Punch Drunk sings about disturbances, upheaval
Punch Drunk Cabaret officially release their new album ‘This is a Disturbance’ on Friday. Supplied
Punch Drunk Cabaret is growing up, not that they set out to do so.
The band from Dustbowl, Alta, who has a second home in the Rose City, releases their fourth studio album, This is a Disturbance, on Friday.
They do manage to maintain their unique steam punk swing sound, but the subject matter has shifted from drinking whiskey to the state of the world. In many ways this is a much more personal album for PDC.
"It's not a concept album, per say, but there is no doubt many of the songs reference disturbances and upheaval," said frontman and guitarist Randy Bailer. "It's just a product of where we are in society … in the global climate there is a lot of darkness and negativity. It's not something I planned to write about but sure found that it was creeping into the lyrics."
This is the first time the band has used a title track for the album name, preferring in the past to encapsulate an album with a theme like Electrik Steam Show or The Juke Joint Revival Hour. However, as the band laid down "This is a Disturbance" — a song about personal struggles and how life can be changed by the choices people make — there was little doubt it in Bailer's mind that it set the tone for the project.
"That happened in the demo stages when that song came along," said Bailer. "It's not that it is the defining song but the title was the defining theme of what was going on. There were no other choices."
The first release off the album, "Under the Darkest Sky" deals with the concept of persevering through the overwhelming cloud of unrelenting negativity in the media with lyrics like: "Give me truth, give me lies, both of which are televised tonight. Everyone marches to the rhythm of the evening news — red, white and blue."
The frontman emphasizes they do not get political on the album, but it is more of an expression about the times we are in.
Bailer says the band still has their signature rock/blues/swing style, but this album does shade a little closer to some of the swing aspects. This allows them to deal with some of these more serious topics in a more upbeat, danceable fashion.
"I'm a little reluctant in talking about lyrical themes because I don't want people to feel like we've gotten too heavy and now our shows are going to be these sombre occasions. It's not like that at all," said Bailer. "There's just been more depth and growth lyrically for this band than when we started out. There's no shortage of songs about alcohol in the PDC catalogue, and that's fine, but sometimes you get into times that you want to say a little more than that."
This is also the first album the band has created in their new alignment with Teddy "Two-toned" Michaylow on bass, replacing founding member Terry "Sawbones" Grant who left the band to pursue other projects. The former Boom Chucka Boys bassist brings a slightly different style to the band that also includes "Captain" Sean E. Watts on the drums. Michaylow plays both the standup and the electric bass and flows between the two instruments seamlessly. He will also break out the bow on the stand up bass, providing a more sombre sound when when called for.
"We had a lot more variety to choose from on songs than we did in the past," said Bailer. "It's amazing how they're both bass instruments but the flavour they can bring to a song can be very different.
"He's so fluid going between the two instruments and to me they're like worlds apart."
For the first time their album will be found in record stores. With the demise of HMV, Sunrise Records has stepped in locally and Bailer says they have been told they have more of a dedication to the independent artist. It is a bit of a reverse in course from the everything digital mindset with streaming and downloading services like Apple Music and Spotify. They have had their CDs available at their concerts — their self-titled debut album is in its third pressing — but never before in stores. In Camrose it will be available at Space Clothing.
If the in-store CD release goes well, Bailer said a hits album pressed in vinyl could be in the works, but they are approaching the venture with a cautious eye.
"It is a little retro," he said. "They see the value in the sale of CDs, vinyl and cassettes … they don't think (they're done). Vinyl continues to make a resurgence … Despite what we might be hearing about digital music, the disembodied downloading world is creating appeal for physical music again."
The band is coming off of their biggest year yet in 2017 as they played several major festivals including the Grand Canadian Steampunk Exhibition in Niagara-on-the-lake, Ont., the Blues on Whyte Block Party in Edmonton and the Jaywalkers Jamboree in Camrose. They also received an Edmonton Music Award for Video of the Year for their song "Beard of Bees." This summer, however, will likely be a little quieter as they concentrated all winter on putting the album together. They will probably get into touring later in the summer and the fall as they look to expand their fan base.
"We need to continue to develop new markets for ourselves, we’re looking at visiting some new cities that we haven't been to before or haven't been to in a while," he said. "But we also look forward to getting back to Camrose and Red Deer and Edmonton and the usual places."