Dawntreader at The Biltmore

Photos by Alex Ramon

When you turn on the radio don’t you find that most of the bands sound the same? They all seem to have this proven formula for success and they all seem to follow this to a dime. I’m not sure what this formula is, because if I did I would be ultra famous and have multiple minions doing my bidding. But with this “formula” there really isn’t any originality out there anymore. But of course, there are exceptions with mainstream music, and I’m just making a generalization, but that is what I see happening to the music industry. I guess everything has been done before and every band that does see success is probably just ripping someone off. Ok maybe “ripping off” is a strong word, so let’s just say they were “influenced” by other artists. Dawntreader, in my opinion, brings a unique style of indie rock with a European kick mixed with some good ol’ Canadian flavour, if that makes any sense.

Formed in 1998 (Holy crap that was 10 years ago! Can you believe that… we’re getting old!), Dawntreader’s main focus was to write passionate and emotional songs that could touch the audience, whether they were at home listening on the stereo or rocking out to a live performance. With Matthew Thomas on guitar and vocals, Colin Bales on bass, Ryan Worsley on lead guitar, and Matt Laforest on drums, this quartet released a 3 song demo in 1999 to a growing underground fan base. They performed vigorously and during this time, they created enough material to release a full length CD titled “Thoughts of An Exile” in 2002. This essentially launched Dawntreader into the Vancouver music scene and they began to play more shows, with acts such as Stabilo, Starflyer 59, and In Media Res, which helped them gain more fans along the way. In 2008, they set off to make a new record that would leave their mark in the indie scene and in May they released their second full length album titled “Santa Fe Stalker.”

I got a chance to see these boys play live at “The Biltmore,” which is slowly but surely becoming one of my favourite local venues. I don’t know what it is about that place, but it could have something to do with the comfy velvet couches on the side (I’m a sucker for velvet. I even have a Bruce Lee tee made of velvet…). But there was something odd about that night and in the words of Jack Johnson, “where’d all the good people go?” Alex, my photographer extraordinaire, and myself essentially walked into an empty room with instruments on the stage. Ok maybe we were early. I’ll give it that much, but as soon as the band got on stage, the amount of people in the venue didn’t matter. Dawntreader played with their hearts on their sleeve and I just tuned out the lack of people and focused on the music. What impressed me the most was their professionalism when it came to being on stage. You see a lot of bands get flustered when there aren’t many people watching, but that didn’t matter to the boys in Dawntreader. They played as if there were hundreds of people watching them, and every song captured you with the emotion they exuded on stage. Throughout their set, I couldn’t help but compare them to Canadian indie powerhouse Sloan, mixed with some Radiohead, and dare I even say some U2. But going back to the Canadian section of the comparisons, I’m not the hugest Sloan fan, but you can’t deny how musically talented the band is, and how much success they have had on their own record label. If Dawntreader can follow in Sloan’s path, then they will no doubt have success as well. The only complaint I have is when they covered Morrissey’s song “Speedway.” They wanted to create their own cover and not be the typical band that plays everything note for note, but to be honest, it really didn’t work out for them. Matthew actually commented on that himself, and when they finished up their cover, he quickly apologized. I respect the musicality and sincerity he displayed and I’m glad he did not try to play it off as if it was the best cover song of all time. All in all, it was a delight to watch them on stage, and I only wished more people were there. I got a chance to talk with the band afterwards, and I found out why there was a lack of people. They actually weren’t supposed to be playing this show, but there was a sudden cancellation of some sorts and they sort of just picked this up out of nowhere (Ahhh the life of an indie rock band). Well I give them kudos for their decision to play, and also for the effort they displayed on stage.

For more information on Dawntreader, visit their website as well as their myspace. I just want to make a note that my favourite Dawntreader song is “Espanol” (If you know me, I have a soft spot for Spain). And be sure to check out the contest page for details about winning a signed copy of “Santa Fe Stalker.”