In the music business, like pretty much any other endeavour, all good things must come to an end.
And so it is with Winnipeg’s SubCity Dwellers.
Nothing disastrous, mind you. The Dwellers, one of the Valley’s favourite ska bands, will still play Banff’s Rose & Crown, Feb. 20-21 and the Canmore Hotel, Feb. 24.
But the band, which has been together for almost a decade, will be without the guitar and gravelly, Tom Waits-style vocals of Matty Foster. On the strings and at the mic, Foster has been a SCD mainstay for about eight years, but he’s moved on to other projects.
As well, drummer Alain Guilmette (he of the drum solo on Rose windows) won’t make this tour as he has succumbed to taking a full-time teaching gig and can’t head out on the road this time around.
Not to worry, though, said frontman Ian Lodewyks (vocals, guitar). “It was the best breakup we could have hoped for. Matty gave us notice in spring and he was with us until September, when we did a last big show with him.”
The Dwellers, as they will appear this time around, will now include the horn section – Darryl Reilly (sax, vocals), Allison Moore (trumpet), Rob Goodman (trombone) – along with Kevin McLean (keys, vocals), Darwin Baker (bass) and Sandy John Junior Fernandez (drums).
The Dwellers haven’t even tried to replace Foster, said Lodewyks. “That guy just can’t be replaced. It’s one thing to try and replace a member after eight years, it’s another to try and replace a guy like Matty.
“So the SubCity Dwellers are changing a little bit. To replace Alain on this tour, we’ve trained a new guy (Fernandez). He just moved to Winnipeg from Mumbai last year. He’d been playing rock and funk in India, saw us at some shows here and said ‘If you ever need me, I’m there’. It happened in such a way it’s almost as if it was meant to be.
“He’s cool, a solid guy, and he’s learned our stuff in a hurry – our whole repertoire of about 30 songs. We have reggae, funk, rock ‘n’ roll, so he fits in perfectly.”
The Dwellers have performed a number of shows now with the new lineup and Lodewyks said feedback has been good.
“We might have a few less frills, but maybe a more urgent sound. I had to step up to the plate to try and be half the guitar player Matty was, which, even after playing for 16 years, was hard to do.
“It’s also given us a chance to write songs in a different light. We’ve been working on new songs and we’ve got some killer, well-crafted tunes that we want to try out on audiences. They’re maybe less flashy than when Matty was with us, but they’re solid.”
With new songs, the band is moving a little more toward soul and rock, and they’re going to put out a seven-inch vinyl album with just a pair of songs. New material will be gathered for an album the band hopes will be out later this year.
In keeping with the theme of change, the Dwellers have also added some acoustic gigs to their repertoire, which includes an upright piano and acoustic guitars. It’s acoustic, but Lodewyks assures it’s “still full force”. Valley gigs, though, will remain a full-on electric extravaganza.
“So now we’re looking forward to getting out on the road. It’ll be interesting to see what the reaction will be.
“We’re also looking forward to playing Banff and Canmore. In Banff, you can meet people from all over the world in one place.”
In hitting the road with new bandmembers, Lodewyks said it gives the band a chance to work on new material and new songs. “Before you head out, you’re maybe questioning some songs, but you get out on the road for 15 gigs and you either solidify things or change them completely.
“It’s a good chance to see what works and what doesn’t, or what people really go for.”
Being a band that prides itself on live performance, SubCity Dwellers will tweak older songs to keep them fresh and, on any given night, even a familiar song might take on a new life.