It's Friday night at Toronto's legendary El Mocambo and the sold-out crowd is crushed to the stage waiting for the band. The soundman walks by with his palm in the air signalling five minutes to show time. The air is thick with expectation until the lights go down and the band appears. The audience explodes and just as quickly settles in to the seductive bass groove of Payment Time. Then, one line into the first verse, the music stops.
"What the fuck is goin' on? What the fuck is goin' on?" asks the singer of his crew. The crowd, shocked out of its cool, rhythmic posturing, doesn't quite know what to do with itself. An on-stage Macintosh computer is punched and stroked accordingly, and the set resumes.
Just another night on the road for Bootsauce, a band that's put the dance back into edgy rock and captured the imagination of countless musicians with its meteoric rise from obscurity to a critically-acclaimed album and two Juno nominations.
Bootsauce has been stirring people up from coast to coast. The band's blend of infectious rhythms, rap, rock, funk, sexual innuendo and, of all things, Hendrix-influenced guitar stylings has propelled it into the spotlight as a Canadian band to be reckoned with.
And Bootsauce will be reckoned with. With four progressively swelling national tours under its belt, a recently-penned U.S. distribution deal with New Plateau and radio airplay across North America, the band is enjoying a rapid-fire period of attention and acclaim. Some folks are indeed having so much fun with this band that they're seriously injuring themselves at performances - the true acid test of success...
Bootsauce comprises Drew Ling, lead vocals; Pere Fume, guitar; Sonny Greenwich Jr., lead guitar; Baculis, bass. Rob Kazenel plays drums on the road - otherwise the band relies heavily on sequencing to augment its sound. Pere Fume is the resident computer jockey.
"All of our songs except for one cover are sequenced," he says, fidgeting over his drink. "We have a drum machine with two sets of outputs. Out of the second output we send a click to our drummer in the voices he wants, and a little bit of that goes on stage so we know where to start. Then we have additive drum machine parts, all the synth lines, and everything that's too fucking boring to play live."
Bootsauce has been sequencing extensively in their writing sessions using a rhythm machine, sampling, and creating all the sample loops on the spot as the song develops. However, the method was used due to time pressures rather than by preference and it's unlikely the band will choose to take that route again.
"We discovered (that sampling while writing) doesn't work very well," Fume intones. "We'd rather get the basis of the song down and then start adding extraneous keyboard parts or those little samples you might want to put on top, later. All that got integrated into pre-production writing sessions, which is incredibly time-consuming, tedious - and eventually you forget what you were trying to do in the first place. It's definitely not a recommended way to do it."
Baculis agrees: "We don't want to let that happen again because it's tiring and makes the whole process more work than actual fun. Songwriting should sort of be interesting."
Bootsauce’s songwriting sessions, which can last up to 18 hours at a stretch, are attended by all the members of the band. Ling writes most of the lyrics, but writing the music is a shared experience. Once the material is nailed down, the band takes a unique approach to putting it together.
“We don't rehearse,” says Fume flatly.
"We're not really a rehearsing band," Baculis quickly adds in an attempt to clarify a puzzling situation.
Fume continues: "To us, (rehearsing) is all just part of the pre-prod(uction). You do your part on the 16-track or the 4-track, and everyone can just sit with the tape at home. We'll only rehearse the first week of the tour."
Lack of rehearsals hasn't hurt the band's reputation for giving deranged, dynamic live performances, however. Its live sound is harder, louder, stronger than The Brown Album, Bootsauce's first recording and the individuals prove most convincingly that they are capable of working a larger stage than they are usually given.
"Our new drummer is incredibly right," Baculis enthuses. "He's a beat-box, actually, and I like playing with a beat-box."
Adds Fume: "We've had bands accuse him (Baculis) of not even playing on the record it's so tight..."
"In a lot of the tunes the bass is a big part of the hook," continues a more subdued Baculis. "We don't need a busy drummer but we need a super-strong groove, 'cause there are all kinds of rhythmic samples which add to the busyness of the feel."
The Brown Album earned the band a Juno nomination for "Most Promising Group of the Year". It was recorded at Hudson Studios in New York State with producer Corky Laing (former drummer for Mountain) and NYC-based Mike Scott as an engineer.
"Corky was our A&R guy," explains Fume. "He's the one who had the most to do with signing us. He'd heard the 4-track demo stuff and was a little bit tickled by it and came and saw the show and said 'Okay, that's it.' He wanted to produce us, although the songs were pretty well already finished so he didn't really have that much to do."
Fume started out sampling everything on a Mirage - "It sounds like probably the first time anybody heard Hendrix going through a Marshall real loud. You know, fuckin' raunchy..." - and sequencing it on an MC300. He then leaned on an Akai S950 MIDI Digital Sampler with an expansion board for greater time-stretching capabilities and a less "raunchy" sound. An enfineer at Hudson turned him on to the Macintosh, which drives Performer sequencing software.
When asked about the relative quickness and apparent ease of Bootsauce's initial success, Fume becomes very serious, and quite empathetic.
"Just because we haven't been around long doesn't mean we came out of nowhere," he states. "We've been musicians all our fucking lives and it's not like we just all quit being architects and threw together this record and got signed. We've all been slogging it out with other projects. It's just that nothing worked before."
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