Canadian rock legends Big Wreck make their long awaited Newfoundland return, kicking off the sophomore Iceberg Alley concert series on September 13th
For the first time since their reformation in 2011, Canadian rock legends Big Wreck are returning to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Fronted by the enigmatic Ian Thornley, Big Wreck were a mainstay of Canadian rock music in the 1990s, with their 1997 debut In Loving Memory Of… reaching double platinum status here in the great white north.
Reviving the Project
The group disbanded in 2002, with Ian relocating to Toronto and forming the hard rock outfit Thornley, which produced the hits Come Again, So Far So Good, Make Believe and Beautiful.
Ten years after the last Big Wreck record in 2001, Thornley and fellow founding member Brian Doherty were presented with the idea of reviving the project.
“It sort of folded into Big Wreck from Thornley in a very natural and normal way,” Thornley explains. “We were in the studio recording what would be Albatross. I hadn’t really given any thought to it, that it would be a Thornley record or an Ian Thornley record. I hadn’t given any thought to calling it Big Wreck.”
The present Thornley lineup were re-branded as Big Wreck, with the band releasing the critically acclaimed studio album Albatross in 2012, building on the wide following the band had accumulated through two solid albums a decade prior.
“You never really know if and when something that you’re working on is going to have an impact,” Thornley explains. “For some reason that first record, it was probably just timing and what was going on in the landscape musically when that record came out. It seemed to resonate with people. If there’s an audience for it I’m more than happy to play the music. It’s very humbling the fact that it was met with open arms by fans and the public. The Albatross record sort of hearkened back to a sound that to me sounded like a Big Wreck record. Big Wreck is basically the music that I make when there isn’t a record company in the way telling me how it’s supposed to be and what it’s supposed to sound like. I was surrounded by great people that really believed in what I was doing.”
‘20 Years Down the Line’
A pair of critically acclaimed albums in Ghosts and Grace Street would follow in 2014 and 2017. Last year, the band embarked on a 20th anniversary tour of their landmark album In Loving Memory Of…, which they performed across the United States and Canada.
“We really sort of flushed out all these tunes,” Thornley shared. “Some of them we haven’t played in a long, long time and some of them have never been played. I really enjoyed it. I think the audience did too. For some reason that record really resonated with people. For it to be 20 years down the line, it will give you pause in one way, but also you’re still at it and still doing it. I’ll look back on that tour fondly.”
Thornley and Big Wreck return to Newfoundland and Labrador for the first time in years to kickoff the second annual Iceberg Alley Performance Tent concert series at Quidi Vidi on September 13th.
While fans can expect tried and true classics like The Oaf, That Song and Blown Wide Open, they can also expect some fluidity and improvisation from a group of artists not content to play album carbon copies of radio hits.
“Something I don’t see a lot of bands doing is improvising. It’s sort of a lost art,” Thornley says. “Everyone is playing to track nowadays and you don’t really have the freedom to change the tempo or change the key or take a complete left turn in the middle of a song. You don’t have that freedom anymore because you’re tied down to a tape, but it’s something we love to do. It’s how the spirit moves you. If we’re losing the audience we’re probably not going to go all Grateful Dead on them, we’ll probably keep hitting them with the hits. You have to feel right. There has to be a good connection between the band and the crowd.”
Thornley shares that, being the consummate singer-songwriter that he is, he is well on his way to crafting enough tracks for a followup album to Grace Street. Inspiration strikes early and often, and while the modes and methods for production and documentation of music have changed, Thornley’s drive and desire to craft have yet to waiver.
“It never really stops, the ideas, the little creative spark,” he says. “It’s always been the same. The search is always ongoing. The more time that goes by the more ideas I’m going to have. That’s just the nature of work. I’ve sort of stockpiled a lot of ideas that I want to get to soon, really soon. We’re going to be starting working on the next record, and we’ve got a few other things coming down the pipe as well. We’ll be working on the new record sooner rather than later.
“I don’t think it’s really changed for me, the process and the desire and the search. It’s never really changed. Things have gotten a little easier because I can record ideas on my phone, but that’s about the only thing that’s really changed. That’s a great thing for me.”
‘Loud & Proud’
And live? Well, fans in St. John’s are in for a treat, a rare experience of a real, tried and true rock band doing what they do best, without compromise or shortcuts.
“I think at the heart of it it’s still going to be this music and us playing it,” Thornley says.
“I like to have a good balance of what we call a hit with things that are a little more interesting and some improvisation and stretching things out, throwing in little bits and pieces of other songs and covers. It’s still loud and proud, how we’ve always done it, for better or worse. What I’m aiming to do and what we’re aiming to do is have a good balance of everything.
“I’ve seen a lot of bands over the last few years that almost sounds like every song is in the same tempo and same key. This is that bands’ song and therefore they keep playing it. It’s very weird, but I think that’s a new phenomena. We like to mix it up with highs and lows and fast and slow. I think that’s part of what has always made this band interesting, to me anyway, the amount of ground we like to cover musically and stylistically.”
For tickets to Big Wreck on September 13th at Iceberg Alley visit bigwreckmusic.com & icebergalleyconcerts.com