Veteran Canadian rock act hits the outdoor festival circuit with their flip flops on and their hits at the ready.
Summer is the time for no rules.
Carefree. Have fun. Do what you wanna do.
Unless, maybe, you’re a lifeguard.
Or if you’re a member of veteran Canadian rock act the Sam Roberts Band. Then, well, there is one hard and fast that must be adhered to by all.
“We have a ‘no shorts’ rule onstage,” says frontman Roberts. “It is not becoming of a rock ’n’ roll band.”
That, he says, even includes cut offs.
“Iggy Pop can do that,” he clarifies. “But we’re not Iggy Pop, so we’re not allowed to.”
That said, the artist does note that during this run of summer dates he does have his flip flops with him, although for his Sunday mid-heatwave gig at the Wildhorse Saloon Stampede tent he might just leave them back at the hotel to avoid having his “toes crushed by shit-kicker boots.”
The rest of the next few months? Game on.
In fact, Roberts is calling from Thunder Bay, where he and his quintet are getting set to play that city’s Blues Festival. They also just returned from overseas, where they performed an open-air event in Paris, and the rest of the summer is filled other such dates in the great outdoors, under hopefully blue skies.
“As much as we plan it. We get asked to play and we usually always say yes,” he says simply.
“Summer is basically all about festivals and enjoying these three short months we have to play outside before we retreat back to our beer-drenched underworld …
“If there’s one thing you can count on is that the sunshine brings out the best in an audience, that’s for sure.”
It helps, too, that the Sam Roberts Band can pick and choose, take one-off dates due to the fact they’re at the tail-end of the touring cycle for their latest studio album, 2016’s Juno-nominated TerraForm.
It’s another fantastic entry in the tapestry of one of this country’s best and most interesting mainstream rock acts — one that never settles, always evolves, but still manages to please its fanbase, build onto it.
And while some might think the nine months since its release would have given Roberts an idea about whether or not it accomplished what he wanted it to, thought it would do, the artist is a little more reserved in his assessment.
“I think that might take a few more years to tell. We’ve kind of learned not to make any real snap judgments when it comes to how deep an album manages to penetrate into people’s hearts and minds,” he says, before pointing to his 2006 sophomore release.
“I remember it was about 10 years later people started telling me, ‘Oh, Chemical City is my favourite record that you ever made.’ ”
He laughs. “I was like, ‘Where have you been for the last decade?’
“I feel like this record — in terms of my immediate response to your question — really helps to invigorate the band onstage, and that is worth its weight in gold for us.”
Roberts notes that the band’s last three records — the slightly psychy current one, 2014’s more electro-dancey Lo-Fantasy, and the more straight-up rock of 2011’s Collider — have allowed them to “stay away from walking the same ground over and over and over again” and taken them in a “new direction on stage.”
He says the only real quantifiable way to gauge the success of each has been the audience reaction every night, whether they’re singing along to the first line on a new tune, into it right off the bat.
That has and likely never will be a problem. Even less so in these summer months, when the Sam Roberts Band are relying on shorter, hits-heavy sets, rather than trying to sell the new stuff.
And as for new stuff, Roberts admits that when these dates are done, he will get started on the follow-up to TerraForm, get busy charting his act’s next musical course.
“Definitely. In my mind, for sure. But I’m not able to at the moment,” he says.
“When I’m playing I throw all my energy into the performance itself. But also, the other 22 hours of the day don’t lend themselves to actually sitting down and writing, putting pen to paper, putting chords together.
“I think it’s valuable in its own way, it’s an accumulation of life experiences and stories that help you when it is time to write.
“But as long as we’re in touring mode, that part of me is shut off, and then as soon as we stop playing it gets turned on again and that’s when I go deep into that state of mind.”
He laughs. “And that’s hard to get out of in its own way, too. That’s when you’re spending 12 hours in the basement and you come up and you’ve got a computer tan and you forget your children’s names.”
Sam Roberts Band perform Sunday, July 9 at the Wildhorse Saloon. For a chance to win tickets to the concert, please click here.
Mike Bell has been covering the Calgary music scene for the past 25 years with publications such as VOX, Fast Forward, the Calgary Sun and, most recently, the Calgary Herald. He is currently the music writer and content editor for theYYSCENE.ca. Follow him on Twitter/@mrbell_23 or email him at email@example.com.