photo: Kim Jay
Hot Blood Bombers
Now’s as good as ever for Regina’s sanguine rockers
by James Brotheridge
HOT BLOOD BOMBERS
The three men of Hot Blood Bombers have spent some time touring. They’ve been making fans’ knees weak with their mighty, live rock and roll glory for years.
But in their off-time on the road, if they weren’t doing dishes or making a meal for whoever had taken them in, they had another way of passing the time.
“We used to busk a bit when we were on tour, to make some extra money for food or beer,” says drummer Herb Exner, the huge dude in photographer Kim Jay’s excellent photos. “When busking, we’d written ‘broke travelling hungry love’ on the guitar case. Looking back at the time that all those songs were shaping up, that’s pretty much exactly what was happening.”
They wrote that line on a sunny day in an Ottawa market. Not only did they collect around $80 — the most any of them can remember making from busking –– they also got the title for their new album, Broke Traveling Hungry Love.
It’s a decent summary of what’s led up to its release.
For years now, the band –– Exner, guitarist/singer David Schneider and bassist/singer Shane Grass — has been good about releasing an album every year, giving them a solid back catalogue. Circumstances pushed back the release of Hungry Love, though. At one point, Schneider — the one with the black hair and puppy eyes — had even lost his copy of the album. The disc was recorded back in June 2009.
“We did a month long tour, then we recorded it in two days when we got back, then it just kinda sat there,” says Grass (dirty blond hair like Luke Skywalker).
They correct themselves later and say it was three days. In the grand scheme of things, though, they can be forgiven for missing a day here or there.
Right after they were done recording, they hit the road again. At a certain point, they delayed the release of the album.
“I think we all just decided to recoup our finances,” says Schneider.
“I didn’t wind up doing any of that,” says Grass.
Everyone laughs at that one. “I don’t think any of us did,” says Schneider.
Another delay was Grass being out of town for a few months playing with the Jordan Cook Band. When I interviewed the Bombers, he’d only been back in town for a couple of days, in fact.
Anyway. With the band back together, it made sense to finally get the new album out there.
“We didn’t really plan for this to be the CD release show, but it just kinda came together, so we were like, ‘Oh, OK, it may as well be now,’” says Exner.
City music nerds should be thankful for that. Hungry Love is their best to date, an accurate representation of the rock and roll explosion the band is onstage with 13 tracks of straight-ahead energy. The album shows the balance the band has found between unbound rock glory and the economy of a tight three-piece.
For example, take the final track on the album, “I Don’t Need Your Love Tonight”. Live, they give it room for a bit of jamming and crazy soloing. They knew enough to tighten it up for the recorded version, especially when it came to an Exner drum solo.
“The Moby-Dick drum solo on the album isn’t that nice,” says Schneider. “When I think about it, it’s pretty contained. It’s not that long compared to how we do it live. It’s not as crazy as live. That’s the way I felt we could do it. If we had just gone balls-out and recorded it, I don’t know what we would do live.”
Having been on tour before recording the album was key.
“We planned it out so that we’d be recording a couple days after we got home from touring so we knew exactly what we wanted,” says Exner. “We had a month to practice the songs every day and really get them how we wanted them to sound when we recorded them.”
Again with the no-frills rock of this album, only one of the songs reaches over three minutes in length.
“There hasn’t been a focus on how long they should or shouldn’t be. They end up whatever they end up,” says Grass.
“Whenever someone thinks we should end it, we end it. Then we record a CD and we realize, ‘We’re so screwed,’ says Schneider.
When Schneider says a line like that last one, he delivers it quiet. He’s a funny guy, but in a quiet way, a way that you might miss if you aren’t listening hard enough.
Grass is easily the most plainspoken, while Exner has an affable charm that’s hard to resist.
Talking with these three guys, it’s easy to figure out how they’ve stayed a band for all this time. What’s equally impressive is how they transform onstage into an unstoppable, crowd-pleasing unit — easily one of the best live shows Saskatchewan has to offer. All while working with traditional rock tropes.
For one, they aren’t opposed to singing about the “little girls” that are popular in the genre. (“What kind of trouble are you trying to get us into?” Grass asks when I mention it.)
“Sometimes I really hate it because everyone else does do it. You’re singing the songs that everyone else sings,” says Schneider “It’s hard not to write a rock and roll song about a cute girl. It’s kinda a default.”
A lot of these songs were written close to two years ago, though. And as Schneider says, “23 or 24 is much different than 26.”
With the band back together and on track it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. Plus, it looks like they’ve found a jam space they won’t lose anytime soon, in the garage of one of the members of the group This Machine Is a Fountain.
Things are looking up. “From what I’ve seen going on there, we’d have to screw up pretty big time to blow this one,” says Exner.