When I sat down to talk to guitarists Peter Baylis and Joe Peplowski of the Montreal-based alternative rock band Blank Bullets, there was one pressing question on my mind.
“Yeah, there’s a guy at work who always calls me Littlefinger,” laughed Baylis when I asked him if people bring up the resemblance his name has to Game of Thrones character Petyr Baelish. “It’s mostly just there where I get it.”
Another famous name that Baylis has drawn comparisons to is Robbie Krieger, who he portrayed in the Doors cover band he and Peplowski started in high school.
“I had this friend and he was exactly like Jim Morrison in my eyes,” said Baylis. “He actually talked to Joe about it because Joe played piano and we needed a keyboardist. And I knew Joe, and I was like, yeah, lets do this!”
While the Blank Bullets’ sound isn’t quite like The Doors’, Baylis likes to channel them and other classic rock artists into his playing. According to him, the whole band has an eclectic mix of primary influences.
“Each guy kind of has his own taste in music,” explained Baylis. “Our singer likes that ‘90s, kind of Pixie-ish era. Our drummer’s into beats and rap, he likes Limp Bizkit a lot also. I’m more of a classic kind of rock guy, and Joe’s really into more modern rock.”
Unsurprisingly, their sound has changed and evolved a lot as they now prepare for a follow-up to their self-titled debut EP; however, they’ve seemed to settle on more of a fixed sonic direction.
“At first, the band was new and we were kind of like experimenting a lot, and now we kind of find what we’re best at,” said Peplowski. “We have more of a process and we’re using that for our new songs so that they’re all getting a similar vibe now rather than our first album which was a bit all over the place.”
Blank Bullets plans to be performing quite a bit around Montreal this year, including two September shows in the Plateau and an October show at Petit Campus. But for now, the two-time OAP veterans—and McGill Engineering students—are looking forward to Round 3.
“McGill has a really nice campus and to look upon that on the stage is just such a nice scene,” said Baylis.
“And the crowd is great too,” added Peplowski. “The beer is cheap, and no one has any homework or anything. They’re there to drink, and people that have been drinking are really into the music.”
Blank Bullets performs at OAP on Wednesday Sept. 3 at 6 p.m.
Will Hunter Band
Musically, things have been going pretty well for Kingston-based frontman Will Hunter, whose five-man band just released its debut album Last Summer and has opened for well-known acts like the Arkells and Two Hours Traffic—except there’s just one little problem.
“This is an ongoing saga, we keep losing our drummer,” confessed Hunter. “You caught me in the middle of trying to find him. He’s somewhere in Toronto and we’re playing tonight in Kingston.”
But for Hunter, even just having a drummer to misplace is a relatively new luxury. Until recently, he was performing as a solo act.
“I’ve been writing acoustic songs for a long time,” said Hunter. “But I’ve always wanted to be in a band; I’ve always kind of had that mindset. So the songs, I had always imagined, would have a full band, and I ended up finding these two guys to play drums and bass. Then we just added more musicians, [and] now we’re a five-piece.”
In its music, the band is always aiming for strong harmonies and big hooks in its choruses. Lyrically?
“Well they’re all about girls, some way or another,” admitted Hunter.
When Hunter brings his sound to the OAP stage Wednesday evening, it’ll be his first time at the event. But based on what he’s heard, he has high hopes for it.
“All my friends who go to McGill or who went to McGill—they just rave about it. So this summer, I was talking about how we applied to play, and my friend, his jaw just dropped and he said, ‘Oh my God, if you get that, you’re a rock star!’ and stuff. So we’re just excited to play.”
Will Hunter Band performs at OAP on Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m.
Up until fairly recently, the ’90s-style, Montreal-based act dullboy was known as the Ben Cardilli Band. However, they wanted to give fans a less generic name, and an applicable quote from The Shining helped inspire the new one they settled on.
“It comes back to the saying ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,’” explained Ben Cardilli. “We appreciate playing together and we still have fun doing that, but we definitely work a lot—to the point where others around us might think we’re kind of insane.”
In terms of the recent release of their debut self-titled album, each band member has fingerprints all over the project—not just in the musical aspects.
“I did the recording for the album,” said Cardilli. “[Our guitarist] Chris did all the artwork and the website design for the album, and Kevin [our bassist] has been doing all our PR and it’s really like a family effort here.”
With the bulk of work that comes with releasing an album finally behind them, they’re excited about the year ahead.
