Mounties, Hawksley Workman, Ryan Dahle and Steve Bays.

Canadian supergroup Mounties sparks creative awakening

Hawksley Workman, Steve Bays and Ryan Dahle band together, yield unexpected results

A hodgepodge of musicians mingled backstage at a live taping of Q with Jian Ghomeshi in the run up to the 2009 Juno Awards. Among them Hot Hot Heat and Hawksley Workman, the latter unaware of just how much influence he had on the former and both unable to predict what kind of impact they would have on their futures.

Though there may be some dispute over the origin story behind Mounties (comprised of Workman, Hot Hot Heat’s Steve Bays and Ryan Dahle of Limblifter), this is where the seeds of that history were first sewn.

Steve Bays, the Victoria-born Hot Hot Heat frontman had discovered Workman’s (Last Night We Were) The Delicious Wolves at a formative time when he was experimenting with vocals for what would become Hot Hot Heat.

“I tried to convey the importance that record had on my life to him,” Bays says. “He just kept saying, ‘Don’t you feel like you invented a sound with Hot Hot Heat and everybody else stole it and became way more successful?’ He was obsessed with the fact that we weren’t more successful, which I guess was his way of giving a compliment.”

Regardless of whether or not their kudos were received, a connection was made over their similar sensibilities in the Canadian music industry.

“Most people don’t really talk about that,” says Bays. “It’s all about existentialism, sex drugs and rock ’n’ roll. He talked about it like he was going to be doing this for the rest of his life. I liked that he was a behind the scenes guy and a poet and a total weirdo. And he loves to drink wine and so do I.”

Bays, also one half of electronic yacht rock duo Fur Trade, producer and owner of private recording studio, Tugboat Pl., already had plenty on the go and wasn’t looking for another project. But when their friendship eventually led them to the studio together – with Bays set to produce Workman’s album and Dahle along for the session – their chemistry incited something else entirely. It started with what Bays describes as Workman’s initial “Jon Bonham-esque” beats on the drums during the first moments of their first session.

“I had no idea he was such a crazy drummer. I just started playing along on keys and Ryan started playing along on guitar. Before we knew it, we had started a whole new sound, for us at least. It just felt like a band.”

The majority of their debut record Trash Rock Legacy, released earlier this month, is excerpts from three sessions of jamming and enjoying life, beginning with that one in the summer of 2012.

“Ryan has his airstream in front of the studio, so we were hanging out in there, talking about ridiculous concepts. It just felt like a really artful experience.”

And a refreshing one, to which Bays attributes the creation of another Hot Hot Heat album, after working with the band since 1999 and tiring of the “rock machine” of dirty clubs and shady promoters, he says. Bays and Workman have since begun directing and producing video (beginning with a music video for The Mohrs) under the production name Antler and Power. With their creative partnership set and the sole live experience with Mounties to date (at last September’s Rifflandia) an extremely positive one, Bays is excited to engage in the machine once more.

“The entire existence of the band just felt like one big rock ’n’ roll party that I never expected to have at 35 years old.”

Mounties play an early show (doors at 7 p.m.) at Sugar Nightclub March 20 with Rich Aucoin and JPNS GIRLS. Tickets, $17.50, via Lyle’s Place Ditch Records and ticketweb.ca.

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