Big Wreck Enjoys A Second Chance

It sometimes takes stepping away from something to help you realize how much it meant to you. Take Toronto rock band Big Wreck, for example.

The group became a Canadian live and radio favourite in the latter part of the ’90s thanks to their guitar-heavy sound that owed a debt to the likes of Led Zeppelin and fellow Canadian act Big Sugar.

The group released their newest album Albatross earlier this year. It marked the first new music from the group in a decade, and perhaps sweetest of all, it has been met with success that the group didn’t necessarily experience in their first incarnation.

Big Wreck performs with Theory Of A Deadman at Casino New Brunswick in Moncton Saturday evening. The show starts at 8 p.m.

“It has definitely been nice to be so warmly received. It feels great,” Big Wreck vocalist- guitarist Ian Thornley begins. “With the original lineup of Big Wreck and even with my post-Big Wreck band Thornley, neither group had a number one hit. To come back with Big Wreck and have our first new single reach the number one position was a real surprise. I think all of us wanted to get away from formulaic rock n’ roll and wanted to make music to please ourselves first and foremost. The success that we have seen with Albatross has definitely been vindicating.”

This isn’t to say that Big Wreck hadn’t seen their fair share of success in their first incarnation. The group’s first record, 1997’s In Loving Memory Of… turned out a trio of hits including “The Oaf,” “That Song” and “Blown Wide Open.”

It took the group more than four years to follow up their hit debut, but by the time The Pleasure and The Greed was released in 2001, Big Wreck was in a vastly different headspace than they had been when they recorded their debut.

“The first Big Wreck record was essentially a bunch of demos that the record company picked up,” Thornley says. “It was pure in that it was just the band making music. Going into the making of The Pleasure and The Greed, we had somewhere around 50-60 songs written. There was a lot of tug of war with that record between us. I was trying to get away with as much as I could musically even if a specific passage or part of a song didn’t serve the song. Looking back on our second record, I can definitely hear a struggle.”

Big Wreck parted ways not long after The Pleasure and The Greed was lost in a record company shuffle and suffered from poor promotion. Thornley went on to form his namesake band, delivering two well-received records with the group.

The wheels to ultimately reform Big Wreck were put into motion while Thornley was on tour but before that could truly happen, he needed to mend fences with his former Big Wreck band mate Brian Doherty.

“Brian was the guy that I had started Big Wreck with,” he explains. “He and I had been very tight for a very long time and our relationship had unfortunately fallen by the wayside in the same way that Big Wreck did. Brian and I hadn’t spoken in years but started reconnecting.

“Then it so happened that a Thornley show came down the line that our guitarist Paulo wasn’t going to be able to play and it was actually him that suggested we get Brian to fill in for him. And that was really how we got on the road to reforming Big Wreck. As opposed to splitting the band up, we decided to keep the amalgamated Big Wreck and Thornley bands and simply play under the Big Wreck name.”

With such rousing momentum behind the band, Thornley sounds as though he is on top of the world. With an impending American release via influential label Rounder next year, the possibilities of where the band can go might very well be endless.

“So far in our experience of dealing with Rounder, they are the exact opposite of what many bands figure a record label would be. They have been asking for a few extras and bonus material that could be included on the American release of Albatross. They are all about the four minute guitar solos so it feels like a good match,” he says with a laugh.

Article published in the November 16, 2012 edition of the Times & Transcript