By Martine Ehrenclou
Montreal-based rock and roll band, The Damn Truth released their third album, Now or Nowhere on May 7 via Spectre Musique/Sony Music. Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer Bob Rock (Aerosmith, Metallica, Motley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams) at Bryan Adams’ The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver except for three tracks due to Covid-19 restrictions which were produced separately by Juno-Award winner Jean Massicotte, Grammy winning engineers Vance Powell, and Nick DiDia add Mike Plotnikoff. An A-list team collaboration.
The Damn Truth have toured Europe and the US extensively, opening tours for ZZ Top, the Sheepdogs, Styx, and Rival Sons. In some ways, the band has been hiding in plain sight for the last nine years, slowly surfacing from the underground to the radar of a much wider audience worldwide. With many sold out shows at world class venues in Montreal, Los Angeles, and more, their new album, Now Or Nowhere has struck gold and was released to critical acclaim.
With plenty of rock and roll swagger, The Damn Truth’s Now or Nowhere navigates life, love and the challenges of the last year with the pandemic, with a powerhouse vocalist and downright killer band. They might be bohemian rock n’ roll hippies, but they sure can rock. And that’s with a strong dose of love and peace.
The Damn Truth are Lee-la Baum (lead vocals/guitar), Tom Shemer (lead guitar/vocals), PY Letellier (bass/vocals) and Dave Traina (drums/vocals).
Martine: We love your album, Now Or Nowhere. Congratulations on all the attention your band is getting.
Lee-la: Thank you so much. I’m so happy you’re loving the record.
Martine: Tell me about the song, “This Is Who We Are Now.” It seems to have significance for the band.
Lee-la: “This Is Who We Are Now” was conceptualized by Tom while driving on tour in Texas. Suddenly, the chorus just popped into his head and then he had the lyric the melody and the guitar riff within seconds. He asked PY to record the idea on his phone at that same instant.
When we got back to Montreal, we all heard that chorus a million times already but never played it as a band. We set up in our rehearsal space and figured out the chords and the main groove for the song. When it started to feel good, I got inspired and just jumped on the mic and the lyrics just poured out of me. I never wrote them down on paper. That freestyle thing I had done right then and there ended up being the lyrics for the verses.
Martine: Pure creativity right there. How did the album come about? And how did you end up working with the legendary Bob Rock? What was the process like?
Lee-la: While on tour in Europe, we started discussing how we want to approach recording our next batch of songs. One thing that kept coming up was our desire to work with a producer we had never worked with before. Somebody from the world of Rock N Roll. Somebody that had made legendary records. That was the dream.
The first name that was thrown around in the van was George Martin, which obviously could not happen, but the second name was Bob Rock. As it turned out we had a friend in common and we managed to send him a bunch of demos. Within 12 hours, Bob called back and said come down to Vancouver and let’s make a record.
Martine: So exciting. Did you all write the songs on Now or Nowhere together as a band? How does that process work?
Lee-la: There is no real blueprint to our songwriting. Each song is different, like the way ‘This is Who We Are Now’ came to be or for instance the song ‘Full On You’– we had a really cool riff and the whole groove of the song really felt amazing, but I just couldn’t find the right lyrics. We went through all kinds of ideas and trials, but we ended up using lyrics that Tom and I had written years ago and never used. It was fun to rediscover those old lyrics and they felt so relevant when I sang them in a new context.
Basically, any one of us can bring a song into the rehearsal space and then we pass it through ‘the machine,’ where it turns into a whole other animal then the one it was in the start.
Martine: Your song “Lonely” is killer too. It’s a little more blues than some of your other tunes. Tell me about this one.
Lee-la: On one of our cross Canada tours, our tour van caught fire while we were driving it. The experience was terrifying and horrifying but from it came an incredible realization that our rock n roll community is beyond a doubt the most incredible group of people we’ve had the good fortune to come across. We were stranded without wheels in a tiny motel room, and just singing that chorus for ‘Lonely’ over and over again and wallowing in our misery and misfortune.
Before going to bed we put up a Go Fund Me campaign to raise some money to rent some wheels to get back home, but upon waking the next morning there was enough funds in the account to rent a van, replace the gear and personal belongings that was wrecked and continue the tour. From then on, at every stop on the tour I would sing ‘Lonely’ A capella as a dedication to our amazing fans who without them we would not have been able to continue the tour. When Bob heard our A capella demo he loved it but wanted the band to join in. This one really took shape and form under the loving guidance and simple direction of Bob. I love it so much.
Martine: Oh my goodness. And while you were driving. But what a beautiful and heartwarming ending to come out of tragedy. Your fans are the best. Speaking of positive outcomes, in the press info it states that you decided to focus more on the positive, on hope, love and not fear with Now or Nowhere. Please tell me about that development and why you chose it.
