Dead Broke On Their Spontaneous European Tour

Talking to the lead singer of the Oakville punk band about growing pains and Spanish hookers.

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May 13 2014, 5:37pm

Nice guys by day, piss-punk rockers by night, the members of Oakville, Ontario’s own Dead Broke find themselves in a unique stage of their band’s existence. Though their youngest member is barely of legal drinking age, the entire band carries with them a certain punk-rock wisdom that can only be obtained through years of spending their time in shitty dive bars, college parties and endless nights driving across Canada in their beat up Korean church van.

Having recently returned to Canada from a completely spontaneous European tour, the members of Dead Broke now find themselves preparing for the August release of their new self-titled album. Recorded in under a week at the studio of notable Toronto musician Thomas D’Arcy (Small Sins, The Carnations) Dead Broke sees the four Oakville chums thrashing out ten tracks live from the floor. Such a recording process ultimately gives the album a unique front-row feel, allowing listeners to smell the sweat through raw performances of songs like “Baby’s Leaving” and “Odds”.

It was a pretty average Wednesday afternoon when I interrupted Mike Bright in the midst of a shower. Refusing my apology and suggestion to get in touch with him at a more convenient time, the 22 year-old Bright kept me on the line as he prepared for his day. In our hour-long discussion we touched upon everything from the bands new album, the spontaneity of their 2013 European tour, and the struggle to balance work with play in your early 20s.

Noisey: So first and foremost, tell me a little bit about how Dead Broke first came together.
Mike: Well about two years ago, the reggae/ska band that I was playing in broke up because one of the horn players moved to Ohio. It all kind of happened so quick that I didn’t really know what to do, but I knew that I didn’t want to stop gigging on a regular basis. I guess I just wasn’t ready to stop playing; I wanted to keep the ball rolling. So Evan, our drummer, and I decided we would start this folk punk band where I would play acoustic guitar and he would play drums. That was probably the earliest version of Dead Broke. Shortly after we both started going to Brock University in Thorold, Ontario and after about eight months we finally convinced our buddy Zack to come play bass, even though he’s a guitarist. He remained our bassist for about two years until one day last January we had the crazy idea to ask my sister to play bass, so now Zack’s our lead guitarist.

What’s it like playing in a band with your little sister? Is it weird?
It is! When you’re on the road it’s such a jackass lifestyle, but when your little sister is in the band you have to at least try to look like you have a proper head on your shoulders. You’ve got to seem somewhat responsible aha.

What was the balance like playing in a touring band and going to university?
We’ve been pretty flexible as a band. When we were still in school we did whatever we had to do to keep playing. I mean Zack even went to do an exchange program in the UK, and instead of putting the band on pause – Evan and I decided “Hey fuck it, let’s go to the UK and play some shows”.

Tell me more about the UK tour; did you play any other European cities?
Well it actually wasn’t a scheduled tour. We kind of just drove allover Europe knocking on doors asking if we could play a set that night aha. It was more like the best vacation ever to be honest. We didn’t even really see any of the sights; we spent most of our time in the bars and music shops. But yeah we went everywhere from France, London, Barcelona, and finished off in Ireland.

With no real schedule you guys must have gotten into some questionable situations?
Oh of course aha. I mean Barcelona was probably one of the craziest places.

How so?
I had somewhat of a rough experience in Barcelona. It makes for a great story though. We were eating dinner at midnight in the heart of the city, and Zack, Evan and I were eating habanera peppers. Afterwards when I was going to the bathroom, I must have not washed my hands well enough, because a certain “area” of my body that I was touching in the bathroom started burning. Like I mean it really burned man. Keep that in mind. So we finish eating and we start walking down the streets, and notice that there are hookers and prostitutes everywhere man. Of course, this huge one approaches me and starts hitting on me and telling me all these crazy things she wants to do to me. And I mean we’re drunk so I just found it hilarious and couldn’t stop laughing. But she refuses to leave me alone; she starts holding on to my arm and telling me about how she’s going to rock my world and give me the best blowjob I’ve ever had, then all of a sudden another one comes out of this ally and she starts grabbing me by the other hand. Before I know it their both grabbing my package, which is still burning intensely by the way, and get real aggressive with me. So I start screaming, “Help! Rape! I need help!” but they don’t let go.

Nobody else noticed that these two gargantuan hookers were about to have their way with you?
No man! The guys just kind of watched and laughed for a while until they realized that it was getting serious. So after struggling with these large women I finally break free and just run as fast as I can out of there.

So in other words, you were almost raped in Barcelona.
Pretty much. There’s got to be some sort of band bucket-list with that on it.

So I’m assuming Barcelona wasn’t your favourite stop of the tour…
Definitely not. I’d say my favourite gig was at The Dogstar in Brixton. It was a really cool bar and just a cool atmosphere. For one, our compensation for playing was an open bar so we got to drink as much as we wanted. Oh and we got to eat pizza, so that’s always a bonus.

What was the biggest difference between playing in Europe and playing here in Canada?
The main thing I’d say we learned over there, is that it’s all about just knocking on doors and making a face-to-face connection. Over here we tend to send emails or leave phone messages, and we get pissed off when we don’t get responses. But over there [in Europe] its way more about the real human connection.

I’ve noticed that a lot of your music, though staying true to the punk rock sound, varies in style; what were some of your earliest punk influences?
The Clash trumps all. They’re a band that transcended genre – they're always pegged as a punk band because that’s what we’re told, but I mean, if you listen to the album London Calling you’re going to hear multiple influences other than punk. I’ve always kind of shaped the way I perform or how the band performs around that idea of diversity.

So this is the type of thing people can expect to hear on the new album?
Oh definitely. I mean this is the first one with Rachel on bass, so we really did a lot of things differently. When we started writing it I was pretty adamant on making an album where each song is pretty different from the last.

How different would you say it is from the bands last record "We Are Not Young Yet"?
I always have trouble explaining "We Are Not Young Yet"; it was the first record we ever did, and it we did it almost immediately after Zack joined us. We did it really quickly, just for the sake of making a record. On the new one I wanted to kind of correct the youthful mistakes we made on "We Are Not Young Yet".

You recorded this album in one weeks’ time; you guys must have worked your asses off.
Yeah it was incredibly tiring. I think I was a little bit ignorant of just how much work it would be. It had been like two years since any of us had been in the studio, and I was just so optimistic about making this album by the end of the week. I really just wanted the album to have a raw, live feel so we pretty much just hammered out song after song until we had the best possible takes. We were exhausted by the end of the week, but it was definitely worth it.

Adam Lalama is a writer living in London, Ontario. He's on Twitter.

See Dead Broke perform across Ontario this summer:

May 17 - Andre's / New Dundee
May 22 - Jimmy Jazz / Guelph
May 23 - The Silver Dollar / Toronto
May 26 - Penske House / Burlington
May 30 - Pop Up Show / Oakville
June 7 - Blackshire / London
June 30 - Call the Office / London w/ White Lung