One Bad Son have been around for, remarkably, 10 years, making it surprising that all of Canada hasn’t twigged onto the Saskatoon-raised band’s hard-rocking sound. “It’s actually 10 years in October exactly,” said guitarist Adam Hicks in an interview before their show at the Horseshoe Tavern on July 22. “[In] 2004, me, (drummer) Kurt [Dahl] and (vocalist) Shane [Volk] kind of all met and had similar interests, and we rented a house together, which became the One Bad Son house for about two years, and that was probably the main, I don’t know, dawning point, if you want to call it that.” It would be two years before their first album, This Aggression Will Not Stand, was released, but it would take them until 2013 before the group made serious headway.
One of the first big changes was finally settling on a permanent bass player in 2007, with Adam Grant completing the quartet and giving One Bad Son its recognizable sound. It was the same year they released their second album, Orange City, and a sort of ground zero for the next six years. Finally, in 2013, One Bad Son had their big breakthrough moment when they were selected from a group of bands by SiriusXM Canada to play alongside The Sheepdogs at the 101st Grey Cup in Winnipeg. Hedley were the headliners, but judging by the response they had, it could have easily been the Saskatoon quartet in their stead.
“That was pretty awesome,” Hicks said. “Definitely one of the best moments of last year.” According to Volk during the show, playing at Toronto’s legendary Horseshoe Tavern was another of them. In between songs, he stopped to chat to the somewhat sparse audience, and mentioned how the Horseshoe was one of those places he’d always heard of, and was thrilled to actually grace its stage. Although the audience was rather small (it was a Tuesday night, which probably had a lot to do with it), Volk and the rest of the band didn’t let it bother them one iota, rocking out as hard as though they were headlining a sold-out arena.
The boys are known for their proclivity to touring across the country, nonchalantly chalking up a Toronto-to-Vancouver drive as just part of the job. “[Being on the road] is tough, but it’s also cool because we got to see the parts of the country that a normal tourist probably wouldn’t go see…we got to go through all the small little towns and stay in the crappy little hotels, and we get to meet a ton of people and fans,” he said, his eyes lighting up. We joked that perhaps when One Bad Son make it to the next level, the first item in order will be a private jet for an easier commute.
Watching them on stage, it’s a little puzzling to figure out why One Bad Son haven’t become more mainstream than they are. Is it that their sound —a throwback to ’70s and ’80s hard rock with a hint of modern pop’s catchiness tossed in for good measure — isn’t what Canada’s looking for? That can’t be the answer, though, because bands like Monster Truck and The Sheepdogs have that hard driving rhythm and are incredibly popular. Or maybe it’s that One Bad Son need a touch more aggressiveness, a slightly in-your-face attitude that demands listening to, instead of a polite query.
Whatever the case is, Volk, with his energetic physicality and impressive falsetto and vibratto, complemented by the band’s tight, loud playing, showed why One Bad Son need to be playing in a bigger venue than the Horseshoe. He’s been in front of the mic so long, he has the professionalism down pat to rise above mishaps, like his microphone being too quiet for the first three songs. And when he howled at the end of “Retribution Blues”, the penultimate song of their seven-track set, what a howl it was. He let it hang and hang in the air like a claw that wouldn’t let go, but kept it in pitch, too, instead of weakly wavering off when the effort began to wear on him.
This is a band with endurance, discipline and strength, and it’s getting harder and harder to put them in the corner.
Vinyl Spin Burner