There’s little consensus on what kind of music to play in the United Steelworkers of Montreal`s touring van, says lead singer Gern F. Aside from the CBC, the six band mates are most likely to be plugged into their iPods, listening to their music of choice.
“There’s a lot of music going on but it’s kind of individual, which I think speaks to the band`s eclectic sound,” said Gern, who keeps his last name a secret.
“Everybody brings all these different kinds of music in. It just means we can’t agree what we’re going to listen to on the radio.”
The United Steelworkers of Montreal (USWM) are 30 minutes outside of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., when reached on the phone by the Times Review. The alt-country outfit is in the midst of yet another mid-winter Canadian tour and, yes, they do realize the craziness of driving across the country at this time of year.
“We’re up to speed as to what we’re probably going to get into,” said Gern. “It’s like a roulette wheel which gig will be cancelled due to us being under eight feet of snow.”
The band consists of Gern F. on vocals, guitar and harmonica; Felicity Hamer on vocals; Matt Watson on guitar, mandolin and banjo; Shawn ‘Gus’ Beauchamp on guitar and mandolin; Phil Frumignac on stand-up bass; and Dylan Perron on mandolin and banjo. There is no drummer. Not a single member of the band is actually a member of the United Steelworkers Union but Gern said they come by their blue collar roots honestly. He spent 15 years as a truck driver and said the band members all come from working-class backgrounds. “We come from that angle fairly honestly,” he said. “Everybody in this band has busted their ass through shitty jobs.” USWM came together early last decade by playing jam nights at various bars in Montreal. Those nights, such as Train Song Sundays and Moonshine Thursdays, led to the development of a thriving alt-country scene, of which the USWM is a big part. The band has released three albums, the most recent being 2010’s Three on the Tree, which saw them delve even deeper into their roots music influences such as gospel and even incorporating in Spanish horns. “We played with a lot more bands and our influences keep growing because our experience on the road has been growing wildly,” said Gern. “Doing festivals, we see a lot broader spectrum of roots music and I think that`s probably bleeding in.” The United Steelworkers of Montreal play at the Big Eddy Pub on Wednesday, Feb. 23.