Prog Rock Riffs

Chemistry is the key to Blurton’s latest project

by James Brotheridge

musicPublic Animal
w/ Black Thunder and The Bolans
German Club
Tuesday 24

When I speak to Ian Blurton about his new band Public Animal’s upcoming show at the German Club on June 24, he mentions how each member of the group brings something individual to each and every song. So I ask him what he brings.

“What am I bringing?” he says. “Fuckin’ wicked riffs.”

Blurton’s joking, but not without some acknowledgment of his reputation in Canadian rock circles. His bands, Change of Heart, Blurtonia and C’mon among them, have made the Toronto native the reigning king of Canadian riffs, or at least a very well regarded duke or something.

He started Public Animal in 2012, more for the fun of it than with the intention, in his words, “of trying to be a real band.” Blurton’s a respected producer in Toronto and keeps busy that way. In forming his new group, he wound up pulling members from acts he’d worked with in the studio: keyboardist and vocalist Caitlin Dacey of Bella Clava, drummer Ryan Gassi of the Lying Cheats, and Blurton’s good friend Erick Larock, bassist for Tricky Woo.

“Maybe I was an instigator at the beginning, but now, we all have our roles,” says Blurton. “If someone left this band, there’d be just no way it could continue. The way the chemistry is and everything, everyone brings their own [contribution] to the table.”

Larock was the first person Blurton approached. That’s an unexpected revelation for me, because a big part of Public Animal’s dynamic on their debut album Habitat Animal (released June 1)stems from how Blurton and Dacey share vocal duties. That wasn’t the plan originally, though.

“We were actually going to get a lead singer at one point, and Caitlin and I were just going to sing backup vocals,” says Blurton. “Once we started writing the tunes and we realized how many long instrumental passages there were, we thought, ‘What’s a lead singer going to do? Stand around?’ Unless they’re an Iggy. And we wanted a female singer. We wanted a female Iggy, basically. And how many of those are there?”

So Blurton and Dacey ended up assuming responsibility for vocals in the band. In essence, he says, “I’m her backup singer and she’s my backup singer.”

What about those long instrumental passages in the songs? Part of that, it seems, is due to the band’s prog-rock nature.

“Just having the keyboard and a different kind of guitar sound lends itself to sounding more prog-y,” Blurton says. “It’s funny –– we all write. There isn’t one song on the record that one person really wrote everything. So it’s nice to get someone who’s normally a pop person bring in a prog part.

“We didn’t even really realize how long some of the songs were until much later.”

Until you started recording them, I ask?

“Well, we did demos for the whole record, so at that point, it was like, ‘Oh my God.’ The first two songs are almost 12 minutes and there’s a seven-minute song at the end of side one, and seven-minute songs on side two.”

That eats up the LP pretty quickly, I observe.

Blurton agrees, and notes that the run times of most of the songs got cut down on the actual record. “Somebody said, ‘It’s like ADD prog,’ which is pretty funny. It’s for people who like prog but don’t have the attention span for it. I think that’s hilarious.”

2014-06-12