Defying labels and making music 

Attack in Black don’t do anything but tour and record

click to enlarge Attack in Black
  • Attack in Black

Who: Attack in Black with Ladyhawk, Shotgun Jimmie

When: Sunday, Oct. 26, 9:30 p.m.

Where: Garfinkel’s

Tickets: $10 in advance at Billabong, Showcase, Westbeach, R&B Bookings and The Circle

Touring can be seriously stressful work. Just ask the men of Attack in Black: Dan Romano, on vocals and guitar, Ian Kehoe, on bass, Spencer Burton, on vocals and guitar, and Ian Romano on drums.

On Tuesday afternoon, the foursome was killing time in Thunder Bay, Ontario, waiting for a mechanic to sort out some serious car issues.

“We went ahead with a new engine,” Dan said. “Hopefully it will be done by the morning of the 23 rd , which should give us enough time — well, barely enough time — to drive to Vancouver,” he said.

Ah, the life of the touring musician. But aside from their recent mechanical issues, touring seems to be a pretty fun adventure for the band.

“We hang out whether we’re on the road or not,” Dan added.

Their sound defies a simple, offhand label, with a wide range of musical influences — everything from Neil Young to Bruce Springsteen. The end product is something like old school rock ’n’ roll, infused with folk and modern punk rock, though they’re often included in the genre of punk rock.

“Its such a waste of time to try and label yourself,” Dan added. “People have said the most crazy things.”

He did a quick survey of the other band members in the room to see if they could remember some of the bad labels they’ve been stuck with:

“Mid-90s alterna rock,” someone chimed in.

“No, that’s accurate,” Dan replied with a laugh, adding that Emo is probably the worst, and rock ’n’ roll is probably the most accurate and least offensive.

The foursome has been making music together since 2003, when they met up in their hometown of Welland, Ontario, where the local music scene was pretty hit or miss.

“There was a big punk and hardcore scene for a while, and then it sort of became nothing very quickly,” Dan noted, adding that the musical offerings seem to fluctuate pretty drastically.

“There is some music coming out of there now that’s pretty good, probably the best that’s come out of there in the last seven or eight years,” he said.

But if you’re willing to dig through the underground scene, you may just discover a few treasures.

“Even when there’s nothing, there’s always something — you’ve just got to look extra hard for it.”

Burton first met Kehoe at a show.

“I guess there was a fiasco where no one wanted to open the show, so they asked Ian if he wanted to open, and they introduced him to Spencer, and they just sort of jammed, I guess,” Dan said.

Dan met Kehoe, brought his younger brother in to play the drums, and Attack in Black was born.

Then, in 2006, the band signed to Dine Alone Records, producing two full-lengths to date: Marriage , and Curve of the Earth . Now, they have another new one, Years By 1,000 Fingertips , which should be out in March.

You’d think that studio time would be kind of hard to come by with the amount of touring they do, but apparently, setting up shop in your basement makes the creative process a bit easier.

“Whenever we’re home, it’s there,” Dan explained. “We don’t do anything else other than tour and play music or record music when we’re home, so that’s probably why there’s so much of it.”

These musicians certainly seem to have a one-track mind, and are doing everything they can for the band. Even the songwriting process has grown to become a more inclusive process, with all members taking on the task occasionally, drawing inspiration from a wide range of things, even the most mundane details.

“It could be anything — the bricks on the wall in this hotel room, my brother’s posture right now…” Dan trailed off.

Their sound has caught on pretty quickly, with the band sharing the stage with the Weakerthans, Sparta, and Moneen, and playing festivals across the UK. But Dan said the best tour to date has actually been one just this past spring with Built to Spill.

“It was just nice to watch a band that you really like play every night,” he explained.

This time around, they’re co-headlining with Ladyhawk, a group they’ve played with before, and a solo performer, Shotgun Jimmie, who’s actually touring with Attack in Black and creating a video blog of the current tour for the band’s website.

“I just think all three bands sound like Crazyhorse, that’s why it works so well,” Dan said with a laugh.

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