Brothers at Dinner, BROS on Wax
Ewan and Shamus Currie cooked up a side dish worth devouring for their latest project
November 6, 2017
“Toronto is starting to feel more and more like home,” Shamus Currie concedes over a cold beer at Pinky’s Ca Phe – a chic Vietnamese resto that’s heavier on fusion elements than the pho spots he recalls from back in Saskatoon. Seated next to his older brother Ewan and primed to sample Pinky’s creative wares, Shamus rocks a Blue Jays cap and all the outward savvy of a seasoned downtown denizen, betraying his novice status. The Curries – both members of Canadian rock royals The Sheepdogs and now barnstorming as a duo under the succinct title of BROS – have come to discuss music, but talk quickly turns to the food they adore in their new city.
Ewan is enamoured with the German-style wieners and mustard at Hastings Snack Bar – an East-end joint that’s worth his hefty commute and that harkens back to Saskatoon’s Central European-influenced classics. Shamus, meanwhile, chuckles “I think I’m keeping my local shawarma spot in business.” Their rapport is as natural as their appetites are large, and soon a parade of wares commands the easy-going brothers’ full attention. The pho-beef-dip dazzles, the Tsing Tao flows, and memories of meals past come surging to mind.
Traveling with The Sheepdogs has afforded the Curries many a unique culinary encounter, ranging from the sublime Gus’ Fried Chicken in Memphis to fancy backstage treats like steak tartare at Quebec’s Festival D’été. “The bier hall experience in Munich was pretty next level,” Shamus describes of their last European tour, evoking visions of cartoon-sized steins and caricature-like servers hauling platters of wurst.
Stranger still was a trip to Kazakhstan, with the band an official guest of the Canadian embassy and chaperoned through a carefully controlled agenda. “We ate a lot of horse over there,” says Ewan. “I had a horse steak that looked like something out of The Flinstones. It’s a running theme that we like food that looks like caveman food.” They didn’t even flinch at the two types of fermented milk (horse and camel, respectively) touted as national beverages. Ewan deadpans: “It’s like all the great qualities of Soju or one of those kinda creamy liquids, but with the deliciousness of horse.”
The omnivorous spirit of the Curries’ eating habits aligns with their latest musical endeavour, which we examine over Pinky’s ample Grill Platter and Fried Rice. Splintering off from The Sheepdogs during recent downtime, they drew on an array of inspirations via an organic writing regimen that birthed BROS’ wide-ranging and solid-grooving Vol. 1 LP. “The process of making these songs was like, we would lay down a bed track and go back and forth, adding ideas to them,” explains Shamus. “A lot of times we would throw stuff on there just cause we thought it sounded cool. Like hey, how about a samba beat here? Let’s put some horns on here. And songs would wind up taking a kind of shape. I’d refer to it as a musical collage, cause we were piecing it together one thing at a time. Then we’d step back and hear these crazy songs we’d made.”
Integrating disparate influences (from Gilberto Gil to Sly & The Family Stone, among others) came naturally, without any one thread dominating the vibe. “You want this fine line between being aware of it but not overthinking it, and just letting it kind of happen,” Ewan tells us. “It’s really the melting pot of all the influences coming together. It’s never trying to be too overtly like one song.“ Recorded in brief, intense bursts inside a sweaty garage, the sonic result of Vol. 1 is raw and robust, its impact visceral. With eclecticism as a driving force, the long-in-the-making collaboration bore immediate fruit that the brothers ascribe to their egalitarian approach.
As Ewan relays: “Shamus is bringing half the songs to the table and I’m bringing the other half. There’s a lot of going back and forth on things. It’s definitely a duo kind of collab.” And one some might be surprised hadn’t materialized sooner. Informed in at least a small way by their father’s pedigree as a piano player and sometime composer, both Currie boys had their own bands growing up. It wasn’t until 2012, when Shamus became the keyboardist for The Sheepdogs – where Ewan is the sole songwriter – that they were musically united. In sharing authorship for the BROS record and co-helming a group of seven hired guns for live shows (including three trombone players!), they’ve now discovered a new level of cooperative artistry.
The next release from BROS will be a 7-inch vinyl of original Christmas songs, one written by each Currie. More touring and recording will follow, along with The Sheepdogs kicking into high gear for a fresh album cycle behind the upcoming Changing Colours album. Having conquered Canada and experienced some truly fantastical moments, like performing at the Grey Cup and storming the field along with their beloved and victorious Saskatchewan Roughriders, Ewan and Shamus have their sights set on as yet untapped locales. “I’d love to play in Sweden, any of the Scandinavian countries. Or Japan,” Ewan offers before Shamus echoes a sentiment from their song Brazil in his desire to tour South America.
Wherever their tunes take them, we’re certain they’ll eat well.