time while still making new music. In fact, I tend to like their newer stuff more."
HE also has some surprising insights on how other Canadian rock bands have affected him personally: "The Trews are one of the most underrated bands in the world. Like the Hip, they are Canadian and sing too much about Canadian things to have made it big in the US but they are so damn good. I love the way that they are just as at home with a djembe (African hand drum) and acoustic guitars as they are with big drums and Les Pauls. And the harmonies... I love the harmonies. I love bands that share the vocals."
So does his love of classic and Canadian bands help shape the way that BB craft songs? "I have always wanted the Brother Bicker Band to fall into that category like the Hip or the Trews. Great melodies and great harmonies with songs that tell stories that are relatable. As a band, we like to call our music "maple whiskey rock n roll," which I see as cross between Southern rock (Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, etc.) and the great '70's and '80's rock storytellers (i.e. Petty, John Cougar, Springsteen). We have been compared to Springsteen, the Band and the Hip before and I always appreciate that because that is a great place to be musically. Our sound is like the love-child of Pearl Jam, R.E.M and the Zac Brown Band."
And what are the main themes of the BBs? Jeremy relates: "Our songs are about what we know: love, relationships, loss, growing old, etc. We are all family guys and that becomes a main driver in our songs. We won't be singing about parties, booty and bling. That isn't our audience. We might get as risque as soccer moms and tequila shots." Obviously, with audiences comparing their works to songwriting greats like Petty, Cougar and Springsteen, the Brothers have a lofty standard to adhere to.
So what's the verdict? Did Nickelback put the nail in the rock and roll coffin? Well, that is a matter of opinion, but after looking at the evidence and the abundance of tons of diverse releases from indie rockers and old veterans like the Pixies, Headstones, Tool, Anvil and many others like the Brothers, it seems like rock will keep cheating death. With the advent of the internet and the enormous amount of information available in seconds, It's easy to connect and explore segments and pockets of all types of great music. This makes it possible to resurrect past themes and musical textures and add them to the songwriting process along with the widespread power of technology. This makes it a truly amazing time to live in, as the future in uncertain in music as a whole.
See their website at http://www.brotherbicker.com. Their new album Hospitality and Northern Charm will be out on April 17, 2020.
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