Although it’s been more than 15 years since Kingston rock band the Headstones have played anywhere in Atlantic Canada, Hugh Dillon, the group’s dynamic, outspoken vocalist, assures us it was not for a lack of wanting to play in this neck of the woods.
“As a band, we’ve always wanted to get back to places like Moncton, namely because it’s been such a long time since we last played there,” Dillon says. “Tour routing doesn’t always work out the way we’d like it to, so when the opportunity to come back to the east coast landed in our lap, there was no way we could, or wanted to, say no. We can’t wait to be back.”
The Headstones’ upcoming performance in the Hub City this Friday night is in association with the third-annual Mud City Meltdown Festival, taking place through Sunday July 30.
To the credit of Dillon and the group, concerning their absence from the region, the Headstones had essentially ceased to exist for almost a decade. During the band’s hiatus, Dillon released a pair of albums, while also working his way up the movie and television chain, landing roles in acclaimed shows such as Durham County and Flashpoint, which ran for five seasons in both Canada and the U.S.
Since reconvening in 2011, the Headstones have been making up for lost time. The group’s newest record – Little Army – released in early June, is the third release from the band in the last six years. It proudly struts the same no frills, rock and roll attitude that helped make songs like “When Something Stands For Nothing,” “Cemetary,” “Unsound,” and “Cubically Contained” unqualified hits more than two decades ago.
“When we got back together, we decided among all of us that the band needed to be fun and exciting, but we’ve also just kept our heads down and strived to get better at songwriting and recording. We decided we wanted to do what makes us happy, and this band is definitely one of those things. Everybody has their schedules and lives outside of the band, but are also fully committed to the group. The work ethic among us just astounds me. No one is interested in wasting any time,” Dillon says.
Asked why he feels the group has persevered after more than 25 years in the business, the singer says it all comes down to the songs.
“We are lucky enough to have a fanbase that spans the country, but really, I feel that people can tell these stories we sing about are real. We never started a band for any reason other than that feeling we get when we piece together a killer guitar riff with lyrics and coming up with a finished song. That still thrills us, even after all these years.”
Helping bring Little Army to life was producer Chris Osti and Dillon, who assumed the role of producer on a Headstones album for the first time in the band’s career. The singer admits that it took a little bit of selling the idea to his bandmates before they eventually warmed up to it.
“Honestly, I felt ready to step into the producer’s role on [2013’s] Love & Fury, but this latest album is actually the first time I’ve gone for it. We’ve worked with producers in the past and, with all due respect to them, if they come in and do their job and you’re still not happy with the end result, you’re going to spend the rest of your career feeling as though the band might not have lived up to its potential at that moment in time,” he says.
“I truly believe that if everyone trusts the vision going into the making of the record, there is not going to be any regrets when it’s all said and done. That was my goal from day one of making Little Army – let’s make an album that we can all live with and still be happy with five or 10 years down the road.”
To Dillon’s credit, his intuition in taking reins of the project seems to have served the band well thus far: “Devil’s On Fire,” the first single from the group’s newest album, recently claimed the No. 1 position on Canada’s rock radio chart for two weeks in a row.
Dillon isn’t boastful about the group’s recent accomplishments at this stage in the game, preferring instead to abide by the all-for-one and one-for-all mentality that has helped sustain the band this long.
“There was a time not too long ago – we’re talking 15 or 20 years ago – where the music business wouldn’t have given bands like us a second chance. We would be seen as has beens,” Dillon says. “I think we’re all very aware of that, which makes us appreciate where we are at today all the more. You can’t find a bunch of guys that are more appreciative for the good luck coming our way.”
What: Headstones with The Monoxides, Like A Motorcycle and Gold City Ashes
When: Friday July 28, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Riverfront Park, Assomption Blvd., Moncton
Tickets are $40 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available online at www.mudcitymeltdown.ca