Interview – The Damn Truth

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I’ve been a fan of The Damn Truth ever since I first heard “Kinda Awkward” on CHOM FM 7 years ago.  On the morning of my scheduled interview, their latest single This Is Who We Are Now was voted track of the week by Classic Rock Magazine U.K. and I was not surprised.

The Damn Truth is Lee-la Baum on lead vocal/guitar, Tom Shemer on lead guitar/vocals, PY Letellier on bass/vocals and Dave Traina on drums/vocals.

These hard-rocking lovelies from Montreal, have been together for about nine years but it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.  As you can see in their YouTube series “A Week In The Damn Life” it’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll.

Most people would have given up or become jaded but when I asked them if they knew what the secret formula was for a successful band their responses were true to their beliefs.

“I think you do have to love each other. You have to respect each other.  It’s just like any relationship right? You have to be good listeners and be attentive to each other.  As for making music you have to come with the same kind of love and speak the same musical language.” Lee-la

“It’s important that we’re all focussed and have the same goal. You have to be a lifer. You can’t have a day job and be in a band.  You have to give your life to that.” Tom

Before the pandemic, they were supporting some pretty big tours (ZZ Top, Styx, Rival Sons) and even sold out the legendary Whisky a Go-Go in L.A.  With 4 million streams worldwide, 2 million YouTube views, and 60,000 followers on TikTok they are finally getting some well-deserved recognition.  

Their third album entitled “Now Or Nowhere” will be released on May 7. In true The Damn Truth fashion, it’s raw and passionate, loaded with juicy guitar solos and soul-shaking vocals.  

The first 6 tracks were produced by the legendary Bob Rock (Motley Crüe, Metallica, Aerosmith) at The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver.  This collaboration really seems to bring out the best in the band and the proof is in the recording.  As Tom says “The speakers don’t lie.”

According to Lee-La, after hearing one of Tom’s phenomenal guitar solos, Bob declared TDT to be his new favourite band.

“It was a thrilling couple of days to work with him and maybe on his side of the glass he felt it too.  We were playing very naturally, in an organic fashion.  A recording studio can sometimes be very clinical, sterile and mechanical and we decided to all play in the room together.  So when the songs come to life and it’s happening in such a natural way, and it comes flying out of the speakers, you just sit back and say wow.” (Dave)

He’s not the only one who left his mark in Vancouver.  When the engineers heard that the “amp slayer” (PY) was coming, they rented every SVT classic they could find because they didn’t want to lose any time, as they had to record six songs in four days.

“So they just lined them up and I broke them one after the other and finally we got to the last song and I was on my last amp.” (PY)

Watch highlights of the interview below:

The first single “This Is Who We Are Now” sprouted from a line that became the band’s catchphrase and blossomed into a killer rock anthem with a chorus so addictive, it’s no wonder that it was featured on Sportsnet’s Hockey Night in Canada

“That song was a gift and it just came to me” claims Tom.

When I asked them about their creative process and how they worked together. They all confirmed that it was a collaborative effort.  Although most of the lyrics are written by Lee-la and Tom they all participate equally and speak each other’s musical language.  

“I heard the chorus of that song when I was driving somewhere in Texas.  It just came to me.  I told PY to take out his phone and record a voice memo and then we continued on the tour. When we got back to Montreal in our rehearsal space we put some chords together.  Dave came up with a cool drum beat and PY had a crazy bass line and then Lee-la walked into the studio and there was a mic set up for her but we had no lyrics.  So she just stepped up to the mic and started to improvise.  And basically what you hear on the record well that’s it.  The first take. The first try.  There was no deep thought process that went into it she just felt it and she spat it out.  It was like magic.”  (Tom)

The new album is a lot lighter than “Devilish Folk” but it still hits hard.  There is still that raw energy and emotional honesty that resonates on so many levels.  

“After about four years on the road, touring and meeting so many different people from all around the world, you kind of get the sense that what everyone is looking for and what binds us together,  at the end of the day, below all the lyrics is just love and hope.  And we made a conscious decision that our next song was going to be hopeful and uplifting.” (Tom)

From the high octane “Tomorrow” to the slow and sultry “Lonely”, the album explores all the emotional complexities of love and pain with a newfound maturity that is breathing some new life into the rock genre.  The Damn Truth are no longer emulating a 70’s band but carving their own unique sound.   

Photo – Steve Gerrard

You can still feel the nuances of all the fantastic artists that greatly influenced their journey.  Like the Beatles vibe on “Only Love” with its lush harmonies and groovy tempo.  The acoustic intro on the deeply reflective “Everything Fades” evokes a strong Jimmy Page feel.  And of course that rock n’ roll raspy wail that is not an imitation but the natural fiery roar of the divine feminine power that is Lee-la. 

“One of my favourite tracks on the new album is “Look Innocent”, it reminded me of “Piece of My Heart” cause it’s so emotional and it’s so bare and it’s so raw and that’s what it is about your voice.  That’s why people compare you to Janis because she did that.  There aren’t too many people that can sing like that.  Do you know anyone that can sing like that because I don’t?” Montreal Rocks

“Thank you I adore Janis. When I listen to her she’s definitely up there on a pedestal.  She’s one of a kind.”  Lee-la

“We live in a saturated world and are constantly bombarded with bad news all the time.  And I think that the last thing people want from the radio and from rock ‘n’ roll is more bad news.  I know I don’t want that. I want music to uplift me and carry me to a higher place.” Tom

Annette Aghazarian

“Now or Nowhere” is out May 7th via Equipe Spectra and can be pre-ordered HERE

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