Formed in March 2009 by Jon ‘Marv’ Harvey (Vocals/Bass), Jeremy Widerman (Guitar), Brandon Bliss (Organ) and Steve Kiely (Drums), Monster Truck met on the Hamilton tour circuit.
Harvey and Widerman had been hanging out for a number of years, even living in the same building for a while bonding over their mutual love of early Grand Funk Railroad when they first talked about forming a riff rock band. “One day me and Jon were hanging out at a house party,” explains Widerman. “I was pretty drunk and sitting on the floor and I was thinking about this idea while I was sitting there and said to Jon, ‘man, we should do that band.’”
Kiely at the time had a big, dirty, loud, old van that that Widerman had nicknamed the Monster Truck. “For some reason,” he continues, “I just thought it would be cool to name it Monster Truck. I literally jumped off the ground, ran over to Jon and said we should do that band and we should call it Monster Truck and he said, ‘OK’”. With a bassist and guitarist on board he looked around the room and saw Kiely, “’Hey Steve, wanna play drums in Monster Truck?” And just like that, a drummer was on board, with Harvey adding, “Well, we need a rock organ player.”
Widerman called Bliss the next morning and they had a band. Their first practice was the following day. “When the band started out, we didn’t plan to take it seriously. We were just going to be a hometown rock band and have fun playing on the weekends,” he remembers. They self-released their self-titled debut EP in 2010 and from that moment everything changed. More people were coming to the shows and as word spread, Dine Alone Records came on board for The Brown EP. Both singles on The Brown EP, “Righteous Smoke” and “Seven Seas Blues”, hit the Top 10 and became staples at Canadian rock radio. “Seven Seas Blues” landed a sweet sync spot in EA SPORTS’ NHL 2013 and garnered the band their first Canadian Radio Music Award in the Rock category, while “Righteous Smoke” nabbed a trailer spot in the Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon film The Art of the Steal and would eventually land a highly coveted spot in EA SPORTS’ NHL 17.
In 2013, the band released their debut full-length, Furiosity. Furiosity, which recently received Gold certification in Canada, debuted at lucky #13 on the Top 200 SoundScan chart in Canada, hit #3 on the German Rock/Metal club charts and earned the band two #1 singles at Canadian rock radio. That same year the band would go on to win a Juno Award for ‘Breakthrough Group of the Year’ and nine Hamilton Music Awards, including ‘Rock Recording of the Year’ and ‘Record of the Year’. In 2014, Furiosity was nominated for a Juno ‘Rock Album of the Year’ Award and the band received a nod at the Bandit Rock Awards in Sweden in the ‘International Breakthrough Artist’ category. During this time, the band continued their relentless touring, playing shows with Alice in Chains, Buckcherry, Rival Sons and Slash, as well as embarking on their first European headline tour.
In February 2016, Monster Truck signed a European deal with Mascot Records and released their sophomore album Sittin’ Heavy. Sittin’ Heavy debuted at #3 on the Top 200 Canadian Soundscan chart and features Canadian rock radio hits “Don’t Tell Me How to Live” and “For The People”, as well as the ultimate hockey anthem “The Enforcer”, which garnered attention from legendary hockey commentator Don Cherry. The track was featured in the opening montage and second intermission of Hockey Night in Canada and would go on to be used as the goal song for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Monster Truck played over 150 shows in the following 18 months, including arena tours with Nickelback, Billy Talent and Deep Purple’s final European tour. “They are the reason we started our band, the reason we have a rock organ. Roger Glover might probably be my favourite bass player,” smiles Harvey. More shows came; Black Stone Cherry, Volbeat, The Temperance Movement, Jane’s Addiction, Rob Zombie, Alter Bridge which saw the band embarking on both their biggest Canadian and European headline tours to date.
Talking about the shows, Harvey adds, “We’re a live band. That’s our job, to go out and play rock ‘n’ roll live. We’ve been able to do some amazing things,” he adds. “I think that’s what keeps us going. We’re a working band and when we’re working our asses off, I think that’s the most satisfying thing. Working, exploring, travelling and seeing places I never imagined seeing.”
On their latest tours, the band brought along a recording rig to work out new songs and to lay the groundwork for what would become their forthcoming album True Rockers. “When the inspiration strikes, use it. If you’re not gonna use it, you’re wasting it,” says Harvey. “As soon as you think of something that could be a good song, work on it, immediately. Inspiration is so valuable.”
