You likely know the story. A rock band from Kingston, Ontario hits it big with songs about necrophilia, addictions and insanity before quietly imploding after 15 years of hard touring and hard living. The singer goes on to a successful acting career in film and television (in addition to releasing a few solid solo discs), while the rest of the band keeps playing with various people and living their lives.
Of course there’s much more than that to the story of the Headstones. Made up of frontman Hugh Dillon, guitarist Trent Carr, bassist Tim White and drummer Dale Harrison, the band reunited back in 2011 for a handful of shows, sparked by the loss of a good friend, and have since released a pair of records with the help of fans through PledgeMusic.
“I didn’t talk to Hugh for about five years, not one bit of contact,” Carr says over the phone from his home in Niagara Falls. “An old friend of the band (Randy Kwan) who was sort of a founding member died of cancer in 2010. When Hugh went to go visit him, he made him realize how cool it was to have a band. I got a call from Hugh a couple months after that.”
That phone call lead to a benefit show for Kwan’s family, then a few more shows, then the first new music since the band’s farewell disc, 2002’s The Oracle of Hi-Fi. The 2013 disc, Love + Fury, is an aggressive return to form, while 2014’s One in the Chamber Music, finds the band reinventing hits and fan favourites with a stripped down vibe.
“The people were requesting an acoustic record,” Carr says. “The way we write most of the stuff is just sitting at home working on acoustic guitars, that’s almost exclusively how every song starts, and we had done a few one-off acoustic intimate shows back in the ’90s. The idea was, okay, why don’t we re-think the songs as if we were writing them today. We changed the approach to a lot of them. We added cello and mandolin and Tim played a stand-up bass for some of them, and he’d never done that. Dale played all kinds of weird percussion. We brought in small little string sections. It turned out to be a really rewarding artistic process to us. It brought life to old songs, and we got a few new ones in there, too.”
One of those new ones, “Colourless,” features an instrument that Carr has gone back to once or twice over the years (notably on Picture of Health standout “Three Angels”), the mandolin. “It’s got such a unique sound. It adds an instant vibe to any song,” he says. “It’s a fun little instrument to play, I love it.”
This isn’t to say that the band is turning things down at all, as Headstones are prepping the release of a 12″ vinyl EP called Fuck It.
“Yeah, it’s just one of those things that we’ve always wanted personally,” Carr says. “When we started out, in the late ’80s/early ’90s, vinyl was still happening and that was the goal, to have a record. We weren’t dreaming of having a CD. When we got signed to the record deal in ’92, I think that was the exact same year they phased out releasing vinyl as par for the course. I guess we even had tapes back then, but no vinyl. So all these years later, here we are. It’s just a limited edition for the most hardcore fans, and it gives us a chance to own our own copies.”
It seems that going directly to the fans is what the band is into these days, but Carr is quick to note that he still enjoys working with longtime friends at their label, Universal.
“It’s really nice to go to (Universal) and ask if they’re interested, but it’s nice to have the option to just go through PledgeMusic, more DIY. It’s more exciting for us, it removes a step.”
It seems that for Carr and the rest of the band, the last few years have been the perfect combination of having fun and being focused, and focusing on the good things.
“We are a re-energized version,” he says. “Now the focus is so much more intense. Since we don’t take as much for granted, we capitalize on the idea of being in a band together. No compromises. We’re just gonna record what we want and release it.”
Visit headstonesband.com for more information.