“I think we’re all pretty curious to see what we can accomplish with a record,” said Cardilli. “We have a really awesome music video coming out [….] With the new name we kind of started again, and this is the first time we’re taking all of the mistakes we made in the past and are doing what we feel is the responsible way to move forward [….] We believe in the music and the songs and we’re looking forward to writing more.”
In the meantime, Cardilli is glad to be playing at OAP for the first time this Wednesday.
“It sounds like a really cool concept,” he said. “I only heard about it this year. Chris, who went to McGill, was pretty excited to learn that we’d be doing that as well.”
dullboy performs at OAP on Wednesday, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m.
Led by McGill student Sarah Rossy, the chamber pop creative collaboration SHYRE might not be your typical OAP band, but they should fit into the setting quite nicely based on its usual concert locale.
“When we went on tour this summer, we played a lot of cool, rustic barns,” said Rossy. “I think the lights at OAP are going to be perfect for the sound.”
Despite the band’s rustic feel, the project’s name has no connection to the lush, idyllic Shire from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional “Middle Earth.”
“SHYRE actually comes from my full name,” clarified Rossy. “It’s the first and last letters rearranged. It’s a little bit of a mix-up there.”
Rossy began assembling the members of SHYRE together last year through the McGill Music program.
“I study Jazz Voice at McGill and I started to make friends with a bunch of my classmates. In music school, everyone’s very friendly,” said Rossy. “I noticed that there were a lot of strings players who were interested in exploring music beyond what they were studying in school, and I was in the same boat as well, so I wrote an arrangement for “Let Go,” which is the first single we released [….] and it kind of came to life in the studio.”
Rossy continued by explaining how the band’s sound evolved.
“We went on tour this summer and we had three string players, a drummer, and a guitarist, and our sound kind of evolved into something a little bit bigger. So I would compare it a little bit to movie music, kind of like Patrick Watson or St. Vincent a little bit.”
After spending the summer out on the road, Rossy is excited to be back and looking forward to performing at OAP for the first time.
“It’s going to be a packed night, Friday night, closing night,” said Rossy. “Being around all these people that we share a common school with, it’s a community feel, kind of heartwarming in that sense.”
SHYRE performs at OAP on Friday, Sept. 5 at 6 p.m.
Busty and the Bass
Four months ago, the well-oiled nine-piece funk machine comprised of McGill music students—otherwise known as Busty and the Bass—rocked OAP Lite for its closing performance. This Friday, they’ll be giving OAP its send-off as well, bookending a productive summer in which the Busty crew reloaded its musical arsenal and also took some time to chart a path for the future as their time at McGill starts drawing to a close.
“Up until this summer we were very focused on our live gigs,” explained bassist Milo Johnson. “This summer was about figuring out the big picture, figuring out ourselves. It was the first time we got to hang out for an extended time, all nine of us, when it wasn’t to prepare for a specific gig.”
Moving forward, mobilizing the entire band even for rehearsal becomes a much greater challenge.
“Our alto player [Nick Ferraro] just graduated and he moved back to Toronto,” said Johnson. “That was a big realization for us. Now Nick’s a professional, so we’ve gotta start being professional too. [….] Right now the goal is [to reach] Busty self-sufficiency by graduation. We’ve got something together, and we want it to support all of us; so that’s the goal.”
In order to use their time together effectively this summer, the band hit the road and settled down in a more reclusive environment.
“We actually did a retreat in upstate New York,” said guitarist Louis Stein. “It was seven days in the woods; we played music basically from sunrise to sunset, and intermittently made food. It was pretty awesome. After that we went into New York, did some recording [and] finished up our EP that’ll be coming out in a couple of weeks.”
In the city, however, they had to make the most of a less wide-open living space.
“When we do go to NYC, we cram nine of us into Louis’ mom’s two-bedroom apartment,” shared Johnson. “And it doesn’t feel very crowded.”
Now that its members back in Montreal, the band is excited to greet old faces at OAP and at their return show happening this Thursday at Petit Campus, but they are especially looking forward to bringing in new fans.
“It fills me with so much excitement to know that it’s someone’s first time at our show,” said Stein. “Because it feels like my first time again.”
“With the energy we’re trying to give off, the sheer mass of what we do, seeing people’s first exposure to it is just something so cool,” added Johnson. “You can look at people’s faces in the audience and see whose first time it is.”
Busty and the Bass performs at OAP on Friday, Sept. 5 at 8 p.m.