Backstage at Riotfest, amid the RVs and vans and boxes upon boxes of sound equipment, it’s like another world. Without the free pass that All Access gets me, I had to wait for a band member to come pick me up and sneak me in, which was almost better. Sitting as far away from the stage as physically possible, hunkering down behind a truck stamped with jager paraphernalia and drinking beer that can’t be bought on the festival grounds, I talked to Drew, the lead singer from Single Mothers, about the little-known Canadian band, and what it’s like playing Riotfest.
AMBY: Hello Drew! What instrument do you play?
Drew: I am actually the singer. [laughs]
AMBY: Oh well, my accreditation is shot. I’ve listened to some of your stuff though, it’s kind of Black Flag, which is a good comparison.
Drew: Yeah, that’s a thing.
AMBY: [laughs] So have you ever played a Riotfest before?
Drew: No, no. I’ve never heard of it, actually, before this one, but apparently it’s awesome.
AMBY: Yeah, it’s a pretty good line-up. Are you going to Chicago, Denver?
Drew: We’re playing in Denver, we’re not playing the Chicago Riotfest, but yeah we are playing Denver and I’m pretty excited. The Replacements are one of my all time favourite bands.
AMBY: They’re playing later.
Drew: Yeah, they’re playing later. I would be here anyways, so I basically got a free pass to see them play. It’s good.
AMBY: Are you guys a Canadian band? There’s so little info out there on you.
Drew: Yeah, we’re from London, Ontario. We have a self-titled EP that’s been out for a while, we recorded that one in London and right now we’re currently recording a full-length album in LA with Joe B in The Bronx’s studio.
AMBY: That’s exciting. It’s been a couple years since your last album.
Drew: We’re excited to get something new out. We never really toured until last year and now we’ve been on the road constantly so it’s been hard to get some down time to do stuff.
AMBY: It’s a lot to balance. You’re about to be on the road again, touring for the next couple of months?
Drew: Yeah, we’re going on tour now, basically it starts today and we’re going to the west coast of Canada over to LA to finish up recording and then back down the east coast to hit the Riotfest in Denver and then along some of the east coast states.
AMBY: That’s a lot.
Drew: Yeah, and then in October we’re going on tour with Wilhelm Scream for three weeks.
AMBY: Where are you going?
Drew: We’re going east coast America, then Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal.
AMBY: Wow, that’s a lot of stuff!
Drew: Yeah, it’s gonna be great.
AMBY: That’s a lot of travel. Are you traveling just in that little van you were in?
Drew: Yeah that’s our baby. Actually the first couple of tours we did, we did seven weeks last summer through North America, it was our first DIY tour and we just had a minivan so that’s like a limo to us now.
AMBY: Yeah, I bet. It’s crazy to do all of that traveling in such a little thing.
Drew: Hey, [laughs] I don’t like you downplaying that van! That’s a huge van for us!
AMBY: Oh I’m not downplaying, I just think an RV would be a lot more comfortable for travel.
Drew: The Bronx took us over to the UK in January and let us stay on their tour bus and it was so nice. And then we had to fly back from the UK to hit SXSW and we didn’t have even a day off, we flew right from the UK to Toronto and then had to drive across the states, and we had to go back in our van and it sucked. [laughs]
AMBY: So, on your website there were some comments, and a lot of your fans consider your music to be “refreshing and honest punk rock,” particularly your song Hell (Is My Backup Plan), what do you think about that? I mean, you must like all the positive feedback.
Drew: Oh yeah, we didn’t think anybody outside of London, Ontario would ever hear those songs. We’re just a jamming band and we had no real ambitions to push it, and those lyrics are just about what it’s like living in a college town, and it turns out those feelings are relatable all over. I’m really happy. It was a surprise for sure.
AMBY: How did the band form?
Drew: Basically, I started the band after breaking up with a girlfriend, and she started dating a guy who was in another band and I quit my job and started Single Mothers. Booked a weekend of shows before I had a band together, went to this bar that we all go to and, basically, anyone who could jam on that Tuesday was in the band. And then we played these shows, and we’ve had 14 line-up changes since then, we’re broken up twice, and it was kind of an open door policy for a long time, we just wanted to play and whoever could come to practice was allowed to be in the band, until this guy Jeremy, who plays in a band called Touche Amore, we played with them just out of the blue and he said he was starting a label and we put out an EP, and that’s when we started taking it more seriously and solidified a line-up.
AMBY: Was it a simple decision to play punk rock, or did you have different genres that you liked to play before?
Drew: Well the cool thing about having so many different line-up changes was that we had different members while different songs were being written. We have different guitarists and different drummers, different bass players…
AMBY: Did your sound chance because of that?
Drew: Absolutely. Song to song, I think. I can tell, because I’m so close to it. It started as a three piece folky punk band, I was playing guitar and singing, and then it expanded to a five piece where I stopped playing guitar, and it kind of organically progressed to what it is. I don’t think any of us really listened to a ton of punk, but we just love playing fast and loud.
AMBY: So I was saying before that your music evokes some of the earlier Black Flag, but it seems like it’s a bit less blatantly anarchistic. They seem very anarchistic.
Drew: [laughs] I’ve never listened to Black Flag. I’ve maybe listened to songs but I was never into Black Flag.
AMBY: I guess there are a lot of other punk rock bands out there.
Drew: Yeah, I know some of the other guys love Black Flag, I’ve always been into folk and singer-songwriters and kind of 90s…
AMBY: Do you write the songs?
AMBY: So do you find that influences your songwriting?
Drew: The lyrics, I think so. I’ve just always looked up to people like… It’s so crazy playing with The Replacements. I like anybody who can put together a story that I can listen to, not just a song about not going to school.
AMBY: It makes sense, and it’s a different vibe. Especially because it’s Riotfest and it’s very loud punk rock, and “fight the man” and anarchy. Certain really hardcore bands like Black Flag are like that.
Drew: Yeah. I think Flag is playing Denver. It’s kind of weird that there are these two different things going on, with Riotfest, I mean. I mean, some of them aren’t punk. It kind of counteracts the punk movement.
AMBY: And why it started, yeah.
Drew: I don’t know enough to really give a good enough comment.
AMBY: No, it’s true! I mean, if you want to start a band and be anarchistic and “fight the man” then that’s cool and fine, but at the same time, when you’re going to shows, and you’re working around security especially, and with a lot of these bigger shows security is going to be really tight, you have to obey the rules and do what you’re told to a certain extent.
Drew: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a hard thing, too. A message doesn’t transcend the industry. Being in a band and being associated with the music industry are two totally different things. To play full time, which we don’t, we don’t make money, but bands that do make a living off it, there are so many things you have to bend on, and I don’t think there’s any way around that, regardless of your genre or your attitude towards music.