Friday, January 13
In many ways, The Rubber Duck, singer-songwriter in Calgary band Agriculture Club, was just like so many other country kids when he left the safety of his daddys farmhouse for the bright lights of the big city and possible fame as a guitar player in a cool indie band. But he hadnt imagined that when those bright lights found him, theyd be flashing red and blue.
It probably wasnt until the police officer pulled out the flashlight to inspect the marquee announcing a spiffy housing estate, searching for remnants of public urination, that Duck realized he was a long way from home. But still, the son of a Didsbury barley farmer could easily connect the dots between his days of listening to Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings on the tractor, to leaving behind the farm and country music in favour of metal, to wandering drunkenly in Nanaimo, "because thats what musicians do sometimes, usually after a show."
The incident was one of many memorable moments for the musician.
"It was the middle of the night, (we were) walking around wasted, and there was this wall at Cameron Estates housing district. Cameron was the former first name of (bassist) Gordon Leadfoot, so we thought it would be funny if we took a picture of him pretending to pee over this name.
"So he unbuckled his belt, and hes standing there pretending to pee, and all of a sudden theres these lights flashing and this cop yells out OK, which one of you is going to jail? We had to explain that its his first name and they had to walk up and see that there was no urine there there actually had been no public urination," Duck recalls fondly.
After releasing three CDs including last years acclaimed The Horse Always Gets It First, Duck can reflect on his bands success, which theyve enjoyed everywhere in Canada except in their adopted city. Duck points out that there arent many bands who can open for Corb Lund one month then DOA the next.
"Were straddling this line. It keeps us out of more places than it lets us in. Youre too heavy to put with the roots shows, youre too country to put with the punk shows," he explains. "Grow some balls and let us worry about it. I love this town and a lot of people have done a lot of nice things for us, but its been a tough town to crack."
Agriculture Club was formed as an antidote to bands like Culture Club, much despised by Duck, when he was forced to listen to80s retro music against his will while working in Fort McMurray.
"I said What the world needs is a band called Agriculture Club old country songs, played through our hard rock amps really fast."
They learned punk versions of "Boy Named Sue" and "Elvira," and quicker than a bull can cover a cow, they were in demand.
"I was in another band, a serious indie rock band all designed to be played on campus. People kept calling to book (Agriculture Club), not my serious band." Duck and guitarist Waylon Nelson are the two original members left. Last fall, drummer Billy Ray Virus replaced Luther Chickengravy.
In their eight years together, Agriculture Club has earned a lot of crazy drunken memories but only one bad review. It came from a national magazine that compared Agriculture Club to another band, saying one was a joke and one wasnt.
"Were not telling a joke. I grew up on a farm, and when I sing about a tractor, its real," Duck says. "Our stories are all about people, but we just put them in a rural setting."
Aside from feigned public urination, Ducks other highlights from the bands eight year stint include e-mail he gets from "some kid in Missouri or Georgia," who loves the band. He also is proud to be distributed by Joe Keithly of DOAs Sudden Death label. And while it would be nice to be invited to gig around town a little more often, Duck, a new daddy, has one other plan on his mind.
"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a journalist, learn to play guitar, be in a big city band, meet hot city chicks. It took me 20 years of urban life and now, I cant wait to get the hell back to the country."