Skeleton Park Arts Festival is just days away and, as always, offers a full weekend+ of music, activities, and a festival unlike any other.
Festival host Luther Wright caught up with Tim Vesely of The Rheostatics, who headline Saturday’s events. Wright talked to Vesely about Kingston connections and what the band is up to these days, among other things.
Here, without further ado, we give you a very special installment of ‘Six questions for…’ thanks to our friends with the Skeleton Park Arts Festival. Enjoy!
Luther Wright: There’s a lot of excitement around your performance coming up at Skeleton Park Arts Fest, and it looks like you’ve been playing select events the last few years.
Given how busy everyone in the band must be, with other projects and family and such, would you say you’ve got a good groove going with the number of Rheostatic shows you play?
Tim Vesely: Yes, we’ve played a limited number of choice gigs since re-uniting the band: Beau’s Octoberfest, the Picton Theatre on Canada Day, the Interstellar Rodeo in Winnipeg. Special gigs, good vibes and lots of fun. We’d probably like to play even more if our schedules allow.
That’s one of the reasons for making a new album. Now that the novelty of the band reuniting has worn off, producing a new album for fans gives us another reason to go out and play shows. It’s also essential that you keep generating new material. That’s what the Rheostatics have always done. Our manager and dear friend, Shauna DeCartier, has really helped get this thing back up and running. She really knows what’s required.
LW: I think I can speak for a number of music fans in saying that The Rheostatics are one of the most important bands of a musical upbringing. The mid ’80s in Toronto was a great time for live music and the Rheos played a lot of gigs in those days, and every show was a fantastic journey into soundscapes and lyrical mastery, where you pushed and pulled the music. Do you come at the songs in a similar way after all these years?
TV: We love our songs and it’s a treat getting to play them live. It’s always a journey for us and a challenge. It’s especially rewarding playing with [original drummer] Dave Clark and going back to our earliest repertoire. Playing the Melville and Whale Music stuff with DC, it’s an instant realization of ‘Yeah, that’s how those songs came to be.’
We’re currently in the studio recording new stuff and I’d say we have the same approach: Open to what everyone has to offer, getting the best out of everyone, and ultimately coming up with music that we can’t do on our own in other configurations.
LW: Do you any particular Kingston gigs stand out to you?
TV: Yeah – The Toucan show where they realized that there were too many people in the bar right before we were about to go on, and having to wait while
the staff asked for volunteers to leave. That was pretty exciting for us, and I’m sure a real drag for everyone else. That one put Kingston on the map for us.
LW: How do you approach a festival show like what you’ll be doing at Skeleton Park? You have so much material to choose from!
TV: There are definitely songs that work better in an outdoor festival setting. The breezier, groovier ones I think. We do have a pretty vast repertoire with lots of cool moments in there, but currently we’re sticking mostly to the Dave Clark-era tunes. We just never get around to working out later material with DC. If we manage to find collective time to rehearse, we’d rather just work on new stuff. So it’s the oldest songs and the newest songs.
LW: The Tragically Hip invited you on the Roadside Attraction tour in 1995. Did that offer come out of the blue for you guys? Was it as fun as it looked?
TV: I don’t really know how it came about other than hearing that one or two of the guys in the Hip liked our music. That’s all we needed to know.
Then before we knew it, we were playing on the festival express, along with our Kingston buddies, The Inbreds. It was equal parts fun, challenging, awe-inspiring –watching the Hip night after night in complete command of what they do. It was eye-opening. It wasn’t easy either. Playing on those huge stages for mostly indifferent people milling about and looking for their seats. On our first show, we made the mistake of allowing our amps and drums to be set up as far from one another as possible. If the stage is that big, you figure you’re supposed to use all the real estate. But playing was a nightmare. We really couldn’t see or hear each other. Couldn’t feel the music like it’s supposed to feel. After that we set up in the same tight configuration no matter what. That’s the kind of stuff you learn along the way.
LW: Are you writing/working on new songs/recordings these days?
TV: We’re currently recording in Toronto and by the time we play Kingston, we’ll have finished tracking and sending it off to be mixed. The production is on a tight schedule, which is great because it keeps things moving, it makes you focus, and I think it’s just what we need. You don’t realize how big a role momentum plays until you stop and lose it, and then try to get it going again. Hopefully that means it will be out before the end of the year.
For more information or a full schedule for Skeleton Park Arts Festival, click here.