“Sincere music is about the approach. It has nothing to do with flash,” asserts Rob Baker, vocalist/guitarist of the esteemed instinctual rock brigade Strippers Union.
“It's about everyone playing a small role in trying to create a big, organic, pulsating thing...kind of like the James Brown Band. If you strip it down and look at individual parts, it's pretty simple. Put it all together and it's a mass of awesomeness.”
Poised to assail the world of rock with their own “mass of awesomeness” in sophomore opus The Deuce (Bhaji Maker/Universal), Strippers Union are no strangers to the importance of a band being greater than the sum of its parts.
Baker and Union cohort Craig Northey (vocals/guitar) have spent immeasurable amounts of time traipsing the Great White North in revered acts such as The Tragically Hip and The Odds respectively. Pulling fellow conspirators Doug Elliott (bass guitar) and Pat Steward (drums) from Northey's former outfit, the foundation of Strippers Union is an impenetrable dynamo of intensity, musicality and vision.
Formed as a means of uniting like-minded musical vision, a way to span the gap between their Kingston, Ontario and Vancouver, British Columbia homes and tapping into ideas unexplored by their other ventures, the casual collaboration that is Strippers Union has been heralded as an invigorating attack on congenital rock 'n' roll.
Grasping the rare moment of downtime from his main gig as opportunity to create, Baker rang up his old friend Northey about meeting to talk shop, banter about ideas and raid Baker's stacks of unused material. Some months later, their pristine 2005 eponymous debut was issued unto the world.
“I'm a guitar player and I love collaboration, so I called up some friends. That's the only way I've ever done it musically. It's always been a friendly collaboration. Even though Craig is on the West Coast and I rarely see him, he's one of my best friends. I turn to him first. It's like the whole thing is just and excuse for us to get together and hang out,” Baker half-jests.
Regardless, graced with rave reviews and a fiendish cult following out of the gate, Strippers Union Local 518 was a coup for Baker, Northey and crew. With more pressing affairs at hand however (it's hard to step away from a juggernaut such as The Hip for too long), it would be a half-decade before the crew could reconvene, share more ideas and nail down some fresh tunes.
The results however, shine emphatically on The Deuce. Recorded at the Bhaji Bakery and The Bathouse Recording Studio, the album's 10 tracks find Strippers Union settling down into a slick groove and common vision only hinted at on their previous release.
“The last time around, everyone was feeling each other out a bit; figuring out exactly what this was going to be,” says Baker. “We pushed in different directions to see what would work. This record is a lot more focused and representative of where it should be going. Like the last record, it's a little eclectic but still more pointed, upbeat, rockin' and outward looking.”
With tracks such as shuffling opener “Making Strange,” the gritty twang of “Burn The Bridge Down,” introspective subtlety motivating “Whiteout” and more, The Deuce is nothing less than a refined showcase of Strippers Union's dynamic fortitude and tempered, unbreakable union. Pared down from 16 potential tracks into the finest representations of the quartet's abilities, The Deuce's 42 minutes are a brilliantly relentless feast of harmonic enthrall motivated by captivating riffs and rumbling beats.
“I felt like we were starting to cut some really solid material but that's how you make a great album,” Baker admits. “I want the songs to have a life of their own so they need to be showcased as best they can. That's why we ensured we had the best foot forward by cutting some songs, not that they were lacking in quality. They just had a different direction where these ones all aim at the same target.”
Honed in, locked and loaded, Strippers Union readily assert their dominance, virulence and prowess with The Deuce. Still, one can't deny the haunting sentiment that despite such power, this is still a moonlighting gig for Baker. Is he bittersweet about Strippers Union's sparse chances to collude, let alone perform as an entity unto itself?
“I adore being a songwriter, guitar player and working with friends. Strippers Union is like an open relationship where different friends bring out various traits and you can explore them. I've had such a great time working with these guys, it will happen again. These guys are such great musicians, I feel privileged to create with them. When it comes to Strippers Union, there's no bitter. It's all sweet.”