Interview: Bison B.C.

At the start of 2010, a certain Canadian quartet released an album that we at EspyRock said was an early contender for album of the year. Come December, we still stand by our prediction that Bison B.C. put out one of the best albums of the year with ‘Dark Ages’. So we caught up with some of the lads when they came over to London, for a quick chat about the album and being in the biggest gay marriage ever.

Bison interviewAA: It looks like you’re having fun on this tour…
Dan: They’re all awesome dudes, we lucked out. We knew Coliseum from before and Kvelertak are awesome.
They remind me of us a few years ago. We’re at the end of our touring cycle for the year so we’re starting to slow down, have a couple of beers and go to bed, and they show up half an hour before we’re supposed to leave in the morning! I look at them and think ‘Ah, I remember that, I was doing that 6 months ago but now I’m tired’!
AA: ‘Dark Ages’, your latest effort, was rated by us as one of the albums of the year. It was a bit of a change from your previous effort too

James: This album was different because we’d seen a lot, done a lot of touring, lived the good and bad and that culminates into a sound that you arrange into a bunch of songs. ‘Quiet Earth’ was a framework or ground-laying of our “sound”, and the elements [of Bison’s sound] that will be there forever were laid down on that album. ‘Dark Ages’ was about expanding on those elements. We know each other better, we’ve been to hell and back, we’ve had more time.

Dan: Another thing was our producer, Jesse Gander, was a lot more hands-on. He produced the EP and ‘Quiet Earth’ as well, but this time we did pre-production and he came to our jam space and we played all the songs for him, recorded them and came up with a bunch of ideas for how to piece them all together. We basically gave him free rein because we’ve known him so long, we trust him and he knows us.

James: He understands the vision we have. With the new album, the arrangement was a lot more focused. We took our time with arrangements and learnt a bit more about how important that is, especially when you’re writing a long piece of music the arrangement becomes way more important.

Dan: Jesse helped with that too because I had a song and he listened to it and said ‘How married are you to this arrangement?’ and I said ‘I fucking hate it’! So he basically rewrote one of my songs for me! If it’s a 9-minute song it’s gotta be interesting. We get bored, and we’re very critical people, of each other and of other music, so it’s a question of ‘What do i wanna hear that doesn’t bore the shit outta me?’

AA: I get the impression that arrangement is important!!Bison Interview 2

James: The arrangement is important because it has to be interesting – and to risk sounding like a ponce – it’s a journey, man

Dan: That’s ok, I almost said ‘It’s like when you’re preparing a meal, what kind of spices do you want to use?’ and then I thought that’s the fucking stupidest thing I could say, so I’m gonna keep my mouth shut.

James: That’s way worse! (does what we think is meant to be a Jamie Oliver impression) ‘It’s like making a meal, and then you have to choose the right wine at the end’ (laughs) We thought people were gonna hate this album because it was so different. It’s weird and the content, to me, is depressing.

AA: Why do you think the album was a depressing one?

James: So many reasons, how much time do you have?!! I had a terrible break-up, my city is going to shit, it’s run by assholes, poverty and drug addiction around me.

Dan: When we were writing this the Olympics were being prepared, and so much bullshit was going on.

James: ‘We gotta clean up the city coz the rich people are coming’;  like we didn’t have enough to begin with.

Dan: Vancouver is an infuriating place to live in.

James: They don’t want us there, we exist there inspite of them.

Dan: It’s the most desirable place to live in Canada because of how temperate the climate is, especially for hobos!

James: You have people dying on your street and you spend $6bn on a fucking game? Anybody in their right mind sees what’s wrong with that. There’s war and genoicde all over the world. The genocide in Vancouver is slower and more calculated on the lower, impoverished class. It’s the slowest genocide ever.

AA: If that’s what was going through your mind as you wrote the album, would you call Bison a political band?

Both: No!

Dan: We obviously care about things and have opinions but don’t use the band as a platform for political agenda. It might seep in occasionally but it’s more metaphorical, really. Some people start bands to party and have fun, which is great, but we’d be dead right now if it wasn’t for this band.

James: I’d be a junkie right now if it wasn’t for this band

Dan: It’s this emotional release and outpouring that we need. Even talking about how this record was written has got me all worked up now, I was in a good mood!

James: The next record’s gonna be happy record (laughs) It’ll be the heaviest happy record ever!

Bison Interview 3AA: Every review for ‘Dark Ages’ has said something different about the record. Some said it had a blues influence, some said it had a punk vibe, and so on…

James: I think that’s a score. I don’t wanna be so out there that people go ‘what the fuck?’. I want it to progress but not all of a sudden put out a folk album, you know! Musicians should do whatever they want, it’s their music, but that’s what side-projects are for. It’s not like we owe something to anybody, this is my therapy group so fuck everyone else. That’s why I thought everyone’s going to hate this album (laughs) It’s all over, we’re gonna get dropped, Slagel is going to be like ‘What the fuck is this? What is that, French horn?! fucking homos!’. But they loved the French horn, very Canadian apparently.

Dan: The one bit of feedback we got when we sent the album to Metal Blade was that the acoustic guitar that we have, they said ‘It’s not haunting enough, could you haunt it up a little?’ (burst out laughing).

AA: So how would you describe your sound then?

James: Heavy metal neil young

Dan: Tragedy covering the eagles

AA: Are you tired of the Mastodon comparisons yet?

James: Ugh. Never heard of them. Oh wait no, Mastodon are the guys that invented harmonies and odd time signatures, they got the patent on that. For fuck’s sake. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard in my life. I don’t think we sound like them.

Dan: I think there’s maybe 30 seconds in one song where I think, ‘oh yeah I can see that’, in one of their songs 10 years ago.

James: People need to do that you know. Someone said to me we sounded like Clutch. Have you ever fucking heard Clutch, man?!! Give me a break!

AA: You’ve also said that touring with each other is like going to hell and back. Why is that?

James: You spend all year holed up in a van with a bunch of guys, you get to know them well. We’re brothers. We’re husbands to each other . We’re like the biggest gay marriage ever!

AA: Who’s the wife of the band, in that case?

Both: Brad. Obviously (burst out laughing)

James: we only say that because he’s not here. He’s out with his london boyfriend :-D


About Abhijeet Ahluwalia

Abhijeet Ahluwalia – I’m a freelance journalist who goes back and forth between London and Bombay. A huge metalhead, but I have an eclectic taste, from reggae to punk. Oh, and Manchester United are the greatest team in the world. Follow me on Twitter or drop me a line via Email.

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