ABOVE: (LEFT TO RIGHT) LUCAS FREDETTE, BRANKO SCEKIC, DAVE WICKLAND, BEN FOX, AND JOSH BYRNE
Members of indie-rock band Dinosaur Bones have experienced an evolution of their own since the group met in high school. Hailing from the musician-friendly city of Toronto, their first, self-titled EP (2008) was nominated for two XM Verge Music Awards. They spent the next few years doing the festival circuit, touring to promote their 2011 album My Divider, and opening for bands like Tokyo Police Club. With their sophomore album Shaky Dream due out next month, we’re excited to premiere the music video for their single “Nothing Left Between the Lines.”
A reference to the constant uncertainty of the rising musician, Shaky Dream only proves that the omnivorous artists are a lot closer to their dreams than they may think. The first single off the album, “Sleepsick,” showcases vocalist Ben Fox’s Radiohead-like vocals and the band’s cohesive instrumentality, which is a direct result of them all playing in one room together while recording the album in the studio. Their dreams may be shaky, but unlike their namesake, we think the Dinosaur Bones will be around for quite a while.
We spoke with Fox via phone. BAND MEMBERS: Ben Fox (vocals, guitar), Branko Scekic (bass), David Wickland (keyboard), Lucas Fredette (drums), Josh Byrne (guitar)
FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT CANADA: Healthcare and tuition fees. Our government is pretty good at taking care of us, which we appreciate. Also in the major cities there’s a great music culture. There’s a lot of community spirit among Canadian musicians, which is really nice and supportive and a cool thing to be a part of.
LEAST FAVORITE THINGS ABOUT CANADA: Touring because you have to drive six hours to find a city with people in it. [laughs] It’s a nice advantage of the US especially and the UK—cities are way closer together. The distance between Toronto and Vancouver and between Calgary and Montreal and Halifax—there’s miles and miles in between them.
AFTER-TOUR PARTY: I slept in my bed for a long, long time. That’s always the first thing I want to do when I get home. Sleeping in foreign beds and couches and vans—it’s always priority number one to take a nap.
GROWING UP: I have a lot of musicians and artists in my family, so I have a lot of good examples of people who have done that as a career and been successful with it. It never seemed like a ridiculous pipe dream for me as I guess it does for people whose families aren’t involved in the arts at all. It never seemed ridiculous or far-fetched at all. It seemed realistic and a feasible career choice, which I think helped me have the confidence to do it.
FAVORITE INTSTRUMENT: The first guitar I ever got was a short little Fender Duo Sonic, which I still have. I got it when I was nine. I bought it because I thought it looked cool. I knew nothing about it, obviously, since it was my first guitar. I have it in my bedroom and I record with it to this day. I have newer, nicer things, but that one’s got a place in my heart for sure.
MAKING THE BAND: We all played in bands in high school. Dave, Branko and I played in a ska band, Josh played in a couple rock bands. Lucas played in about 50 bands, jazz, funk, heavy stuff… He didn’t actually even own a drum kit until well after Dinosaur Bones was up and running—he just learned how to play by jamming around and gigging on other people’s kits. All of us—except maybe Josh who grew up in Windsor, Ontario—were a part of a community of really creative kids in high school, with more bands than you can count, new ones starting all the time, all of us going to each other’s shitty all-ages shows on weekends. At first everyone sucked, but looking back it doesn’t surprise me that a whole of bunch of those people have gone on to put a stamp on Toronto’s music scene.ON SHAKY DREAM: We wanted the album’s title to reflect where our heads were at in the time around when we were going in to record the album: when we were back home in that weird twilight zone that happens when you finish an album you’ve just poured everything into. You know it’s something that’s going to have a pretty big impact on what your life looks like for the next year and a half, and you go home and wait for it to come out, and it’s like nothing happened. Anyway, we wanted the title to reflect how we were feeling in that moment, not even as a band necessarily, but as people. And life in music can often really feel like this weird split existence where half of your life is boring and ordinary, and the other half is this surreal too-good-to-be-true parallel universe that feels delicate and fragile and could crumble at any minute. I guess that’s where the name came from.
We went in to record this album with a much different approach than last time around. For one, when we were tracking the songs, we were all in one room playing together, which is funny since I think this album probably sounds a bit more of a “studio album” than the last one. But playing together in real time can have a massive positive impact on the overall vibe of how the songs turn out. Another thing is we really had the mindset that we wanted to let the songs be what the wanted to be. We didn’t want to box everything into narrow parameters and use the same synth patch or drum sound on every song, etc. We wanted to take each song and let it go where it wanted to go. If one song heads in a sonic direction that’s out of the realm of where anything else on the record goes, then cool, let’s follow it and see where it takes us. That was the idea. And I think you can really hear that intention on the record.
THE ALBUM COVER: The photo is from the early 1900s. I personally find it really striking. I’ve noticed a lot of people are really afraid of clowns but I find them kind of poignant figures, especially in the early days, they served as distractions when things went wrong. There’s also something really moving when people you expect to be goofy or funny end up being sincere.
BIGGEST FAN: [Branko’s grandmother came to a show]—she rocked out. She’s the sweetest woman ever. Our demographic is 87-year-old Serbian grandmothers. [laughs] They bring a lot of baked goods to the show. No, it’s diverse, which I think is cool. We’re not really sure where we fit; we’ve played a lot of tours with poppier, mainstream-y bands like Tokyo Police Club but at the same time we always kind of feel like we’re not as poppy as some of them. I think we attract people from a wide spectrum. I don’t know if you can necessarily peg it down.
SHAKY DREAM IS OUT AUGUST 6.