Being the red-blooded Canadians that they are, Bend Sinister’s affinity with their motherland extends to the morally divisive love of taxidermy. But we’re not talking posed squirrels or rigid sparrows. No: the cover of their latest album Animals shows the band in a studio, with a dead wolf splayed across the floor and a keyboard-cum-polar bear that would instil the willies in the average beast-fearing Brit.
“We have a polar bear, we have an owl, a couple of wolves, a deer…” says bassist Matt Rhode. “Dan [Moxon, singer] actually runs Dan’s Vintage Finds where he goes around and picks up stuff, finds little things and sells on the side. So our jam space looks like a vintage living room full of taxidermy and funky teak furniture.”
As suggested by the nostalgic colour palette of Animals, Bend Sinister favour the kind of prog that harks back to the sun-dappled days of the 70s. The Canadian quartet’s latest album is a jolly blend of Jellyfish, Hall & Oates, Queen and Thin Lizzy, headed up by Moxon’s soulful singing voice, inspired by Mike Patton, and drenched in old-time organ. Sometimes Animals is rapturously spirited, like the prog gospel I Got Love, or grandiose like a wailing Muse epic. Either way, it’s an album that doesn’t have a care in the world, which is probably why it attracted the attention of jovial sticksman Mike Portnoy.
“The only reason we’re here is because of Mike. He found us on Twitter. Me and Joseph [Blood, guitar] thought it was a total joke,” says Rhode as he recalls the moment they were sent a message from the famous drummer. He does his best sarcastic voice: “We were like, ‘Oh hey, Mike, thanks a lot!’ but it turned out it was actually him. He loved Small Fame, our last record, back to Stories Of Brothers which is an even older record. And when he heard Animals, he put it on his top favourite list. He tried to get us on his prog rock boat cruise and then said, ‘You know what? I want to do something with you in the fall.’ So he got us on his Flying Colors gig in America and Bigelf out here, so we got to do nine shows with Uncle Mikey.”
Rhode describes Bend Sinister as a “touring band”, used to spending four months of the year traversing Canada on its one coast-to-coast highway where they’re familiar with the stop-offs and driving for 12 hours straight. But it’s all part of the fun, just like making their new record.
“We have a pretty easygoing way with writing,” says Rhode. “We all got in the same room and just banged out some ideas. We didn’t take it too seriously – we just wanted to have fun.”
Animals was recorded in just 10 days with Grammy-nominated producer and engineer Joe Marlett. “He said, ‘I’m just going to hit record, we’re going to do it old school’. It was a blast.”
With countless musical interests, ranging from Deep Purple, Supertramp and Yes to Band Of Skulls, White Denim and even a ritual post-gig wind-down session to Dr Dre, Bend Sinister are bound to surprise us with their next offering. And in typical laid-back Canadian style, their parting words are simple: “We just want to make cool tunes and if people like them then so be it.” HW
Daniel Moxon (vocals, piano), Jason Dana (drums, percussion), Matt Rhode (bass), Joseph Blood (guitar, vocals)
Thin Lizzy jingle-jangling with a proggier Jellyfish
Animals is out now on File Under: Music