Jazzing up Halifax
By Jennifer Leonard
Their gimmick is their gear.
Halifax's Rome Plows are Andrew Miller (drums/vocals), Lender Bowles (bass/vocals) and Michael Begin (guitar/vocals).
When asked if Lender P.J. Bowles whom Miller thinks "sounds like he should be in Spinal Tap" plays a Fender bass, Miller quickly brought to my attention he and bandmates are "quite disgustingly anal about [their] choice of guitars and instruments."
Miller's drum kit is a 31-year-old Roger's which, because of its quality craftsmanship, gives him "that old school jazz sound" he's going for.
Unlike the Beatles-esque Sloan or the many other up-and-coming Nova Scotia bands, Rome Plows wanted to be "different than anything else that was coming out of Halifax," Miller concedes.
If ever the jazzy tones of Charlie Parker were to be entwined with the quirky narrative stylings of Sonic Youth, for example, somewhere in the creative mix would reside the signature sound of Rome Plows.
"We're not a jazz band," Miller admits, "But it's fun to take power chords and juxtapose them against very quiet and melodic jazz moments."
Upon listening to Rome Plows' first eight-song release on their own Waiting for Herb label there are times when you feel you are just at the edge of the hardest rock, only to find you are gently being dropped into a polyrhythmical abyss.
"Lampshade Aerodynamics," exerts a comfortable jive throughout, with effective drum rolls lulling you along; that is until the song's close, where unfinished jazzy entanglements add an impromptu feel.
"We're all into jazz quite heavily, but when you're in an electric three-piece, you have little choice but to be a rock band," Miller says.
The cover design of Rome Plows' first release depicts photographs of the trio's instruments. "There was an emphasis on the equipment and, therefore, the music and not us or our faces," Miller says.
"The drum pedal that I have on the cover is going to be on Don McKay's next book of poetry," he exudes. McKay is a Canadian poet who won the Governor General's Award in 1989 and was Miller's thesis supervisor.
Rome Plows set up their on-stage equipment according to the very specific jazz-style semi-circle, so they can see one another and communicate.
"Music is communication and jazz is its ultimate language," Miller says.
Affirming his musical stance, Miller claims, "You've got to work your way into jazz. . . it's a whole mental and physical thing. I think in 20 years we'll be doing full-out jazz."
For now, however, everything is going just fine for Rome Plows, in fact "meteoric" Miller beams.
"We're having a total blast."