It takes a full half-minute for Matt Camirand to drop the first bombshell. “Yeah, man,” he says, between chuckles. “My boys won. The Colts.”
Did he say the Colts? The Indianapolis Colts? Those vacuum-packed quasi-simians who play football, the Indianapolis Colts? Did Matt Camirand actually spend this past Sunday afternoon watching, of all things, the Super Bowl? Why does that introduce such a clanging note of cognitive dissonance to an interview that hasn’t even started yet? As the weirdo behind Vancouver’s gothic Americana, nightmare folk-rock quintet Blood Meridian—and the sensitive one in the first edition of Vancouver’s legendary toy punks the Black Halos—shouldn’t he be watching a dust-bowl western or Don’t Look Back or a documentary on Ezra Pound or something?
“People who know me would know that I’m not a big sports guy,” Camirand begins to explain, with some understatement, as he invites the Georgia Straight into his Main Street apartment. It’s a cozy pad with a bar in the living room and another on the balcony, rows of guitars leaning against a wall, and the pungent remnants of—that’s right—a Super Bowl party littered across the coffee table. “But people who really know me,” he goes on, solemnly, “know that over the last three years, I’ve been making a serious effort to get into football. Not basketball, not hockey, just football.”
Is there any reason for the distinction?
“It’s stop and start,” Camirand says, of America’s beloved gridiron jock opera. “And that’s the pace for me. I like to wander in and out of it. I don’t like feeling dizzy from watching hockey pucks going back and forth. I’d rather take her easy, you know?”
These words will take on a little more resonance as the interview wears on. From the outside, Camirand would appear to be an extremely busy, unquestionably driven, and presumably very organized individual. Since he’s frontman for Blood Meridian, bassist in Black Mountain, and occasional player in Pink Mountaintops, we can only imagine the kind of action seen by his Day-Timer, not to mention his passport. He also holds down a steady job, as if three world-class bands ain’t enough of a time killer. But as Camirand makes clear, he also likes to “take her easy”. It goes some way toward explaining the curiously uplifting effect of Blood Meridian’s country-tinted 2006 album, Kick Up the Dust, which is otherwise fraught with tales of murder, suicide, lynchings, beatings, jealousy, drinking, fucking, fighting, and generally opting out of a “shitty world with a shitty heart”, as Camirand sings in the mournful “Get Someplace Else”. In contrast to Black Mountain’s sensual exploration of doob-friendly rock grooves, Kick Up the Dust is something of a depressive’s almanac, as if Skip Spence had developed a roots fervour and hooked up with the Sadies. Despite all that, the record benefits from a warm current of bonhomie, made all the more explicit in the title track, which features 12 of the band’s friends yowling away in the chorus.
“Do I wanna remember this record as being a struggle to get through, or do I wanna remember it as a total blast and a party with my friends,” Camirand asks, by way of explaining Blood Meridian’s surprisingly pragmatic approach to recording Kick Up the Dust, which started with a policy of not trying too hard.
“You can move things around the studio but it’s always the same room,” Camirand says, concluding, “It’s about accepting that the room sound is going to dictate the sound of your record, and working off that. Same with a vocal take. You can do the mix and add any effect you want, but if you put it straight to tape while you’re doing it, you’re just committing to it, and it’s easier to let it go and move on and not have it weighing on your mind.” As for overdubs, “You get a couple of tries,” he says flatly, “before you kill the spontaneity. We were very aware of that. Ever listen to ”˜Highway 61’? Fuck, man, that band can barely keep up with Bob Dylan half the time! There’s all sorts of dropped notes and the bass player misses two whole fucking bars in the bridge, and it’s just crazy how bad it is, but it rules!”
The Dylan reference is significant, as is the fact that Camirand elects to listen to Dwight Yoakam during the interview, or that a stack of records in his living room is topped by The Byrds, the folk rock innovators’ modest 1973 reunion album. If Camirand’s time in the Halos is a vivid example of the kind of militant energy that tends to come from youth, the beauty of Blood Meridian (and Black Mountain) is its honest embrace of all the things, musical and otherwise, that the narrow purview of punk tends to discard, the “little things”, as the 30-year-old Camirand puts it, “that you say you’ll never like when you’re younger. There’s millions of them. Moving to the suburbs, having children”¦” His eyes twinkle. “Football,” he says with a snicker.
And, of course, there’s Bob Seger. Camirand has a deep affection for Chevrolet’s favourite jinglesmith, and he dished out some Silver Bullet Bob during an acoustic performance at the Main recently, in celebration of Blood Meridian bandmate and guitarist Jeff Lee’s poster art show (currently at Red Cat Records). “I actually chose one off his new record,” he begins with a perverse smile. “The one that he did as a duet with Kid Rock. It’s a bad-ass song, man. The lyrics are awesome; the riff is wicked. Kid Rock kinda blows, but the song’s there, man, and the lyrics are fucking fantastic.”
And what did Camirand do with it? “I turned it into a little country song,” he answers.
Blood Meridian plays the Railway Club on Friday (February 16).