Mad hatters of the GTA

Brampton rockers Black Hat Brigade talk day jobs, their fathers and flannel before their first Kingston gig

Black Hat Brigade’s instrument swapping, mixed vocals and old school rock ‘n’ roll will have music kids and sea captains alike stomping their feet and clinking their pint glasses.
Black Hat Brigade’s instrument swapping, mixed vocals and old school rock ‘n’ roll will have music kids and sea captains alike stomping their feet and clinking their pint glasses.

Black Hat Brigade’s guitar, key, bass and percussion man Bryan David Ward is speaking to me from a cell phone in the lobby of the CBC building in Toronto. He’s not taking a tour of the place or finding shelter from those harsh Toronto streets, he’s instead taking a break from work.

“I work at the CBC in Toronto,” he laughed. “I do marketing.” It’s a sad reality, but most of Canada’s most buzzed about bands have day jobs. Black Hat Brigade is no exception. The Brigade started as project between three friends from Brampton: Robert Haughey, Justin Myler and Adam Peterson. Fellow GTA dwellers Dave Molinaro and Bryan Ward later joined into the mix.

“It’s definitely interesting,” Ward said of the three Brampton members. “They’re like brothers. So when arguments happen, it’s intense. It’s good though.”

Intensity is something the band has become known for. A fair amount of instrument swapping and perspiration makes their live shows something unforgettable.

“It does get quite hot,” Ward said. “Usually if there’s beards, beer and flannel involved it’s bound to happen. This show’s going to be a little different because a couple of guys from the band can’t make it.”

Work and its time-consuming qualities is one of the obstacles facing the band.

The band was also supposed to do a full tour of the East Coast, with Kingston as the jumping off point, but life got in the way.

“It’s a bummer, but there’s nothing we can do about it,” Ward said. “We haven’t gone out on the road. We haven’t really toured. But we really want to get out there.” Black Hat Brigade’s latest EP Fathers feels more like a meaty full-length album and deserves to be heard.

“We recorded it at this place Sleepy Town Sound, which no longer exists, and we did it over a weekend basically,” Ward said. “Everything we had recorded we had been playing for a year and a half. We were able to bang out and record really quickly.”

Most of the tracks were recorded “live off the floor,” a recording process where the musicians play all together rather than individually, to have their parts mixed later. The band used the technique to create a “live feel”.

“It was cheaper that way too,” Ward said.

“We’re all 27, 28 and when you get older your dad becomes more of your peer. He doesn’t know everything anymore,” Ward said. “The fathers thing seemed to tie everything together. It also gave us inspiration for the album art work. All of the pictures on the cover are ones of our dads, grandpas, and uncles.”

Black Hat Brigade’s album features some truly memorable vocal work and resists the temptation to do the obvious. Their vocal stylizing is something truly unique. Making use of the vocal talent of many of the members, Brigade creates layers without harmonies.

“We don’t have a lot of softer songs,” Ward said. “We don’t use a lot of vocal harmonies. It’s not one person singing throughout the entire album. I don’t think a lot of people really know that it’s more than one person.” Today will mark the first time Black Hat Brigade, or parts of Black Hat Brigade, play Kingston. It’s not the first time Ward has been to Kingston though.

“I believe I had a soccer tournament there and a baseball tournament too.”

Let’s hope this visit is just as memorable.

Black Hat Brigade play The Mansion with Madam Raz, Better Lighting and Unconscious Encore tonight. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $5 at the door. All ages until 10 p.m.

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