It’s a cold Monday evening in January when I sit down in a local breakfast diner with Ben Rispin and Chuck Coles for what turns out to be way too many coffees and a good hour of wonderful stories with these two fantastic gentleman.
Rispin is currently in the punk band Saint Alvia, and Coles is in the rock band The Organ Thieves, but we are meeting to discuss their new and highly-anticipated musical project, The Great Lake Survival.
And, after we finished the interview (and the excessive caffeine intake), they were kind enough to invite me back to their rehearsal space to let me hear the music for myself, and I must say, it is damn good!
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): So, I heard a bird chirping about a new band that the two of you are forming?
Ben Rispin (BR): Yep, The Great Lakes Survival.
RMM: Nice name. What type of sound will our ears be treated to?
BR: It’s different from both of our bands, Saint Alvia and The Organ Thieves. It’s piano driven, blues, classic rock, folk. . . .
RMM: Those are a lot of different sounds.
BR: Well, there’s no punk in this band at all. So very different indeed.
RMM: Well, that’s a big change. How was it?
BR: It’s a big change for both of us, we were so influenced by punk in the past. This is different, railroad stuff, gospel, it’s kinda older sounding music we both enjoy. I’ve always enjoyed blues and rock, just never had time to get here yet.
RMM: So both of you have fronted bands in the past?
BR: I fronted bands my whole life, The Video Dead. . . it actually wasn’t a decision of mine, it was just that none of my friends could sing, I always wanted to be a bassist. Chuck’s awesome; he fronts The Organ Thieves.
RMM: So who’s fronting this band then?
BR: We both are.
RMM: A duet?
Chuck Coles (CC): Yes, I guess so .
RMM: I like the sounds of this already!
CC: I used to just play with other people, kinda backing up their projects for years and years, and then I kinda came into working on my own stuff a little and that’s when Ben and I started collaborating.
BR: I’m a big fan of Chuck’s. I like all his stuff – his lyrics, his voice. We were on stage together while he was filling in for the bassist for Saint Alvia, and I just loved looking over and seeing him; it felt great!
So it has just come together. We are working with Jon Laurin on keys and it’s been great. [We’re] meshing well as songwriters. It’s a lot of fun.
While Chuck finished up his record with The Organ Thieves, I was doing the same with Saint Alvia and we were working with the same producer, Greg Nori. At the end of this, we both had songs left over that didn’t suit our prior records so we decided to combine it all together, and now here we are!
RMM: Chuck, with The Organ Thieves record coming out, how will you juggle both acts?
CC: It will work out. It’s been a long time coming so I’m prepared.
RMM: When will recording start happening?
BR: We’re getting there. We have a few different options on where to record and haven’t decided yet; maybe some tracks in a studio, and I was thinking about recording a few tracks at our cottage – great acoustics in there.
RMM: What are you currently listening to that has been influencing The Great Lake Survival?
BR: Well, that’s hard but I’ll let the numbers decide.
[checks his iTunes]
My top 25 reads at present: CCR, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, White Stripes, The Heavy, The Band, Stones, Leon Russell and Dolly Parton.
CC: Sharon, Lois and Bram’s The Elephant Show. Just kidding!
I was listening to a lot of The Rolling Stones and Pantera’s The Great Southern Trendkill. I really like that album.
RMM: And finally, if you were stuck on an island for the rest of your life, which 3 albums would you take?
The Beatles – Abbey Road
Black Flag – Damaged
Beastie Boys – Check Your Head
The Clash – Black Market Clash
Willy Nelson – Always on My Mind
CCR – Willy and the Poor Boys
You can join The Great Lake Survival every Wednesday for the month of February at Homegrown, in Hamilton, Ontario. The band takes stage at 9:30 pm.