Toronto’s Dinosaur Bones: Indie rockers with big dreams (and a bit of a criminal record)

Rain pelted the streets of Montreal during my search for Dinosaur Bones at POP Montreal 2010. The Toronto-based band – not to be confused with Jurassic period fossils – has been a shinning light in Toronto’s independent music scene. Their melodic guitar riffs meld with an organic, hard-hitting rhythm section and strike a balance unique for an alternative rock group. Their music has a hard edge, but a relaxing, almost trance-like vibe. Dinosaur Bones played the POP festival for the second year in a row and agreed to an interview with The Rock and Roll Report, but Mother Nature and Montreal traffic made sitting down for an interview an adventure.

5:03 p.m. – I arrive at the media house for POP Montreal on Sherbrooke Street. I ask for Dinosaur Bones, instead I get a free Chuck Taylor T-shirt. Score!

5: 43 p.m. – I meet up with my editor Barbara Pavone. She set up the interview, but had one of her own to do with Turbogiest. She gets to work. I get a beer. I tweet about the strange Arabic techo music being played by the house DJ.

6:10 p.m. – Contact is made with Branko Scekic, the bassist of Dinosaur Bones! They are somewhere on Highway 20. I ask where. “I have no idea,” responds Scekic. They have another interview at BarFly on Saint Laurent. I agree to meet them there.

6:50 p.m.  – Arrive at BarFly, which is full of wasted belligerent regulars. Barbara and I order a beer and try to blend in with the locals.

7:30 p.m. – Call Branko. “There is a huge hole on Saint Laurent and we’ve been taken on some crazy detour,” Branko tells me apologetically. Welcome to Montreal! It was probably just a pothole. I tell him not to bother with BarFly, things have gone from bad to worse. I propose we meet at L’Abreuvoir, where they will play their gig later.

7:50 p.m. – After grabbing a smoked meat sandwich, Barbara and I race outside to find rain that rivals monsoon season in South Asia. Her umbrella sucks, puddles are everywhere and well above our ankles.

7:58 p.m – The wind turns Barbara’s umbrella inside out and the rain penetrates our clothes. We turn onto Saint Denis and out of nowhere a parking meter attacks Barbara. No time to check for ligament damage, we must press on!

8:05 p.m. – We make it to Sherbrooke Metro. I take my shoes off and wring out my socks like they’re ShamWows. Barbara tries to mend her broken umbrella. I glance right and stare at a couple, in their early 40s, making out like teenagers. Has the weather changed the dynamic of the universe? I am in Vancouver and not Montreal? Will Justin Bieber fans start giving me financial advice?

8:26 p.m. – We’re soaked; the umbrellas, they do nothing. I reach into my pocket, slowly grasping my iPhone. My motor-neural response has been compromised by damp, cold conditions. I redial Scekic’s number. They’re here and I have 20 minutes to do the interview.

Ben Fox (lead singer/guitarist) and Scekic meet me downstairs in the green room. They both apologize profusely for the late meet up. They are down to Earth Canadian kids that have known each other since high school and have been touring the U.S. promoting their 7” EP, ‘Royalty’/’Ice Hotels.’ The band’s second EP drops November 2, with repackaged songs off their 7” EP and two new songs, ‘We Use Our Hands’ and ‘Birthright.’ “The two songs we recorded are very different styles and vibes,” said Fox. “We did a similar thing when we recorded our 7” EP. We put two songs on it that had polar styles, so we show extreme ends of the spectrum.”

Dinosaur Bones are committed to their music. They tour constantly, something they say you have to love if you want to be in the business. They’re also ambitious; they want to play packed houses and huge festivals. “Longevity, that is the white whale I think most bands are chasing,” said Fox when asked about his band’s goals. They hope that working with Toronto-based producer Jon Drew (Tokyo Police Club, Arkells) will ensure they are not a flash in the pan. “[Drew’s] really constructive,” said Scekic. “You’ll play something and he’ll say ‘Dude, that was the best man, that was the best. Do it again.’  That’s our favorite thing about him.”

It’s not all hard work for the boys in D-Bones though. They rip it up on tour as well. Scekic shared one the band’s craziest stories: October 2009, Dinosaur Bones at Halifax Pop Explosion. The plan was to stay one night, play their show, then drive to Montreal to be in town a day early for their gig. Halifax’s cheap drinks and vibrant music scene were too enticing to leave however and they decided to stay another night. They checked out some shows and hit the town – the plan was to leave early the following morning for Montreal. Instead, they woke up to find that Scekic was missing. The band had been separated from him the night before when they switched venues.

Meanwhile, Scekic had run into a group of people he had met the night before and had gotten sidetracked. Suddenly, there it was; a street sign that shared the last name of his band’s guitar player. In all good conscience, he couldn’t leave it attached to a post and let it remain civic property of Halifax. It was the rightful property of Dinosaur Bones. “So at two in the morning, the cops pulled me over holding a street sign and threw me in the drunk tank,” said Scekic smiling. They take away your shoelaces, belt, jewelry and cell phone and Scekic was thrown in a cell with a drunken homeless man who got up only once to pee. “He was a vet,” said Fox.

The rest of the experience was a sleep-deprived mess. The other members of the band furiously calling him, sending him texts, basically asking for blood if he didn’t respond. “We were all so pissed and said to ourselves, ‘He better actually be in jail,’” said Fox. “That is the only way that we wouldn’t be angry – if he was dead or in jail.” Lucky for Scekic, his Get Out Of Jail Free card was the fact that he was in jail.

The adventure didn’t stop there; there was still a 13-hour drive to Montreal through a blizzard. “I had never seen more cars in ditches before,” said Scekic of their white-knuckle voyage from Halifax to Montreal. “Worst plan, awful drive,” added Fox. “We made it just in time for the gig.”

Tales of the road aside, Dinosaur Bones hope to ride the momentum of their critical notoriety from last year’s XM Verge Music Awards, where they were nominated for Artist of the Year and Album of the Year. “I’d like us to be a band that has thoughtful songs that always make you feel something,” said Fox, who writes the band’s songs. “I think it is important that the music comes from a personal place, an honest place, so that is what we focus on: that everything is honest and sincere.”

For all the latest on Dinosaur Bones: http://www.myspace.com/dinosaurbonesband