Formed in the early 90s while its members were attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, Big Wreck saw the bright lights of success early in their career. Bolstered by three Top 10 singles – “The Oaf,” “Blown Wide Open,” and “That Song,” – the group’s first record, In Loving Memory Of… quickly attained double-platinum sales, catapulting the group to headliner status in little time.
Following the release of 2001’s The Pleasure & The Greed, however, the group imploded, thanks to a combination of internal and external factors. Vocalist-guitarist Ian Thornley went on to front his namesake band, releasing two records (2004’s Come Again and Tiny Pictures in 2009), before ultimately deciding to resurrect Big Wreck.
By the time the world heard from Big Wreck for what would be the second chapter of their career, almost a decade had passed. Since then, however, it is almost as though the group is making up for lost time.
Since 2012, the group has been making up for lost time, having released three full-length efforts, including Albatross, 2014’s Ghosts and, their latest effort Grace Street, which hit stores last month.
The group’s latest album is a solid addition to the group’s catalogue, bringing listeners through one of the most diverse efforts to date. For every radio-friendly, melodic moment like “One Good Piece of Me,” or “Motionless,” the band counters with the dazzlingly complex “Skybunk Marché” and “The Arborist.”
Big Wreck’s Ian Thornley credits Grace Street producer Garth Richardson – the man behind albums from Rage Against The Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers among others – as a motivating factor in the group having felt inspired to spread their wings with their new record.
“This album was the first time that we worked with Garth, but what immediately stood out to us about him was the wealth of knowledge and experience that he brought to the table,” Thornley says. “When you’re making a record, it’s easy to get lost going down those rabbit holes in pursuit of an idea. Garth proved to be a big picture thinker every step of the way. While he would indulge going down those rabbit holes, he always brought it back to how it would serve the record. Watching the guy pull unique and interesting tricks out of his hat was really something else.”
Not only was Richardson successful in encouraging Thornley and his bandmates to flex their creative muscle throughout Grace Street, he also successfully convinced him to include the group’s first-ever instrumental track, “Skybunk Marché,” on the album. Not being able to rely on his vocals to provide a focal point for the song proved to be a challenge for the singer, namely because he’s never considered himself to be the same calibre of musician like guitarist Joe Satriani, who has made a career explicitly from playing instrumental music.
“I had thought of doing an instrumental track in the past, but would always quickly dismiss the idea because I know a lot of guys that do that kind of thing that are just fantastic at it. Further to that, however, that’s not what Big Wreck is about. For some reason, though, when Garth brought it up this time around, he had a smirk on his face and just asked me to think about. For whatever reason, that planted a seed; I went home and started piecing together bits and pieces from other songs that we weren’t going to be using. Once I set my mind to it, the song came together pretty quickly.”
Drawing inspiration from the legendary Jeff Beck for the song, Thornley is pleased with the end result of “Skybunk Marché” and hints that the track may mark the start of a trend in which instrumental tracks will figure into future Big Wreck albums.
“The more the idea sits with me, the more I am liking the thought of sneaking an instrumental track on each record, but only if it feels right. I was a little nervous about going that route initially, especially where it’s something that is still new to the group, but ‘Skybunk…’ has been pretty well received. I only hope the tongue-in-cheek aspect of including the song on the record is being picked up on as well,” Thornley says with a laugh.
Now five albums into its career, Thornley admits that picking the group’s set list to play on any given night is proving to be a bit of an arduous task. While the band wants to showcase its new material, he says that the live show is bigger than the band, and with that, comes the expectation that the group will cover all bases, playing hits of yesterday and today.
Thornley acknowledges the bulk of the shows on their current tour have been played before packed houses, and as such, the predicament is not the worst dilemma for the band to encounter at this point in their career.
“You always want to remain conscious about hitting the audience with the right song at the right time. It’s hard putting a set together, especially at this point in our career where we have so much material to draw from, but I think we’ve arrived at a happy medium that features a mixture of newer material that we want to play and older stuff that people want to hear. It’s all about sustaining that energy over the course of the show.”
What: Big Wreck with special guests The Ascot Royals
When: Friday March 10, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $33. Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca.