By Chet Greason
“When it comes down to it, our biggest draws are in Toronto and St. Marys, so that’s where we wanted to do it,” says Kevin Graham of his band Dress Rehearsal’s album release party. “It’s where our hearts are.”
Dress Rehearsal is used to playing some of the most popular stages in St. Marys, but decided they wanted to do things a little differently this time. “It feels like, when we play in town, there’re already things going on, and we’re asked to be the musical act,” says Graham. “We play music for these big parties that are already happening.”
While Graham says he enjoys the rowdiness of these types of venues, the band wanted more of a legitimate concert experience for the release of their newest album. So they’ve booked an all-ages event at the Town Hall Auditorium on Saturday, February 2. “Older folks don’t go out to bars at midnight on a Saturday, and younger folks can’t get in. We wanted to play a real venue made for actual performances,” he says. “It’ll be nice to have people there who just want to listen to the music.”
Graham first got the idea for playing the Town Hall after the band Seething played there in the early 2000s. As Dress Rehearsal’s bassist, Josh Doherty, was a member of Seething at the time, he had a hand in convincing the group that the performance venue is an ideally intimate place to play.
Opening the show at 8 p.m. will be the band’s good friend Luke Michielsen, who Graham and his twin brother Sean met while attending the University of Guelph. Michielsen, a folk/rock soloist who Kevin describes as being “Neil Young-esque” accompanied the band when they toured the East Coast.
“He had a CD release last year where we helped him out,” explains Graham. Now Michielsen is returning the favour.
Somewhere Under the Weather is the second full length album produced by Dress Rehearsal, the first being Greens and Honey, released in 2009. But Greens and Honey featured only Kevin, singing and playing guitar, and Sean on drums, as well as a handful of collaborators. “We didn’t even have a band,” says Kevin. “We figured, let’s put out an album as a base. We have all these songs, let’s get them out.”
Shortly after the original album’s release, the Graham brothers were joined by Doherty and lead guitarist and banjo player Ryan Watson. After having played onstage together since 2010, Somewhere Under the Weather is the first full-length collaboration from the band in its entirety.
“For me, personally, it’s a lot more honest,” says Kevin, the band’s primary songwriter. “It makes me feel a bit vulnerable…Greens and Honey was very safe. This is not at all…It can get quite dark.”
Typically, Graham will start the writing process by coming up with a melody on his acoustic guitar, followed by lyrics. “Then Watson will be either ‘That’s amazing!’ or ‘Let’s work on it...’ or I’ll just say ‘Watsy, come up with something cool,’” laughs Graham. Sean and Josh then add the drum and bass parts to the new song, respectively. “I’m always happy with what Sean does...and Josh did some really amazing things with these songs. I’m happy to have him around,” says Kevin.
One song in particular, Purple Evening, was written last summer while Graham was driving the backroads around St. Marys and the surrounding area. “It’s one of those songs I don’t even remember writing, but when I sing it now, it brings me back to St. Marys...It’s all about appreciating the small town vibe.”
The band already had their Toronto release party at The Silver Dollar on Jan. 18, with the Feb. 2 show being for the loyal Stonetown contingency of their fanbase. Somewhere Under the Weather has already been released online, with the full album available for listening on the band’s Facebook page. It can be downloaded through iTunes or Bandcamp.com, or purchased at the venue. “You come to a point where you have to understand that you’re not going to make a lot of money off of album sales,” says Graham. “The whole industry was turned upside down 10 years ago. It’s more about getting it out there. Hopefully people support us, though.”
Tickets for the show at the Town Hall cost $10 and can be purchased at Stewart Books on Queen Street in St. Marys. The show starts at 8 p.m. and will wrap up at 11.
For more information, check out Dress Rehearsal’s Facebook page.