This interview has been condensed.
Kingston band The Glorious Sons are one of the hottest up-and-coming rock bands in the country. Their hit songs “White Noise,” “Heavy,” and “Mama” have been high on the Canadian rock charts, and since then, they’ve only been getting bigger. The Martlet’s Emmett Robinson Smith caught up with their lead singer Brett Emmons and guest keyboardist Tony Silvestri in their RV before their show at Sugar last month as part of their tour with The Trews.
How are you liking touring with the Trews?
B: Oh, it’s good. John-Angus [Macdonald], the guitarist, produced both albums, Shapeless Art and The Union so we know them pretty well. We’ve always thought we were gonna end up touring with them because we’ve been pretty good friends for probably like 2 or 3 years. Having it finally happen and get to party with your friends for a tour and play with musicians that you enjoy and you want to watch and listen to is pretty awesome. For sure.
You guys are getting pretty big now. What’s it like seeing your name on the charts alongside bigger bands like Foo Fighters?
B: When Mama first came out it was more exciting because it was our first single of three that we’ve had and it got to number 5 and it was around all those big bands like Pearl Jam. It was pretty sweet, but it kind of wears off on you. Mama was our first stepping stone of success, really. Or mainstream radio success at least, so it was pretty exciting. But now it’s kind of faded. Now, you want to be up there but you kind of expect to be up there anyways with every song you would make. It’s definitely not as exciting as playing in front of bigger crowds and playing festivals. The charts don’t really mean shit.
T: I think it pumps me up a little bit. Before I go on stage.
B: But the charts don’t pump you up.
T: It’s pretty cool. They’re all just contributing factors to wanting to put on a really good show. It’s almost like, when you start getting that kind of success, you wanna be more successful, and you have to try harder. It gives you a reason to try harder. Any kind of acknowledgement is kind of reassurance. It’s just like, ‘you’re doing the right thing, keep doing it. Do it better.’
B: I agree.
Do you think you sometimes get underestimated because of your image?
B: Well… I’ve never really thought about that, to tell you the truth. We are skilled musicians, we’re still learning as well. I think the main things that we highlight on our album is song-writing and fuckin’ just passion. That’s really all we’ve ever done. It’s not about making a complicated song. We’ve never ever wanted to make something that stands up to Rush or a band like that that has a whole bunch of changes and very complex structures and everything, because that’s just not my style of music. I don’t sit down and listen to Rush if I wanna feel something. I’ll sit there and listen to Matt Mays or Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen because of their simple music with passion and good melodies and good lyrics. [That has] always stood out to me my entire life. So as far as being underestimated, that’s also never really bothered me because people like good music and they like a good band live and I know we can turn anybody’s head.
What is your song-writing process?
B: [chuckles] That’s a funny question. Everybody asks that but there really isn’t a song-writing process. I will play on my acoustic guitar and get an idea together a lot, but at the same time sometimes I sit down at my mom’s piano. I’m not a great piano player but I’ll sit down at my mom’s piano and get an idea there. Sometime I’ll just be in the band room and somebody will have a sweet riff and we wanna vibe with it and we’ll go from there. Sometimes it comes from just a lyrical idea that I’ve written down and sometimes it comes from just a sheer feeling that you wanna portray. I don’t think that having a song-writing process is good for anybody because then when they find that wearing out they are unable to turn to other things for inspiration and they don’t feel comfortable.
T: I think the songs kinda write themselves. I dunno. For me, anyway, being a piano player, sometimes I will write on the guitar and it’ll come easier because –
B: You have to know how to song-write. Really in any position. Because if you’re a songwriter you could be without your guitar for 10 days. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be pumpin’ out ideas and thoughts. You should always be writing songs. No matter what. Like, I’m writing songs on the toilet taking a crap. I’ve always got ideas running through my brain that I’m trying to catch as they fly by my head.
Where did the Glorious Sons come from? The name?
B: It’s actually a little too personal to discuss. It’s got to do with our drummer and I wouldn’t have anybody explain that but him. We gave cop-out excuses for what the band name was about basically for about two years, but now it’s time to set the record straight and start tellin’ them that we’re not gonna tell you what it’s really about.
