Over the past couple of years, I'd heard the name mumbled about by various people at various shows. "Bike Rodeo" was generally followed with some sort of laudatory description, like "Bike Rodeo: They're really fucking good," or "Bike Rodeo: I fell down at their show and cut my face and it was awesome."
And while the band plays around the city frequently and energetically, I realize there's still one detail I'm embarrassingly ignorant about. "I have absolutely no idea what a bike rodeo is," I say on the phone to singer/guitarist Nigel Tinker.
Tinker explains that the band's name was derived from safety demonstrations put on in schools "across the Western hemisphere." When Tinker and guitarist Mike D'Eon were growing up in Digby and Yarmouth respectively, a man named Norbert Robichaud brought the bike rodeos to their schools, setting up pylon courses where kids could ride their bikes and practice hand signals.
Tinker attracted the rodeo leader's ire when he rode his bike's pedals backwards, locked the brakes, and attempted to spin around on the course. "You couldn't do anything cool, or you would get disqualified," he says. "So I was disqualified."
Bike Rodeo keep doing what they're doing because they like it. In fact, if you ask them, they seem to think they're kind of a mess. Like many musicians in Halifax, the difficulty of managing their day jobs alongside their music often leaves them scrambling. Tinker uses the relatively rushed release of their most recent album, Oh Bla Duh, as one example.
"We are notoriously disorganized in every possible way," he says. "We have a hard time coordinating anything, other than playing together."
The album title comes from that innate, unforced connection. The music is far more integral to the album than its title.
"It's just the way we go about recording and writing songs," Tinker says. "We don't put too much thought into it---it's very visceral. We just write tunes. It's just Oh Bla Duh---you know?"
When it comes to writing and arranging songs, however, Bike Rodeo is actually pretty serious. And focused. It's evident from its output, which includes an EP and a previous album, Super O Canada, that came out barely six months ago. Tinker, the primary songwriter, is prolific.
"I always have a lot of songs in store. I've got a catalogue in my mind in place," he says.
"We recorded Super O Canada last summer. It took us a long time to get those out. We really wanted to get a whole record of [bassist] Alan Hoskins playing with us---the sound has changed quite a bit since he joined the band." (Previous bassist Niall Skinner now lives in Montreal.)
"It's easy because Nigel's a song factory!" Hoskins yells in the background. All the members of Bike Rodeo have logged hours in some of Halifax's more enduring and memorable bands: drummer Matt Nichols plays for The Stance; Hoskins plays for Something Good, and Myles Deck and the Fuzz; D'Eon used to play for The Establishment, and Jon McKiel; Tinker was in the Joyless Streets. As their various projects split up or take breaks or dissemble and re-form, there is something comforting in the fact that these four have found a grouping that fits. And with a live album and summer tour in the works, they show no signs of stopping.
"As disorganized as we are, we're really good in the jam space together," Tinker says. "We like having fun. That's what we play for."
Bike Rodeo CD release w/Great Bloomers and Red Rum
Friday, March 4
The Seahorse Tavern, 1667 Argyle Street, 10pm
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