Ten years ago, the Sam Roberts band embarked on its first coast-to-coast tour, playing the opening slot for Canadian rock icons The Tragically Hip. They kicked off that tour at Victoria’s Royal Theatre.
“Up until that point it was the biggest show of our lives,” says Roberts. “So much that happened in our careers was subsequent from that show … it all kind of started in Victoria.”
Now, 10 years later with six Junos and a Parliament Hill Canada Day performance for royalty under its belt, the band is again at the Royal, this time as the headliners.
“That show 10 years ago has always stuck in my mind, and to be headlining our own show in the same theatre feels like a nice feather in our cap,” says Roberts.
Another feather is the release of the band’s fourth studio album, Collider, the first under the more inclusive name: Sam Roberts Band.
“It’s amazing how much explaining we’ve had to do for what was for us, such an obvious decision,” says Roberts. “We’re the same guys playing music together since high school. In the beginning Sam Roberts was accurate because I did most of the writing, but from Chemical City to the current record we really worked together and we just wanted that to be known.”
Collider, released in May, has a much more rhythmic groove than previous records, with new inspiration and instrumentation provoked by producer Brian Deck.
“Right from the very beginning, Brian stripped away a lot of layers, which freed up a lot of space to bring in a saxophone, percussion, woodwinds,” says Roberts. “It was like here’s the core of the song, now we can add new dimensions — basically the reverse of how I usually write music,” he says with a laugh.
Instead of guitar riffs being the star of the show, saxophones and new percussion sounds lead Collider in a new direction.
“ ‘Streets of Heaven’ was the first song I wrote for the album and if we had followed that song to its logical conclusion, I could have written a country record, but instead we put some heavy drum beats and dubby base lines and I liked where it was going. I didn’t feel like I had to take a radical conscious step in a new direction. I don’t know where the hell I’m going with the next album, but I can tell you I’m not making a jazz record anytime soon either.”
The name Collider comes from Roberts’ philosophy on life. “Sometimes in life you get stuck in a cycle or a routine and nothing new really happens, it’s only when you have a collision with the unknown that something actually happens and that’s where real change takes place. I wanted to find one word that could somehow capture the spirit of the music and how I feel and where I go in order to create, and for me most of the time it comes out of chance or by accident. I don’t have a method from one record to another, but if you take two ideas and smash them together they become something new. And that’s how I feel about music and about life.”
Roberts says at first he was a little worried about how the new material would translate into a live show. “It’s a completely different sound and we want to make the shows fluid, ebb and flow like our shows have always done. Thankfully it absorbed a lot more seamlessly than I thought it would. On this tour we’re playing eight or nine songs from the new record, when we would normally do four or five, so we’ve decided to make the shows longer.
“It’s just been so much fun to perform, and we’re making the audience move differently, they’re really responding well. We just don’t accept people sitting down.” M
Sam Roberts Band
Royal Theatre; Sat. Oct. 22
Doors 7pm Show 8 pm;, Tickets $29.50 to $39.50