Just like peanut butter & jam, chips & dip, and lack of ambition & Netflix, rock ‘n’ roll and epic beards seem to be a perfect, almost organic fit. History provides us with a myriad of examples of famous rockers who rock Gandalf-esque facial hair; ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, producer Rick Rubin, hippy-era Beatles George Harrison, Slayer’s Kerry King, Every Time I Die’s Andy Williams, the list is nearly endless, so it comes as no surprise that Ian Blurton, one of Canada’s hardest working rock musicians, sports a truly epic face-mane. Blurton’s newest project, Toronto’s Public Animal, showcases his continued love of fuzzed out 70s riff rock. The band’s first full length record, Habitat Animal, is equal parts balls-out heavy as it is melodic and moving.
It would be impossible to talk about Public Animal without first discussing Blurton’s sizable contribution to Canadian rock history. However, based on all accounts, he appears to be the type of fellow who would rather stay out of the spotlight and much prefer you concentrate on the music. Blurton came to Toronto in 1973 from Champaign, Illinois and has been a mainstay of the Toronto underground scene since the 80s, playing drums for the Cowboy Junkies and then forming Change of Heart. After ending Change of Heart in the late 90s, Blurton went on to found or participate in a number of well regarded Canadian rock bands, namely the eponymous Blurtonia, Bionic, and C’Mon .On top of releasing solo material, Blurton has produced albums for bands such as Tricky Woo, The Rheostatics, The Weakerthans, and Cursed, usually from behind the decks of Toronto’s Chemical Sound recording studio (RIP).
Public Animal sees Blurton slow things down a tad from the more punk-informed riff rock of C’mon and Bionic, but the rawness of those previous projects is replaced with a greater attention to composition, layering and tone, while still never forgetting the importance of the almighty riff. Ex-Tricky Woo bassist Eric Larock and drummer Ryan Gassi make up Public Animal’s rhythm section, and their respective playing styles compliment this style of rock; excellent use of dynamics, crisp and driving when need be and huge and fat-sounding in the doomy/psychadellic sections. The keyboards, played by Bella Clava‘s Caitlin Dacey, further add to Public Animal’s 70s Deep Purple vibe and her vocals are an excellent, soulful counterpoint to Blurton’s more traditional rock voice.
Public Animal are currently rehearsing tunes for a new record and doing so in an incredibly unique way. The band is in residency at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern; every Sunday, the band takes the stage to run through new material before playing a traditional set later in the evening. Once the new tunes are polished, the band will be hitting the road on an East Coast tour starting in March. Seriously, if these people come to your town, don’t sleep on this show.
Written by Jesse Gainer