Lee-la: After touring for years and meeting people from all walks of life, it grew more obvious to me that we have a problem. Wherever you go, you can’t escape the ‘bad news.’ We are constantly bombarded by bad news day in and day out, whether it’s on social media, news outlets, TV, etc. I started thinking that the most rock n roll thing to do and be is ‘hope.’ In a world of constant bad news, propaganda and fear mongering, being hopeful felt like the biggest rebellion. I got the confirmation I needed by talking to people after our shows…. we all needed hope.
Martine: Your press info said that you are all hippies and that you’re committed to the 60s self-sufficiency and DIY lifestyle. Tell me how you came to be hippies since you weren’t brought up in the 60s and how the 60s has influenced your music.
Lee-la: Obviously we weren’t born anytime near the 60’s which makes that period of time more mystical and magical in my mind… what did it actually feel like to be a part of such a unifying social movement for peace and love?
Growing up in the late 90’s I felt a certain shallowness from pop music and the world around me in general. I found refuge in my parent’s classic rock record collection. All of a sudden, here were artists that were talking about meaningful, world shattering & insightful matters. I couldn’t get close enough to those records, I needed to live the same way, talk the same way, look the same way so I could understand the music to its fullest.
Martine: Speaking of the DIY 60’s mentality, you’ve done so much for yourselves as a band from producing your debut album, filming your own videos, marketing your music and more.
Lee-la: Well, when the band first formed, we found ourselves in a very peculiar position of being one of the only rock n’ roll bands in our city and therefore it was really hard getting even a small gig. We just couldn’t find our place in the scene that was happening around us so we decided instead of trying to fit into something we didn’t feel we belonged to, that we would create our own scene. So, we started by producing our own shows, designing our own posters, making our own music videos and producing our first record. We didn’t do it because we thought we would do it better… there was just nobody around us that was doing that sort of thing at the time. We just figured if we like it someone else might too.
Martine: That’s pretty impressive. Your voice is stunning. I’m sure you’ve heard this before that you sound a bit like Grace Slick. Have you always sung? Do you and the band write songs to feature your voice?
Lee-la: Thank you. I’ve been singing and performing since the age of 4. Sometimes Tom or PY will come up with a cool riff or melody but when I try to sing it, it always sounds different than what they intended it to be. Sometimes a simple folk song takes on a whole new life when I belt an unexpected harmony onto it.
Martine: You were on tour opening for ZZ Top. Tell me about partying with Billy Gibbons in his pajamas.
Lee-la: Getting invited to tour with the great ZZ TOP was just fantastic. They are so incredible live, their sound is huge, they are completely endearing and mesmerizing to watch, it truly was like being in rock n roll school. After the first couple of nights Billy met us backstage, he was wearing a one-piece pajama, fuzzy hat, black sunglasses and a leather jacket and he looked like the coolest dude you would ever hope to meet. And he really was! What an honor. Touring with them was a dream I can hardly believe actually happened.
Martine: The Damn Truth also toured with Styx, the Sheepdogs, and Rival Sons. How were those tours different from one another and which was your favorite?
Lee-la: Wow, tough question… all three were very different. STYX are just the nicest bunch of humans you can ever hope to meet. We were fortunate enough to open for a few rockstar bands and they were by far some of the nicest! They even came into our dressing room after the show to tell us they were watching and congratulate us for a great set (which doesn’t happen often with bigger bands like that)–even their manager offered us some words of wisdom in terms of business decisions, etc.
The Sheepdogs was quite an adventure as the tour was a winter tour in Canada and it was exceptionally cold. One night in northern Quebec, the temperature was as low as -40C . It was intense, but it was always HOT at the shows. The Sheepdogs are such a great group of guys and they were so welcoming. We instantly became friends and the parties on that tour were legendary!
Rival Sons- that tour wasn’t so much about partying as I was pregnant at the time but it was the most enjoyable show to watch every night… I am a huge fan of Jay’s voice and the band and being on the road with them was simply fantastic! So, which was my favorite? All of them!”
Martine: What’s next for you? I know The Damn Truth has an upcoming UK tour with King King.
Lee-la: The thought of being on the road again thrills us to no end. It seems almost surreal and unfathomable at the moment as we are still dealing with curfews and outbreaks but we are hopeful that by February 2022–which is when we have planned our UK tour with King King–the world will return to a semblance of normality once again. And dare we hope sooner than that?
On June 9 we will be performing our ‘Now Or Nowhere Livestream Experiment.’ A special worldwide livestream event, where we will be playing songs off our new album for the first time ever! We are so excited to be playing a show after so long!! We are all craving the stage so much and know it will be a memorable experience for us all.
No matter where you are in the world and what time zone you are in, you can watch and re-watch the show for the 4 four days preceding the event, which is really cool.
Martine: Thanks for making the time to chat.
Lee-la: Thanks so much.
To watch The Damn Truth ‘Now Or Nowhere Livestream Experiment’ see link here