The spectrum of modern rock is typically split into two camps, with slick commercial chart-toppers on one side and flavour-of-the-month indie acts on the other. And then there’s Vancouver’s One Bad Son: an honest to goodness rock ‘n’ roll band that occupies a world of its own, cutting through the bullshit with cranked up amps and a resolutely DIY approach to music making.
Singer Shane Volk, drummer Kurt Dahl and guitarist Adam Hicks first joined forces in Saskatoon, SK, in 2004. The three friends moved into a house together, forming a tight-knit brotherhood and spending every free moment jamming and building up a catalog of songs. They independently released the albums This Aggression Will Not Stand in 2006 and Orange City in 2007. But it wasn’t until Adam Grant joined on bass in 2007 that OBS was truly complete.
One Bad Son’s reputation for tight musicianship and explosive, unscripted live shows spread through word of mouth, and before long, the group was playing to sold out venues in its hometown and embarking on a string of well-received national tours. This propelled the outfit to high-profile opening slots for Godsmack, Buckcherry and Default, and the singles “Rustbucket” and “Retribution Blues” received Canada-wide radio play.
“We’re outsiders and we always operate in our own bubble,” says Dahl of the band’s grassroots origins. “We don’t get things handed to us…we work our asses off to get them.”
The four friends relocated to Vancouver in 2011 — a bold move, considering their loyal following in Saskatoon. After a few months of steady gigging, the band had won over a new legion of fans and inked a record deal with the local 604 Records, which will release the band’s newly-completed third album.
This eponymous collection, produced by Default drummer Danny Craig, is a culmination of everything the band has achieved in the past eight years. “There’s a reason why it’s self-titled,” explains Volk. “We really feel like this is the new starting point. There was everything that happened before the release of this record and everything that’s going to happen after this. This is a true One Bad Son record.”
The album channels the electrified energy of the band’s thunderous concerts and also adds a new dimension to its diverse sonic pallet. Upbeat scorchers like “Rustbucket” and “She’s on Fire” are packed with ’70s-inspired hard rock riffs and fretboard fireworks, while the menacing singalong “London Kills” taps into something darker and more groove-based. Elsewhere, the band shows its stylistic breadth with the melancholic ballads “Scarecrows” and “El Camino,” the latter featuring little more than an acoustic guitar and a mournful string section.
These passionate and uncompromising tracks are the product of years of devotion to the life of rock ‘n’ roll. Of course, the guys are no strangers to hard work. “Lyrically, it’s a very blue collar record,” Volk observes. “I’m a farm kid. Kurt’s dad is an auto body man. Adam’s dad is a painter. That’s what we grew up with. It’s a really good reflection of where the band has been the last few years — just working, working, working.”
Now that the band is finally seeing its labor pay off in the form of a record deal and a quickly expanding fan base, don’t expect One Bad Son to compromise its independent spirit and timeless approach to rock music any time soon. “We’re four guys who write all the songs together,” Dahl asserts. “We play our own instruments. We don’t play to backing tracks. We’ve lived together as a band. We dress ourselves. If that’s old fashioned, that explains what the fuck is wrong with rock ‘n’ roll today.”
He continues, “We do it ourselves. There’s no one else pulling the strings behind the scenes. We live and breathe this band and these songs. That’s what real rock ‘n’ roll is all about.”