Do you have a pre-concert thing you guys do?
B: You know, smoke and drink. [laughs] No, not really. We play almost 200 shows a year now. Maybe more. So it’s kinda just second nature to get up and go play. Sometimes before a big show if we need a boost we’ll jump around in the circle and sing a lyric from the Bruce Springsteen song that’s called “Rosalina” and the line is, “your poppa says he knows that I don’t have any money.” But other than that, we don’t do that all the time, and we don’t have any pre-show habits other than really-
T: Other than just really roasting each other.
B: [laughs] There’s definitely a bit of drinking and getting loose, but other than that…
T: Making fun of each other. To the point of tears. Before the shows.
B: Making fun of Tony. Cause he’s a fuckin’ bonehead. [laughter]
T: You’re gonna make me cry.
He’s good at piano though.
B: Good at piano. Super good at piano.
What are you guys gonna do after the show?
B: Last time I was in Victoria I was not feeling very good so I didn’t get out and see the city much, so this time I’ll probably go to a bar if that’s what’s happening, and see the city.
T: I might get Italian food tonight.
B: It’s a hot commodity on the road.
T: I’ve been waiting for Italian food for two tours now. Haven’t gotten it.
B: He keeps on going to Italian places and for some reason they’re closed.
T: Every fucking time. Pagliacci’s? How the hell do you spell that? [types on his phone] Oh. Yeah. Pagliacci’s.
B: He’s a ginger Italian. He’s the only red-headed Italian that I know, which is very cool.
Well hopefully it lives up to your standards.
B: To the ginger-Italian cuisine?
T: Haggis-ghetti…mash and tortellini…potato alfredo [laughs].
As you said, you’re pretty tight with the Trews. What kind of stuff have you learned from them in the last couple years?
B: A crap ton. I call John-Angus [Macdonald] if I’m having trouble with something. Before the last tour I had a freakishly bad cold. Actually, during the tour, before our hometown show. I got a freakishly bad cold two days before it and I was kind stressing out because I couldn’t sing that day very well and I was kinda practicing for the show. So I called John-A and he gave me some remedies and told me to relax and it’d be fine and gave me some ideas how to revitalize my voice and it worked out fine. And with him producing our album as well you learn a shit ton from him in the studio. Off the top of my head, he just — with song structure, he’s a genius. He can throw things in there that we never would’ve thought about because we haven’t been playin’ our instruments for as long as he has. We haven’t been in the business as long as him. He’s just a very creative man. He kinda of just inspires you. You hear funny stories and bad stories and there’s just kinda of mentalists [on] how to deal with success and how to relax in the position that you’re in.
What’s next for Glorious Sons after you’re done touring?
B: We’re gonna have two months off. It’s gonna be a lot of writing, probably. Gonna hit the radio with another single. We’re gonna hit the US with a single. We just booked a tour in the States as well. Thirty more shows in 40 days coming at the start of February I guess in the States, another single, and before that, some well-deserved wonderful time off.
Are you going anywhere?
B: I’m going to LA when I get to Saskatoon after this tour, which will be fun. Just going to visit for a week. That’ll be sweet. Going to Toronto. Playin’ Massey Hall with the Trews. Not the band, but I’m just goin’ up for one song, like a single… It’s going to be pretty exciting to play Massey Hall.
Are you having any issues for this tour right now?
B: What do you mean?
You were talking about your voice.
B: Oh. Not really. It’s never really an issue because as a singer you always build it up in your head, but people tend to leave shows happy as long as you give your best effort anyways. There’s really no issues. It’s been a really good tour. The first couple tours you have some issues because you’ve never done it before. It’s the first time you’ve ever done it, and there’s learning curves. It never really gets easier, but you find ways to make it more fun and try [to] balance things out for yourself. It’ hard being away from home, of course, and not seeing your parents for two weeks at a time every two months or whatever, but at the same time, this is what you do when you grow up. I know a lot of people who had to move away for work. There’ haven’t been a lot of issues. It’s been pretty smooth sailin’. It’s been a lot of fun. There’s been no complaints on my part here.