Chet Greason, email@example.com
Everyone loves a cover band. They fuel the party, getting celebrants to sing along to the songs they know. They turn a casual evening out at a pub into a memorable night of dancing and letting loose.
For local cover bands, it doesn't get much better than The Containment Unit. Their high energy shows have packed venues in Stratford, Bayfield, and beyond. Named for a piece of equipment used by the Ghostbusters, the band has garnered the respect of hard-nosed nineties kids with faithful interpretations of that generation's revered canon, and found new fans in younger generations with original rock-infused takes on pop songs like Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe.
But at some point, many cover bands wish to remove themselves somewhat from the shadow of the mainstream artists they’re paying tribute to, and start putting their own material out into the ether; to stand as the focal point under the spotlight of a stage, rather than to rub elbows with an audience listening intermittently between conversations.
With the release of their first original collaboration, Up With the Sun, and with their album’s release party set for Saturday, July 18 at the Masonic Hall, The Containment Unit aims to do just that.
Songwriter Josh Gropp is certainly no newcomer to original recordings. He spent almost a decade as a gigging musician touring around the world, releasing a number of original albums.
The eight songs found on Up With the Sun were originally meant to be recorded by a solo Gropp, with the help of some collaborators from Italy. When that plan fell through, Gropp suggested to his bandmates here in Stratford to produce them instead.
Featuring vocalist Adam Barnier, drummer Chad Bart, and bassist Jeffrey Clayton, along with Gropp on guitar and vocals, Up With the Sun re-imagines Gropp’s acoustic songs with a pop punk bend filled with rapid-fire tempos, melodic harmonies, and snarling solos.
The album exhibits frequent themes dealing with the realities of being a gigging musician; from the repetitive nature of performing in Tinnitus Tonight, to the late night haul home in All Roads Lead to Hedonia, to the early morning reality of day-jobs in the titular track Up with the Sun, which lends its name to the album.
“I wanted to write about what I knew instead of being ambiguous,” says Gropp. Indeed, the day-to-day reality is something The Containment Unit struggles with, with one member pulling permanent day shifts, one on afternoons, one on midnights, and Gropp stuck working somewhere in between. The daily grind can often strain performance and recording schedules.
All eight songs are lyrically tied together in the final track, Sunday Brunch, produced in Gropp’s home, while the rest of the album was recorded over three days at Beach Road Studios in Goderich. Those three singular days were actually spread out over the course of a year, with plenty of mixing and mastering going on in between stints at the studio.
“It’s not really a concept album,” says Gropp of the thematic loops that bind the work together. “But I did want to tie it all in as a kind of coming-of-age, musician’s diary.”
Another striking aspect of the album is the original artwork that adorns it by Stratford artist Dan Wettlaufer. The CD jacket and companion booklet tells the story, in pictures, of a moon-headed party animal's nighttime bender, and a sun-headed working man's morning routine before heading out to his job. The vibrant and meticulous illustrations complement the accompanying lyrics and add a gorgeous visual angle to the compilation.
"When it came time to do this album, we knew he'd be the perfect guy to do it," says Gropp of Wettlaufer. "He just took our ideas and ran with it."
The CD release party will be a cathartic culmination of a year's worth of spent creative energy for The Containment Unit at a venue where the performers are the hall's focus.
"We pushed the schedule back just so we could play there," says Gropp. "We love the vibe. It's a proper music theatre; lights, a stage, a sound guy…"
Beginning at 8 p.m., the show opens with Gropp performing some of his acoustic songs, followed by a set by area rock band Wide Open Throttle. The Containment Unit will then perform Up with the Sun from start to finish, followed by some of their most popular covers.
Tickets cost $10, or $15 with a copy of the CD. Shirts and other merchandise will be available at the venue.
"We're so grateful to have the opportunity to be sharing our art; not just other people's songs," says Gropp. "This time, the songs are coming from our hearts, played for friends and family."