The most common question for a band is: "What type of music do you play?" and acclaimed Toronto quintet The Warped 45s, armed with their new album Matador Sunset, have a handful of uncommon answers: "Northern Gothic.” "Back Porch of the Apocalypse." "Alt-Country Noir."
These concepts can be illustrated by example: Driving in far Northern Ontario, seeing nothing and no one for hours, then suddenly encountering a rusted-out gas station – the lone remnant of an abandoned town – the proprietor selling live bait, booze and contraband smokes. A murder - where a real estate baron drives a family of squatters from their land, just like bison were driven to their death at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump in Alberta. These are two of the fascinating tales, inspired by visions real and imagined, that spring vividly to life on Matador Sunset.
The language of the songs, the beauty and the grit, conjures the likes of Alice Munro, Flannery O'Connor or William Faulkner: "I will find the gilded palace and I'll bask there unabated." “Carl made his money fast playing Faro and five card draw. And he soaked all of that money into demon alcohol.” “I saw a pale horse come riding through a stand of flaming birch. The setting sun was a bareback rider / Know a fever will one day burn the earth.”
Often called unique within the roots-rock genre, The Warped 45s, like every band, inevitably draw comparisons. Like The Band, they write durable, earthy songs with superb vocal arrangements. Like Blue Rodeo, they have two singer-songwriter frontmen who've known each other since childhood. Like The Weakerthans, they present unique, arresting images in novel ways: "hard-charging the red cape of a matador sunset" as a metaphor for touring, and "carried away on the aluminum wings of the great rivet-speckled bird" to describe an airplane flight. They’ve been called Canada’s Drive By Truckers.
Songwriters Dave and Ryan Wayne McEathron, though first cousins, offer two distinct but complimentary points of view. Dave’s imaginings are often inspired by his small town roots steeped in religious iconography and his “Back Porch of the Apocalypse” concept. He writes songs like “Grime of Earthly Glory” about one man’s all-consuming dedication to sin, or “Talk About Evil” which recognizes the nasty pattern of people ignoring wickedness in their midst, thereby allowing it to thrive.
Ryan’s story-telling takes a different tone, and on this record, is inspired from his own family history and personal life narratives. His achingly beautiful balled "Voice of the Mountain’s Song" finds him connecting in spirit to his loved one from the road despite thousands of miles between them. Contrast this with the indisputably compelling tale of "Grampa Carl" a hard-hitting hard rocking song about smuggling, speedboats, bullets and lies. “Grampa Carl” is the true story of Ryan's great-grandfather Carl Kennedy running alcohol across the Detroit River during prohibition; amassing a fortune, getting burned in a deal that "went mean," and finally being buried in Carlow Township Ontario, at the church where many McEathrons have been both married and laid to rest. Grampa Carl has become a centerpiece of the band’s live show and is a rocking highlight of Matador Sunset.
It’s as a band, however, that The Warped 45s’ music comes both seamlessly together and alive. Their sound is layered yet warmly accessible, with multiple voices and diverse instrumentation. Singer/songwriter guitarists Dave McEathron and Ryan Wayne McEathron are just part of the equation. The quintet includes keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist/backing vocalist Kevin Hewitt; drummer/backing vocalist Hamal Finn Roye; and bassist Alex Needleman.
The finely developed sound The Warped 45s achieve on this sophomore release undoubtedly evolved from the band's ceaseless roadwork. The band played constantly and toured across Canada three times with their debut album, 10 Day Poem For Saskatchewan. It has sharpened their playing, inspired their songwriting. It has made their music more cohesive and their attitude more confident. Most of all, it has provided a shared history that ties the band members together. Dave and Ryan are cousins, but The Warped 45s have become a band of brothers whose bonds have been forged in the fire of the road.
The Warped 45s have come far since their late 2007 inception. A mere 7 months after forming, the band independently released their self-titled, six-song debut EP, produced by ex- 13 Engines leader John Critchley (Elliott BROOD, Dan Mangan), scoring rave reviews and Canadian and US college radio airplay. Both Exclaim! and Toronto’s EYE Weekly cited them as “Destined for Greatness in 2009.” That year, the band won the NXNE Fan Choice Award. They bought a van with the $10,000 prize.
In September 2009, the band again teamed up with John Critchley at his Green Door Studios in Toronto. The band signed to Toronto-based independent label Pheromone Recordings, which released 10 Day Poem for Saskatchewan to critical acclaim. The album climbed the college charts, enjoyed local Canadian airplay on stations like Shore FM in Vancouver and national attention on CBC Radio shows like Deep Roots, The Vinyl Café and Drive, made multiple year-end "Best Of" lists, including Exclaim!’s Top 10, and made the top five lists of multiple Polaris judges.
The band continued to build momentum in 2010. They earned their first magazine cover (View) and garnered more rave reviews, both for the record and their live shows. Their video for the song “Radio Sky,” directed by Vincent Scotti was picked up by CMT’s Wide Open Country in Canada and Alternate Root TV in the states. Their songs continued to receive radio play across North America and beyond, while the band toured tirelessly, earning fans everywhere they went. They were honoured to play Hillside, and proud to share bills with friends and favorite bands such as Justin Rutledge, The Beauties, Deer Tick, United Steel Workers Of Montreal, Elliott BROOD, and Drive By Truckers. The Warped 45s spent the winter holed up in the studio, again with producer John Critchley. Matador Sunset comes out on Pheromone Recordings/Fontana North, digitally, and on vinyl and CD May 31, 2011.
The official CD release party is June 3 at The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, with guests NQ Arbuckle and Steve Gates. The band then hits the road for a summer of extensive touring including festival performances at Dauphin Countryfest, Ness Creek Music Festival and the Fred Eaglesmith Charity Picnic.
Matador Sunset raises the bar on an impressive debut and cements the band’s position among the many talented artists and bands inspired by our country and the legacy of its musical giants. The Warped 45s can count themselves among those artists making meaningful contributions to the Canadian musical iconography with this quite exceptional sophomore recording. Matador Sunset is a recording that demands to be heard.