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Hearts afire 

Moncton punkabilly outfit Rock’n Rebels blasts into town with a new record in tow. Shannon Webb-Campbell uncovers the band’s Nocturnal Hearts.

Moncton's group of disobedient misfits Rock'n Rebels roll into town this week for a gig with local revolutionary rockers War Pony and The Stolen Minks. The stellar rebellious line-up is forming to celebrate Rock'n Rebels' third release Nocturnal Hearts, with a boozy, late night of punkabilly at The Speakeasy on March 10.

"We describe our sound as punkabilly," says vocalist Phil Howe, calling from his home in Moncton. "It's not quite rockabilly and it's not quite punk, it's a hybrid of the two fused together. There aren't really a lot of bands on the east coast playing this style of music."

The 13 tracks of Nocturnal Hearts are dedicated to Howe's brother Paul, "who passed away in August of 2005," says Howe. "It was originally the name for his clothing line he had planned on launching someday." "Angel in the Graveyard," an uptempo, traditional punkabilly tune is an offbeat ode to love, death and family.

Rock'n Rebels includes Joey Neptune on backing vocals and guitar, Troy LeBlanc on bass and Steph Babin on drums. It is a loose brotherhood of rockers, as the band has lived through the thick and thin of things. The quartet formed in 1996, managed to break up in 1999 only to get back in the saddle in 2004, and have continued to record and perform ever since. Their previous releases are 1997's Free Ride and 1998's Shagon Wagon 509. Nocturnal Hearts is the third addition to their blaring collection.

"For the recording of this album we really wanted to do it live off the floor, which we did," Howe says. "I find this method captures more of the band's energy that you would experience at a live show."

Originally the band debuted as The Almighty Rock'n Rebels, but opted to ditch the omnipotent adjective. "None of the other guys liked it from the beginning," he says of The Almighty. "I guess they felt we were calling ourselves something we weren't. I guess in all truth I came to the realization that it just sounded kind of corny."

According to Howe the name revision revamped the band's enthusiasm, "it's like we were a new band with the same members." But even now he hesitates to say if he truly digs the band's resulting name, shared with a classic rock band from the Massachusetts region. "I've always wanted to change it, but some of us felt that we've been playing under this moniker so long it would be a shame to change it now," he admits.

All members call Moncton home, and the close-knit New Brunswick music community has produced some of the most critically acclaimed acts in the country, including Eric's Trip and Shotgun and Jaybird. When asked if Rock'n Rebels ever consider a relocation to our ever-expanding mosaic of sound, the answer is no.

"Not to take anything away from Halifax," he says, "but Moncton has one of the best scenes in the east coast. Everyone is so supportive of each other. I've organized a few fundraisers and benefit shows, the music community as a whole is always so supportive."

After six years of lying low, Rock'n Rebels are stoked to present Nocturnal Hearts, recorded with Jeremy O'Neil of punk outfit Fear of Lipstick. The recording process was completed over a three-month period. Hints of Youth Brigade, Social Distortion, Dropkick Murphys, Nekromantix and Stray Cats filter into their crass, scrappy, rambunctious sound. Yet according to Howe the album pales in comparison to their notorious live show.

"Expect a hell of a lot of mayhem. We always give it our all, even if we are playing for 10 people or if we are playing for 100. You paid to see us play, so we've got to do our job right," he says. "War Pony are good friends of ours and are always rocking, even last time we played with them and Mingus was sick as a dog, they still rocked the place. I've been a fan of The Minks for a while now."

Rock n’ Rebels w/War Pony and The Stolen Minks, March 10 at The Speakeasy, Dresden Row south of Spring Garden, 10pm.

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