Rob Higgins, frontman for Canadian Rock band Dearly Beloved, spoke with me recently about the band’s newest EP, They Will Take Up Serpents. This disc is a collection of songs that could easily be heard on virtually any modern rock station across the country. It is a high-energy, indie rock album that begs to be played at full volume. Here is what Higgins had to say about the band and their new EP.
The name of the band Dearly Beloved is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
Rob: I needed an outlet myself to make music after a band I was in broke up. It was around the same time my dad was sick and simply put the name served as a reminder to me that I’m loved and that those relationships can get you through a lot. It sounds pretty fundamental, but when you’re facing a parent’s, and ultimately, your own mortality, things get reduced pretty quickly. The Beloveds appeals to me more as a name 4 years later, but Dearly Beloved suits the fluid nature of our band and it comes from a place that was intense for me on a personal level. My dad eventually passed away after a long battle and some of the songs, clearly, are inspired by the experiences we shared as a family.
Now that you have had a chance to live with your newest EP, They Will Take Up Serpents, are you satisfied with the outcome or is there something you wish you had done differently?
Rob: I’m proud of the writing; I was in a place where crafting weird pop songs with a real absurd and angular edge to them came naturally. Looking back I’d wish we had spent more time experimenting with the structures and the performances than we did, but that has helped shape our focus for our next album so there’s no point lamenting it. Some fans of our live show think our EP is too slick, I can see why they’d say that. What we’re working on right now is a bit more spontaneous and you can hear the difference.
What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
Rob: The songs on the EP were written in two short sessions. One was in a studio called Signal To Noise where the band and I took bass and drum demos in and turned them into songs in a handful of days, sans breaks. Consecutive 19 hour stretches of completely mental behavior. The second session was at Phoebe St., my own studio, and was really a series of late night bursts of creativity that produced two odd little songs called “Move On” and “Make It Bleed.” With that EP the process became collaborative after demos were recorded and the intent was driven by spontaneity and instinct.
How quick are you in the studio? Can you usually knock things out in a couple takes?
Rob: It’s no fun killing yourself or anyone else. It’s about capturing a compelling performance, but if it’s something that takes more than a few takes we tend to move on or try something else.
What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?
Rob: A combination of ‘don’t try too hard’ and ‘don’t think too much’.
What can fans expect when they pick up a copy of They Will Take Up Serpents?
Rob: Less swearing than on our previous record. There’s a mélange of trashy sounds wrestled to the ground by melodies and structure that’s sometimes odd and at others less so. Some sick drumming. The bass playing’s pretty decent, too. Those would be reasonable expectations.
What is the meaning behind the title, They Will Take Up Serpents?
Rob: It was inspired by some folks out there that think it’s cool to handle poisonous snakes at church. And if that snake should bite one of them during a service, by the way, they seek no medical attention to save the person. For, as they say, death would be God’s will. At least that’s what the TV told me about them. It was difficult for me to get my head around how foreign those people seemed to me and most of the songs on the recording deal with issues that were tough for me to get my head around so it seemed like a natural fit at the time, the connection was pretty immediate.
When you are on the road for a while I am sure you see and experience many different things you might not even have known existed. Are there any stories that stand out in your mind as being exceptionally strange or odd?
Rob: Experiencing crystal meth culture out west while on tour was pretty eye opening. I had no idea at the time that so many kids were into it and hearing them tell me about it being cheaper than weed was strange, to say the least. Sad and strange. I also had no idea that there’s great, cheap parking for your van and trailer in NYC if you know where to look. It was probably the single greatest discovery of our 40 day Juliette Lewis tour. It’s a game changer.
When you are out on the road anything can happen and often does. Can you think of any disastrous events that happened while out on tour? How did you solve the problem?
Rob: Hmmm… flat tires equals CAA or AAA. Broke equals starving. We once had a hotel turn on us because the smell of our room didn’t exactly agree with their city’s policy on certain smells. Just our luck that our rooms were next door to a staff meeting. There were unhappy visits from porters, hurried POW Wows with management, lectures from experts. It was insane but more of a near-disaster, really, because we avoided facing higher authorities, who arrived with much haste, by utilizing a combination of rapid movements, service elevators, back doors and band savvy. Our final move was checking in to the hotel a block away.
What artists would fans be surprised to find on your iPod?
Rob: I suppose it might surprise someone that I have a bunch of stand-up comedians on there… David Cross’ stuff is priceless. We love to listen to things that are funny while on tour as much as we love to dig on music. Helps break up the monotony of sitting in the van all day. Louis CK. We even got into classics like George Carlin on our last tour.
Tell me about a book or two that you’ve read that you think other people should read?
Rob: One is the “Art Of Looking Sideways.” It’s a real “open any page and have your mind blown” kind of vibe. Anything by Noam Chomsky might inspire. “The 2010-11 Higgins Hockey Fantasy Index” is a pretty sick and innovative sports book written by a bass player.
If you had not become a musician what other career path would you have liked to attempt?
Rob: Riverboat gambler. Definitely. Especially in this economy, I think it’s something I could do well at. Truth is I’ve never looked at music as a career path; it’s just what I love to do. I’m fortunate that my passion for it has led to making albums and touring. All I’ve ever wanted to work at since I was a kid and dreamt of being a hockey player was making records and movies. I went to school for one and currently do the other. Rock n roll, for obvious reasons, had to come first. If I didn’t have that bug I suppose it’s possible that I would have expressed myself with film but imagining life without making music is a challenge. I’ve always been fascinated by science. A rocket scientist perhaps?
What three words best describe your band?
Rob: Chaos. Love. Fury.
If you were a superhero, who would it be and why?
Rob: Super Ray. I’ve been told the character was actually modeled after me. A lot of people don’t know that, but it’s true. [ END ]