A Chat With Montreal's BULE
APRIL 15, 2020
WE INTERVIEW BULE Speaking with BULE about their latest release. We go deeper into their music, the community they are part of, and more!
When we put out a call for submissions I had no idea we’d get the kind of response we did. We had people submitting from every corner of Canada & The United states. The amazing, and admittedly selfish, thing about all of this? I get to check out so much great new music. Speaking of great…

A message comes in from a young man named Benjamin asking if we’re looking for some folks to speak with. I get the links (music, instagram, facebook) from him via email and boom: this guy had just what I was looking for. It’s warm. It’s inviting. I want it on vinyl. You can hear in this guys voice that he feels these songs. He feels them as much as I’m digging them. Great twang guitar and smooth-as-silk pedal steel right out the gate… I’m hooked. Well who am I talking about? BULE. He did point out that it’s pronounced “b-yule” so let’s all get that straight out of the gate haha.

In the intro Benjamin gave me about BULE, he said “In a town where traditional country music is treated like an underground cult of sorts there is a band called Bule. They're an alt-country outfit…”STOP. This is only alt-country if you’re living in the upside-down. This music is as country as pissin-in-the-woods. The truth in these songs and the vibe they put forward keeps me listening to each and every song. No one is trying to sell me any corn-field-cliches on this record. This is pure unadulterated country & western. I look forward to listening to this as a grey old man drinking by myself in some dingy dim-lit honky-tonk after my third divorce. This band reminds me of something, but I can’t place it now… if I can by the time I’m done writing this article I’ll let you know… So enough of my excitement about the sound taking over this article. Let’s get into what Benjamin had to say when I asked him some questions about him and the band…

I have been through Quebec a number of times, both as a musician and a look-e-loo, but I didn’t really have a chance to experience the community there on an extended scale. It’s been so damn long I figured things must have changed a bunch since I’ve been in town anyways. I asked the BULE frontman what the country scene was like out there. His response hit close to home, since it reminds me of experiences I’ve had at home in the past. He told me, “The country scene out here is definitely bizarre. Bizarre in the sense that there are some insane players who play all over the world and a few killer bands, but the interest in country music in Montreal comes more often than not from either older folks or people that kinda see a country show as a themed luau. It's difficult you know, you gotta do what you gotta do to survive. I don't think besides one or two shows, that we've ever played with a band playing country music like us. On the other hand, it makes for a small tight knit community of musicians that help each other out and support one another.” I hear that loud and clear. I hear it loud and clear because it is my experience as well.

I find in a lot of major Canadian markets, when it comes to country music specifically, you get a number of fragmented pockets of fans. They’re all wonderful in their own right, but hear me out: You get the older folks and eclectic music fans looking to honky tonk the good old fashioned way, the young kids looking for a dance bar with a DJ in-between the modern stuff, and you’ve got the rural communities which have more of an “anything goes” attitude when it comes to the songbook, but you’d best be good at what you do. In my experience, aside from the few in the crowd that need something specific or they have complaints, the audience likes seeing good music whatever it may be. This whole point ties into my next question which had me asking about venues in their area. Benjamin said, “At any given Montreal venue on any given week, you'll see some black metal band, a disco party and a country show. There really aren't any genre specific venues here, especially for country bands. There's a string of venues ran by the Godspeed! You Black Emperor folks (Sala Rosa, Casa del Popolo, La Vitrola, etc...) that we play nine times out of ten that we play in Montreal.” I think that’s a pretty cool thing they’ve got going on. You’re not going to just head to the same old place, but you might be seeing the same old people. It’s like a dynamic foundation to the to music community, as opposed to a static arrangement. That’s not something I’ve really seen before when it comes to broad-genre changes. Sure every catch-all bar has a wild lineup, but 10 time out of 10 it all falls into the category of “loud”. I feel like out there you’re bound to find something you like. Soon as the booze takes a little hold, you’re writing a cheque for a good time that evening. Live is great, but these guys have a record out. Let’s get into that!

This first record was put to tape in Benjamin’s girlfriend’s family basement. Her father is Frank Marino, a celebrated 70’s guitar player by Benjamin’s account. The place is packed with old studio equipment from Marino’s old studio. I imagine this vintage stockpile is partly responsible for the beautifully warm sound of BULE’s album, not discounting the wonderful mix work done by Mr. Frank Marino and the band. I don’t know much about the next record, but I was told that they are half-way through writing it and production plans are nearing completion. Talks of touring Western Canada and the United States are in the works to support the release. Definitely excited to see what BULE cooks up.

“I discovered country music when I was 13 and my best friends father played me The Highwaymen. Willie Nelson is a huge influence on me (I have 114 LPs of his), Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt/Wilco in high school were major, as well as The Decemberists. Beyond that its really just country in country out. I host a country radio show here in Montreal with 3 other incredible musicians called "Country Classics" on McGill University's CKUT 90.3 FM where I spin all vinyl country hours on Sundays. Being Canadian, I also listened to Blue Rodeo a lot growing up, they played a huge part in my influence,” says Benjamin. He said that he was only 16 when he started playing pedal steel, which also pulled him into the genre. I still can’t figure out what this sound reminds me of… I’m still thinking about it. Alright back to the story…

As bands grow and develop their sound, it’s very common to lose pickers, trade pickers, and pick up players. I asked Benjamin about his outfit and who was a part of it. “…the band is Liem and Tyler on Rhythm and Drums (from Caribou Stew days), Lloyd White from New Glasgow, Nova Scotia on bass (co-worker became friend became bass player) and Kim Deschemps on pedal steel guitar. Kim played for the Cowboy Junkies and Blue Rodeo in the 90s, he has played for Joe Ely, Stan Rogers, and Midland to name a few. It's such an honor to share a stage with that guy. He's the kindest, most understanding and chill musician ever. Really inspires me to play better.” Caribou Stew was the band BULE was a few years ago incase, you were wondering I can’t put it all in here! I love hearing about their group dynamic and build. It’s really cool to see this band bridging generations and pulling both experience, and the fight that a young heart has, together to create such a wonderful product.

When it comes to BULE honestly the vibe I get is honesty. I love their sound, and I had a great time chatting with Benjamin. Their album is great, and I plan on getting it into the reviews section ASAP. “The album is everywhere streaming wise. It's not on soundcloud though.” That makes sense. I don’t see face tattoos or hear him mumbling over garageband beats. Thank goodness for that, because what BULE is up to is right up my alley! Thank you for reading!

OKAY no joke I just remembered what this reminds me of. Andrew Combs. Another contributor to this mag says Tyler Childers. It has that same laid-back feel-good vibe, but is completely different and its own entity. Love it! Alright bye!

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