Musicians often have attitude problems and Paul Emery and the Dickens are no exception; they are just too darned nice. Or so I thought, until Emery clarified things:
"I would say we've got good manners, but we're not that nice"
Okay, so Paul Emery and the Dickens are well-mannered. This still poses a bit of a problem for musicians with dreams of stardom running through their heads. After all, a certain amount of self-absorption is necessary to land that big deal; if you don't think you're worth a million bucks, then no record label will. And try as he may, the best headline Emery could ever write for himself still falls shy of actual bragging;
"Local rich boy, baby, is a fuckin' wannabe."
Well, not everyone can talk about themselves all the time, but Emery has no problems talking about his new band, the Dickens.
"I love this band, it's my favourite band to play in. It seems to be the most solid band I've played in, we have a lot of fun, we have an excellent rehearsal space and we get long great."
Judging by the large crowd of people at The Horseshoe Tavern recently (even Sum 41's Steve-O made an appearance), Toronto music lovers are talking about him as well. This particular gig happened to be a CD release party honouring their debut Lives of the Future Blessed, an occasion Emery has been waiting to celebrate.
"We started doing this (the album) last year and now we're finished and we're pretty happy with it."
'Jangle-pop' is a popular descriptor of the songs on Lives of the Future Blessed, but a comparison to The Tragically Hip seems in order as well. Warm and well-crafted, it's the kind of music that makes you long for you Adirondack chair on a dock in the Muskokas. Forget alt-country music, this is cottage-country music.
"It's really just about really good songs" says guitarist Duncan Blair. "Sound gets dated, but good songs last a really long time."
If you missed is, then you missed one of those shows that you love because every song is so damned good (but hate because there isn't a bad one you can afford to miss while you go get another drink at the bar). In essence, bar rock at its best.
"And now we're breaking up" says drummer John Macdonald.
"Yes, after tonight, we're breaking up" adds Emery. So if you've never seen Paul Emery and the Dickens before, you're all out of luck. Sorry.
This is of course a joke, and the Dickens aren't going anywhere. At least not until Valentine's Day when the band heads out to Wallaceburg, ON, where they'll be playing a benefit for the Legion. One of the few out-of-town gigs Emery and company will be making. Treks outside the city have been interesting for the Dickens, to say the least. Emery recalls an especially odd one in Oshawa;
"It was quite an experience. It was in the basement, there was no heat, there was garbage everywhere..."
"And on the second floor there was a laser tag" adds bassist Simon Lewis…it was a real 'entertainment complex.'"
"So we're in for more of that" says Emery "I hope not…they played really heavy metal there."
You'll actually have a much better chance finding them playing downtown Toronto somewhere, or perhaps sharing a few pints at The Communists' Daughter, ownership of which belongs to Emery.
"It makes him rich." Jokes Blair.
Emery laughs. "I'm wealthy, and I'm supporting this, and paid off all those reporters and uh…we're going on tour in a big bus, because I'm a big baby. Tell them I'm rich and I'm a big baby."
Bands like that do exist, no doubt about it, but mock-attitude is about as close as Paul Emery and the Dickens will get to that kind of rock star ego. They're just too happy making music.
"I just like getting people to hear the music, just getting it out there" says drummer John Macdonald. "I mailed out 20 CDs today, just to various friends around the world. I just want to get people to hear it."
"If you're not doing it (playing music) because you love it, then you shouldn't be doing it" says Emery.
So despite their protests, Paul Emery and the Dickens really are nice, really do care about music and would really rather not have that kind of reputation.
"We want to be portrayed as having a real attitude…you know, scene veterans."
Writer: Erica Basnicki