United Steel Workers of Montreal …must …stop …touring

Montreal-based sextet United Steel Workers of Montreal have been amazing Canadian and international audiences with their unique blend of blues, jazz, folk and roots music since 2001. The band has performed at prestigious music festivals including the Ottawa Bluesfest and South By Southwest in Austin, Texas and has also received the honour of being dubbed Montreal’s best folk/roots band by readers of Montreal’s Mirror newspaper.

United Steel Workers vocalist-guitarist Gem F. acknowledges that the band has indeed come a long way from their days of busking in the Montreal Metro.

“We had initially started out as a jam in the metro but we were also jamming as a part of a weekly jam called Train Song Sundays,” she says. “We then went on to organize regular rehearsals and we eventually turned into the band you see today.”

In the time since 2001, the United Steel Workers of Montreal have released three full-length records, the most recent being 2009’s Three On The Tree.

And though the group has done the bulk of their touring on North American shores, they have also been fortunate enough to have completed two European tours as well. Though it is obvious that she does not intend her comments as a slight against North America, Gem simply can’t say enough great things about the band’s experiences of touring overseas.

“We love playing Europe. The cities are two hours apart, food, accommodations and beer are included, and the shows are done by midnight. It is kind of a breeze compared to touring Canada in that respect. We have noticed that the crowds in Europe seem to be a lot more tuned into the live touring scene;  it really isn’t all that hard to fill a room over there.

“The European folks are cool although there are definitely regional differences that you pick up on. The French don’t buy merchandise for instance while the Dutch are super quiet until you try to get off stage at the end of your set and then they physically detain you from leaving.”

Acknowledging that they have been fortunate enough to do well in Europe, Gem notes that the stress of having thousands of dollars in airfare as overhead before they have even played their first show can take its toll. Yet by the end of the tour, she happily notes that all seems to work out for the best.

The United Steel Workers of Montreal have become fairly accustomed to life on the road but with that, Gem admits that the group hasn’t made too much headway in having material written for a new release.

“We have been touring rather aggressively over the last three years, and are admittedly a little behind on writing at this point,” Gem says. “We are intending on taking a bit of a sabbatical from live shows starting this September and really put our noses to the grind stone to making our fourth album. We have learned a lot over the years as far as writing and recording go; I can see us pushing through the process and getting something happening in the not too distant future.”