The latest incarnation of Big John Bates gets its first test on the stage at the Queen’s on Canada Day.
The Vancouver-based singer and guitar player is touring with some old friends and some new ones, with some new songs and an overall new feel.
“I don’t think a band can really figure itself out until they get up on stage in front of people,” Bates said. “It’s all the little details.”
The last time Big John Bates and his crew hit the stage at the Queen’s they were flanked by burlesque dancers The Voodoo Dollz.
“It’s been awhile – about 150 shows ago,” Bates said.
The burlesque girls added an extra draw to the show but restricted the band’s freedom somewhat. Costume changes had to be factored into set lists, which made adjustments harder to do.
So the focus went back to the band and the music, with Brandy Bones on bass and cello, JT Massacre on percussion – both of whom Bates toured with extensively in the past. The new girl on tuba and keyboards they simply call Jah.
“This will be one of the first shows as a four piece,” Bates said.
Cello, tuba and keyboards could mean a softening of Bates’s reputation, established as singer for metal band Annihilator and the punk-abilly sound of the past 10 years.
Not a chance.
“It’s a lot darker,” Bates said of the new music, which can be sampled on the six-track disk Headless Fowl, a precursor to the band’s full-length album to be released in the fall.
“It’s a lot more intense – it’s got a lot of depth to it.”
As part of that expansion of creativity, Bones picks up singing duties on some of the songs and the musicians bring more of the variety from the album to the stage, hence the tuba, keyboards and cello.
“I’m always inspired by different things,” Bates said. “It’s part of my problem.”
After laying down the tracks on Headless Fowl, the band – a trio at the time – went on tour with Murder by Death. Touring is what Bates does relentlessly, logging hundreds of shows across North America and Europe every year.
The Nanaimo gig will be one of three on Vancouver Island and the first as a quartet rather than a trio.
The music kicks off at 9 p.m. Tickets are available at the door.
For more information, please visit www.bigjohnbates.com.