When it came to Canadian artists breaking internationally in the 90’s, it was tough to find an act more popular than Winnipeg folk-rock band Crash Test Dummies.
Driven by first single “Superman’s Song,” the group’s first album, 1991’s The Ghosts That Haunt Me, was a bonafide Canadian hit, going on to sell more than 400,000 copies while also earning the 1992 Juno Award for Group of the Year.
It was the Dummies’ second album that was responsible for breaking them around the world. Buoyed by Brad Roberts’ unique baritone voice, the album’s infectious first single, “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” would help the Dummies’ sophomore record, God Shuffled His Feet, to sell more than two million copies in the U.S., 300,000 units in Canada, and another 100,000 copies in the U.K.
Subsequent records – 1996’s A Worm’s Life and Give Yourself A Hand (1999) – fared rather well in Canada, but had largely failed to maintain the group’s impressive status outside of the country.
The turn of the century saw the band part ways with their long-time record label, but with the then-imminent crash of the music business courtesy of file-sharing services like Kazaa and Napster, the timing couldn’t have been better for the band.
While each of the group’s members pursued solo endeavours in tandem with the group, Crash Test Dummies still managed to release an impressive five studio records between 2001 and 2010.
Over the next five years, there was largely silence from the band. Although the group’s membership had been amicably diminishing over the preceding decade as families and a desire to pursue other interests entered the picture, Roberts and bandmate Ellen Reid has been continuing to play under the Dummies banner.
And then Reid decided it was time to hang up her touring shoes as well.
“We released a record in 2010 called Oooh La La, and spent some time on the road promoting it,” Roberts tell us. “Ellen simply arrived at a point in her life where she didn’t want to tour anymore, which I completely understood and appreciated. After that, I didn’t have anything to do with music for quite awhile.”
While he walked away from composing music, Roberts continued penning lyrics, however, collaborating with musician Rob Morsberger, on the 2012 release Midnight Garden. Other than that, all was quiet on the music front of Brad Roberts’ world.
“I ended up completely changing my lifestyle,” he shares. “I was overweight and out of shape when I came off the road and so I turned to yoga. I took lessons on a one-on-one basis for several years, and just completely threw myself into it, so much that I am teaching it now.
Roberts ended up studying Rajanaka Yoga under Douglas Brooks, a scholar of Hinduism, South Asian languages, and the comparative study of religions. Roberts was so inspired by Brooks’ teachings that he ended up recording a collection of eight Rajanaka Mantra chants, releasing them to the public in 2012.
“What Doug does is teach yoga of knowledge. He does not teach poses whatsoever, but learning from him was like going back to university for me. I learned so much in the process,” Roberts says.
“I ended up making a record of those chants simply because I wanted to. It was something fun for me to do.”
Yet even his faithful delivery of Rajanaka Mantras couldn’t silence the call of his past with the Crash Test Dummies. After speaking with his booking agent to determine if Brad Roberts as a solo act could work, he undertook a series of shows throughout New York, Connecticut, Virginia, and various other locales.
Naturally, it was just a matter of time before Roberts would look North of the 49th parallel to book his next set of performances. Having convalesced on the South Shore of Nova Scotia following a car accident approximately 20 years ago, Roberts is looking forward to his imminent return to the Maritimes.
His performance in Moncton on Wednesday June 1 is one of five shows Roberts will be playing in the region. For these performances, guitarist Stuart Cameron, whom Roberts says has helped bring the Dummies material to a whole new level, will accompany the singer.
“We will be playing a lot of songs from The Ghosts That Haunt Me and God Shuffled His Feet along with a song or two from each of the other records. A lot of these songs were born on acoustic guitar, so returning them to present them in that way has been completely natural. A lot of the arrangements are the same, but the impact of the songs is largely because Stuart is such a phenomenal guitarist. Instead of simply strumming the guitar, he has taken a lot of parts from our songs and interpreted them for acoustic guitar. The range of dynamics that he brings to the stage is just outstanding,” Roberts says.
What: Brad Roberts
When: Wednesday June 1, 9 p.m.
Where: Tide & Boar Gastropub, 700 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $28. Advance tickets are available online at www.tideandboar.com/music