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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26

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Craig Silliphant
Published Thursday February 19, 06:36 pm
Dear Rouge displays the power of positivity

Photo Credit: Norman Wong

Friday 27

For a guy that has to stop talking once in a while to cough his way through a cold, Drew McTaggart is sure in a good mood. McTaggart and his wife Danielle make up electropop duo Dear Rouge, and it doesn’t take long to see that enthusiasm and optimism are the guiding principles of the band.

“We’re high-energy,” he says. “We’re positive. We’re not really writing about sad stuff.”

The McTaggarts met years ago through friends, while each was playing with different projects. Danielle McTaggart was doing a singer/songwriter thing, living in her home province of Alberta, while Drew was in an indie rock outfit, playing more shoegaze-y tunes.

“I heard her sing live and I was like, ‘My goodness, she has a lot of enthusiasm.’ She has a powerhouse vocal and she’s sitting up there with an acoustic singing a sad song. I was like, ‘Man, we need to try something together,’ so we got together in the studio and created Dear Rouge after we wrote a song and liked what we heard.”

After Dear Rouge arose from their studio noodlings, they ended up hooking up romantically, and in 2011 they were married.

“It feels like being married twice,” McTaggart says. “When you’re in a band, it feels like you’re married to your bandmates. Now we’re married twice. When we finish a tour and we’re sick of sitting in the van with everyone, we go home together too. There’s some challenges, but there’s also some huge positive things. The fact that we can go out on the road together and one of us isn’t sitting at home, that makes it quite easy.”

They’re on the road now, hitting O’Brians on the 27th with The Arkells, touring ahead of their upcoming album Black to Gold, which drops on March 31st.

“It’s available for pre-order on iTunes or at the shows,” McTaggart slips in.

The album is actually two years old, so the twosome are pretty hyped to finally release it to the public. In the spirit of positivity, they have ways of keeping the songs fresh for themselves.

“When we released [the single] for Black to Gold, it was funny because people were like, ‘Oh I love that song! It’s so fresh!’ To us it’s old, but each song is getting a new life and second wind because people are hearing it [for the first time]. We’re always changing stuff to make it fun for us — maybe adding a guitar solo or a crowd participation thing.”

Dear Rouge is traveling with a backing band so they can keep the sound fat — which makes sense, because they put a lot of effort into having a lush, driving sound that’s infectiously upbeat and glossy.

“We wanted something that we could play in the summer at a festival and people would be like, ‘Wow, this is amazing,’ you know? A lot of high energy. We’re extremely positive people and we love to get people to move. We love it when people are smiling and dancing and having fun with us. A lot of people say that when they see us on stage it looks like we’re just having a lot of fun.”

Saturday 28
The Rock Bottom

The Electric Revival is a familiar prairie music story: the three members (Ian Dillon, Dallas Lobb and Dan Toews) met in junior high in the little town of Innisfail, Alberta, an hour and a half north of Calgary. They spent their youths outrunning and outgunning winter and small-town life with a little help from rock ‘n’ roll.

“You can only skateboard three or four months of the year, and in a small town you can’t even do that because of the lack of pavement,” says Dillon. “We just always had guitars and were always jamming — we filled our time with music as teenagers. That was our first taste of it.”

When Dillon was putting together a demo EP, he reached out to his right-hand dudes and The Electric Revival was born. Their latest album, Freaks, offers up a raw and loud Detroit rock thing with elements of soul, punk and metal. I’m not sure if it’s because there’s some deaf-ass music writers out there, but for some reason The Electric Revival gets compared a lot to The Black Keys. I don’t hear where that’s coming from — and neither does Dillon.

“We get compared to a lot of strange things,” he says. “Some people say we sound like The Black Keys, which I don’t see at all. Other people say we sound like Led Zeppelin, which is not on the radar at all either. It’s one of those odd things.”

Another odd thing — at least to people more used to traditional rock ‘n’ roll instruments — is that Dillon has a freakin’ theremin built into his guitar. They used to use one on stage, but walking over to mess with it felt boring to Dillon, so he got all mad scientist about it, much to the further success of their stage show.

“The evolution of the theremin started when I taped it to my guitar with duct tape,” he says. “The first one I built took a long time, about six months, to get it all figured out. It didn’t work properly, so I had to buy another guitar and do a test run on it. It worked out fine. It’s super cool. It gives me the freedom to go wherever on the stage with it. I make a bit of a spectacle with it and get right into it.” 

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