Stampeding with … Reuben Bullock from Reuben and the Dark

They’re likely to get a whole lot of love from the Stampede midway crowd when they take the Coca-Cola Stage on Thursday, July 4 to kick off the entire 10-day event with their Sneak-A-Peek performance.

And what will Reuben and the Dark give their hometown fans?

A little Unlove.

Reuben Bullock, frontman for the epically and beautifully moody, broody Calgary act, reveals for the first time that the name of the new album he and his mates will be dropping this fall is, in fact, just that: Unlove.

During the set they’ll be previewing some of the material from the record, which is tentatively scheduled for October, with some to-be-announced Alberta dates surrounding its release and a headlining tour to follow in the new year. (Watch the video for the single You and I below.)

That’s not to say you haven’t heard anything new from him since their last release, 2018’s Arms of a Dream. If you’re an avid TV viewer, you’ve likely heard some of his new music accompanying shows from from The Handmaid’s Tale to Grey’s Anatomy.

It’s become something of a cottage industry for Bullock, another artistic outlet and a way to get his name and music out there.

“I’ve been writing a bunch of songs that are just specifically for that,” the musician says. “It’s great when they use a song off your album, but I’ve also been spending … time working with (L.A. producer AG). We did some stuff for Reuben and the Dark, but at the same time I would just write songs and we would record these sort of dramatic songs that were intentionally for film  (and TV) placements as an experiment (originally), but then literally everything we’ve written have been used so we’re just keeping it going.”

Before Reuben and the Dark appear in a more three-dimensional manner, Bullock chatted with theYYSCENE and gave us his thoughts on the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth. 

Q: How many Stampede’s have you performed at or attended?

A: Well, we performed, I don’t even know what the stage was, but it was probably 2012 … maybe even 2011. It was kind of in the middle of the midway. I remember there was a trampoline act after us. So it was in the middle and 35 degrees and all of our equipment was malfunctioning, just melting, all this feedback and guitar amps breaking. (Laughs) It wasn’t very well attended and a trampoline act went on right after us.

Q: So you were the opener for the trampoline act.

A: We opened for a trampoline act.

Q: Very Spinal Tap.

A: (Laughs) But, yeah, I’ve probably only been to four or five Stampedes. And a lot of that was more back in the day, and I have a little brother with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, so I would always take him and we’d go do all the rides and just be there for the daytime.

Q: Is it something you can get into and enjoy, or do you just do your thing and get the hell out?

A: Yeah, I think that the way I feel about the Calgary Stampede is I support it as a cultural event in a really big way. I love how it brings the city together, I love how it puts Calgary on the map, I love the family and friend environment of it. I’m not much for the nightlife, so the times that I engage with the Stampede are definitely going with friends and kids, especially, just eating some ridiculous junk food and going on rollercoasters.

Q: That leads me to my next couple of questions. First off, what’s your favourite midway food, what’s your go-to?

A: I don’t even know. I’m a sucker for just classic mini donuts. That’s probably it.

Q: Are you a rides person and if so which one? You said rollercoaster, but is there one in particular?

A: I got stuck on the Zipper. It was very traumatizing. I don’t like spinning, I don’t like spinning things. I can do rollercoasters, but anything else with big drops and spins and flips, I have no interest in. I remember, I was probably 16 years old and it was the final night of the Stampede just as the park was closing and a friend of mine convinced me to go on the Zipper and so I was just like, “OK, I’ll just do it, I have to do it.” I went on with him and it went on its normal course, and then everyone was just cheering because it was the very, very last ride of the Stampede, they were going to shut it down after we got off of it. And everyone was cheering wanting more and I was just like hanging onto whatever was in front of me, staring at my feet trying to not throw up, and the guy just let the ride continue for probably 15 minutes — just let it go. And I was stuck on the Zipper thinking I was going to die. I don’t mix well. (Laughs) But that’s a really funny memory of the Stampede. I remember going to sleep for two nights in a row, I’d close my eyes and feel like I was still trapped on the Zipper and everyone else loved it.

Q: I think they’ve officially retired the Zipper. I think they did last year.

A: I have no issues with that.

Q: What song do you think is going to be the best one to rev up a Stampede crowd?

A: Well, we’re going to take out some new ones, so we will see how those go. But we’re also going to play as many of the kind of classic ones as we can, just because when you get a bigger audience like that it’s so nice to have people engaged and sing along with you. I never know which song is going to be the song, but I think we’ve got lots of them.

(Photo courtesy Thomas Dagg.)

Reuben and the Dark perform on the Calgary Stampede’s Coca-Cola Stage Thursday, July 4. Performance is free with paid admission.