Part of this process from the road included sending material back and forth to producer Dan Weller (SiKth, Young Guns, Enter Shikari). Harvey remembers “We didn’t really know what to expect because we know him from SiKth and all of his tech metal background. We did a song with him for Hockey Night in Canada and had such a good time working with him. It was so inspiring, that we decided to do a whole record. When we started working on pre-production it became evident pretty quickly that he has a definite ear for music and a very precise ear for melody as well.”
For their latest album, Monster Truck returned to Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, North Carolina, a studio built into an old church in the picturesque Appalachian mountain city where part of Furiosity was recorded. “It’s got this half-hippy, half-bluesy vibe to it. Everybody there plays an instrument. What an experience! The place is beautiful, “says Harvey.
Whereas Sittin’ Heavy was a more “serious” record, True Rockers is the sound of a band letting loose and having fun. Harvey affirms, “We want people to listen to it and have as much fun as possible.” “Yeah, that’s what I was gonna say too,” adds Widerman. “I mean, right off the top of the album you hear me scream at Marv (Harvey). That just kicks off the entire vibe of the album. Us in a room, having fun, joking and yelling at each other.”
The True Rockers vibe is, “join the gang and we’ll all have fun together, no one is going to be excluded.” “Every time people come to our shows we want them to feel like they are part of something,” Harvey insists.
It is this theme that runs throughout the record and immediately roars into action with opener “True Rocker”, which features Mr. “I Wanna Rock” himself, Dee Snider (Twisted Sister). “He’s a true rocker! Who’s more perfect than Dee Snider,” says Harvey. The band asked if he wanted to do a guest spot on the record, he said, yes and it was wrapped up in no time. “It was so easy and seamless. I sent him an idea and he executed it perfectly. It’s not supposed to be that easy I don’t think. We felt really honoured to have him involved.”
“Thundertruck” is another juggernaut; a track originally from the Sittin’ Heavy sessions but was then abandoned. “We had worked on that track with me playing that lead part, and it left a big gaping hole in the heaviness of the song,” recalls Widerman. “We ran into too many problems so we decided to come back to it later. Once we shifted that line over to the organ, we were like, this is awesome! We can make this into something really different and cool.” Harvey adds “We tried to do an old Bay Area Thrash type thing with it too. I remember I was at a festival. It was just super Heavy Metal or Rock and I’m thinking, can a band please play some Thrash songs so I can drink a couple of beers with my buddies and have a good time? That’s kinda the motivation behind writing that song.”
The album had been put to bed but the band were still bouncing around ideas and they had the chance to work with award-winning producers Gavin Brown and Maia Davies on songs “Evolution”, “Young City Hearts” and “Hurricane”. “We had a chance to work with some hit makers so we took the chance, and what came out is different than anything we have ever done. Gavin and Maia were fantastic to work with. It added a lot of colour to the record and allowed us the opportunity to take a risk and branch out a little,” explains Harvey.
Elaborating further, Widerman adds, “It almost wouldn’t be a Monster Truck record if we didn’t reach the supposed end of the process and then double-back to track a few extra songs in order to strengthen what was already a strong record to us.”
Amongst the feel-good tracks that make up the majority of True Rockers, Monster Truck explore real depth in the emotional “Undone” which was written about people that struggle with addiction and the feeling of hopelessness, while album closer “The Howling” poses the question, are spirits real?
Touring with Deep Purple was a big moment for the band and had a big impact on the new recordings. The legendary keyboard player Don Airey spent a lot of time with Bliss during their tour. Widerman remembers, “One of the big things they taught us or at least taught Brando, was a bunch of organ tricks for tone, playing, gear, there was a lot of stuff that Brando was able to learn off that 5-week tour.”
For a band that wasn’t planning to take things too seriously, Monster Truck will celebrate their 10th Anniversary next March and have already accomplished a great deal in that short time. “I think you have to know where you came from, otherwise how do you know where you’re going.” Harvey says. “You can’t forget your roots, we started from such a pure place, just a party. I literally couldn’t ask for anything better. How am I so lucky that I get to do this? Perseverance pays off.”
Harvey continues, “We’re always striving for more. How do we get better? How do we grow? You have to understand that there is always something more. Everyone should be like that, right? You should always be striving for better. We’ve got great fans, and we’re having a great time. We go out and have fun and love what we’re doing.”
Thursday, July 15
Stampede Summer Stage
New this year