Wide Mouth Mason takes nation with Saskatunes

PAUL CANTIN

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

By PAUL CANTIN --

Shaun Verreault, guitarist with Wide Mouth Mason, scratches the peach fuzz sprouting at the end of his chin and searches for a definition of "heavy music."

"The heaviest song I ever heard isn't a heavy metal song. It's John Lee Hooker singing I'm Bad Like Jessie James. He can scare you or make you feel all kinds of things," he says.

"We listen to all kinds of music and we try to play all kinds of music, but the honesty that is there in blues is also in some country music, especially the older stuff. Or jazz, when they are just playing in the moment and not thinking about it. They're not saying we should try this or do that. It's just completely who they are.

"And that is something to aspire to."

In an era when so many bands have roots that stretch all the way back to, say, Nirvana's second album, the fact that Wide Mouth Mason draws deeply from music history makes them a bit of an anachronism.

That Verreault, bassist Earl Pereira and drummer Safwan Javed average 22 years young makes them downright curious. Already, the group is collecting rave reviews and the advance word on Wide Mouth Mason's vaunted live show made promoters confident enough to book the band into the 500-seat Barrymore's for their Ottawa debut tonight. Coming up this summer is a spot at the prestigious Montreaux Jazz Festival, on the same bill as Eric Clapton.

So how does such a young band make the kind of music crowded into the grooves of Wide Mouth Mason's self-titled debut?

"Some people in the band were lucky enough to have parents who had good music and some of us had to find it ourselves," Verreault explains.

"Being a guitar player, I was introduced to a lot of people like Stevie Ray Vaughan. And he himself would say: `If you like me, the real deal is these older guys.'"

Adds Pereira: "As music fans, that really rubbed off on all of us. I really got into the history of music. I am still into it. I want to know everything about music, and why they are the way they are today. Sometimes I forget I'm in a band and that I'm part of what is happening today."

The three grew up in Saskatoon and have been playing together in various combinations since the early '90s. After an indie release and lots of touring, a live tape of the band sent out to record labels brought a stampede of interest. Warner Music won the race to sign Wide Mouth Mason.

"I thought it would have been more glitz and glam, wine and dine, where they were always on your case, looking over your shoulder saying: `Change this lyric or it won't work at radio,'" Verreault says.

"But we have had full creative control...It boiled down to us making the music we wanted to make."

For now, WMM are almost unnaturally calm about what the future will bring. If people don't get what they're all about, that's not necessarily a bad thing, Verreault says.

"The way music is going, I'm not sure if our stance on music is going to be cool. Who knows? We might be seen as thinking some outdated thoughts, but I don't give a damn. I like where that stuff is coming from.

"My favorite albums are ones that I didn't necessarily get the first time. If it was something I wasn't used to hearing, then my ears would kind of bend around it and it would change the way I thought about stuff."


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