Camp trip

Halifax rock quartet Aide-De-Camp finds its groove with a new drummer and a new record. Johnston Farrow unearths a Dear Skeleton.

photo Kate Hayter Reid

God bless the drummer. The person burdened with the task of keeping other band members in time so things don’t get messy is usually the one most ignored when it comes to the spotlight. Leave it to the person singing about his personal issues or the guy indulging in a way-too-long guitar solo to get all the attention. The guys in Aide-De-Camp are different. They love their drummer.

Lead guitarist “Archie (Gillis) and I were working at this rock camp in the summertime and he was like, ‘I have this band,’” says Doug Cameron about the first time he hooked up with his current group, just under two years ago. “‘There’s a Trailer Park Boy in the band. Do you want to come jam with us?’ I was like, ‘Sure.’”

Cameron, who met Gillis while teaching music at the Canadian Conservatory, headed to the Area 52 rehearsal space to try out for a group that included actors Cory Bowles playing bass and Joe Wynne on vocals and guitar.

“He had no choice after that,” Bowles says over a beer at the Economy Shoe Shop. “It was like, ‘You know you’re in our band, right?’ It was an incredible, serendipitous moment. It went, ‘Bang!’ We had that extra piece.”

Aide-De-Camp formed when Wynne and Bowles, two friends from high school, decided to make a career shift. Wynne had finished a stint at the Shaw Theatre Festival in Ontario and Bowles had recently moved back to Halifax after spending time in Calgary. The two sat down at Wynne’s apartment and wrote what became E, the group’s debut, released in July 2005. The duo brought on lead guitarist Gillis after seeing him perform at an open mike night. Three weeks later, they had him in the studio recording E with former drummer Mike Boudreau.

“Both of us were going through a lot of changes at the time,” Bowles says. “I had just u-turned my life. I had gotten out of a divorce; I was quitting dancing with the company I was with. That record was kind of our answer to everything.”

Perhaps not coincidentally, the group recorded E at Red Fish Audio in Lunenburg with James Shaw around the same time Wintersleep, Kary and heavy meadows polished off their first discs at the studio. Sharing similarities to those groups, Aide-De-Camp creates complex, moody, radio-ready rock, personified on its latest album Dear Skeleton. But it wasn’t until the group parted ways with timekeeper Boudreau and brought on Cameron that it solidified its sound.

“Doug brought a different voice to those songs,” Bowles says. “It really changed a lot of what we were saying. He really took it, grabbed it by the reins and said, ‘This is what I think about you’re saying.’ It really evolved the songs overnight.”

“We spent about two years in a no-man’s land,” Wynne adds. “We needed someone who was dedicated and trained. Once we picked up Doug, we started to pick up steam and we started to become a band.”

Both Bowles and Wynne left acting gigs to devote more attention to Aide-De-Camp, bold moves when one considers the fact that Wynne performed for a prestigious theatre festival and Bowles was a cast member of Trailer Park Boys. This artistic drive is what makes Aide-De-Camp a band to watch.

“I think the thing that separates us is the experience we have individually,” Bowles says. “We all came from a varied disciplines and we’re all highly trained in those disciplines, whether it be dance, theatre or jazz. We’ll always apply those things to what we’re doing and that kind of adds a different sound.”

Recorded by talented sound engineers J. LaPointe at Archive Mastering in Dartmouth and Charles Austin at Ultramagnetic Studios, Aide-De-Camp is ready to take the next step on the east coast rock ladder. Dead Skeleton, seven tracks of solid rock, is the key to the quartet’s future success.

“I think it’s safe to say it’s the journey, not the destination, with us,” Wynne says. “I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true. If it’s going to be baby steps, then fine. We were never opposed to starting at the bottom and moving up.”

Aide-De-Camp CD release, June 10 at The Seahorse, 1659 Argyle, 10pm, $5.

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