On their way to the West Coast, the Ramblin’ Ambassadors will roll into Banff this weekend.
Playing a mix of garage and surf rock, with a hint of rockabilly, the Calgary-based band will play Sunday (May 20) at Wild Bill’s.
Having played many times before at the Canmore Hotel and Drake Inn in Canmore, this will be their first show in Banff. The Outlook spoke with drummer Tyler Pickering about the upcoming performance.
“We wanted to get into a new venue in the area,” said Pickering. “We’re heading out to the West Coast to play Victoria and Vancouver, so we thought we’d tack on one more show on the way home to call it a tour.”
“Canmore’s always been such a good time. The Canmore Hotel has been really good to us – with two of the records we’ve made, we’ve done a release show in Calgary and then another at the Canmore Hotel. They’ve seemed very supportive and it’s always a good time, so we try to get out of town for these little Ramblin’ Ambassador adventures as often as we can.”
Rounding out the lineup is Brent Cooper (lead guitar), Scott Nickless (bass) and Doug Waite (guitar).
“There’s a pretty heavy garage rock influence,” said Pickering. “Sometimes we play quietly, but we do like to turn it up and rock out, with ‘60s garage and surf rock, with a little bit of rockabilly or twang.”
The distinguishing characteristic about their music is it’s all instrumental, he said.
“We’ve always gotten offers for singers, but we’re really quite stuck on the instrumental thing – it allows for a lot more room for the instruments to do their thing and the music doesn’t get tied up with a message,” he said. “It’s not like we don’t have anything to say, but it leaves a really broad canvas for storytelling.
“The biggest thing is that it’s very possible to tell a story with just music. There can be a definitive beginning, middle and end, and a dynamic range to go up and down. We set a title to go with it. The first track off our new record is “Massacre at Calf Robe Bridge,” which is a very dangerous bridge in Calgary where accidents always happen.”
That said, the most important message to their music is about having fun.
“We’re not really a political band with the messages we’re trying to convey, we’re more of a good time thing,” he said. “We want to have people dancing and partying.”
The Ramblin’ Ambassadors’ third and latest album, Ramble On, was released in March.
“We released it on vinyl only, with a digital download card included,” said Pickering. “There’s a bit of a vinyl revival and we’re all very into it right now.
“And of course it’s also on iTunes for anyone who doesn’t have a record player.”
Formed 11 years ago, the band put out its first album in 2003 and its second four years ago – with this much time between albums, the band is more about having fun than selling a product, stressed Pickering.
“We don’t crank out an album every two years – there may even be times when a few months go by when we don’t even get together to rehearse – and then we might get together for a practice on a Friday night and we’ll sit down and crack open a beer and talk all night without even picking up an instrument,” he said.
“I don’t want to say we’re not passionate about it for the music we play, but we’re really in it for the friendship and we’re not worried about how long it is between albums.”
For this mini-tour of three shows, the point is to get out there and have a good time, he reiterated.
“It’s more of a thing we do for fun – if it got to the point where we had to rely on it for income, I think it might stop being fun,” he said. “Having fun should be the only reason to do it, but if you can get paid, and cover your costs, that’s preferable. But there’s definitely been times when we’ve gone out and played shows for not very much or put $50 into the band fund ourselves.
“Every show has been really fun and we have a great time together, so that’s the chief reason we do it.”