New Music

“Death and Taxes” – folk punk rocker Greg Rekus comment on new record

Greg Rekus
Not only is 2020 a leap year, it’s the year Greg Rekus (see our tour report HERE and special artist-to-artist interview with Gab De La Vega HERE), the Canadian punk artist, leaps back into action! After a short hiatus in 2019, Rekus has re equipped and leveled up with new record “Death and Taxes”, as well as a wallop of tour dates that should keep Greg away from Winnipeg for the bulk of the long winter season. His brand new record, out since January 8th, brings 12 tasty original tracks as well as a cover by the Pogues, taking all of their writing and playing to new levels. To celebrate this captivating release, we’ve teamed up with him to give you an insightful track by track breakdown and extensive commentary from Greg himself.

January 8th also marks the date when Rekus sets out with his pal, Grotoko, for western Canadian dates all the way to Vancouver island. Following that, Greg will play his way down the pacific west coast all the way to San Diego. All dates can be found at the bottom of this article.

On his new release, Rekus comments:

“January 2019. I’m in a bar in San Francisco called Club 540. My album “Sibling Cities” has been out for more then 2 years and the re-release of “Punkoustic” on vinyl isn’t necessarily the giant hit I was hoping for. It was time for something fresh!

A new album seemed a distant mirage on the horizon, unattainable financially as well as physically. I believe at that point, I only had 2 or 3 new songs I had been tossing around. Hardly a foot in the door for a new album. As I rotated my beer can clockwise in my hand, I glanced at the beers on tap. Shock top. A few locals I didn’t really recognize, and then there it was. Death and Taxes. Moonlight brewing’s finest in black lager. The 2 things certain in life.

At that point, I realized that would be the title of my next record. It would symbolize my frustration with the world. With myself. With everything. At the same time a glimpse of hope. That there is meaning in all of this. All these steps one after the other that led me to this bar stool in a strange city in the bay area to rendezvous with friends and share something that we all held dear to our heart.

As the months went on, inspiration seemed to hit me left and right. New ideas for songs and lyrics quickly filling up the note app on my phone. My warm up routine before shows was turning into a clip show of new riffs and vocal ideas soon to become songs. Darryl had joined the band on sax and breathed a new fresh take on our acoustic punk style. It added something that separated us from the bunch.

That summer of 2019, the songs just seemed to pour out. Every week, there was a new idea or something tossed around the jam space. After an intense week of rehearsal at the end of September, we hit the studio and recorded the bed tracks in 2 days. Sax, Vocals, Organ and other over dubs as well as mixing took another 8 days and it was done. I honestly think this new record is one of the best things I’ve ever done and I can’t wait to get it into everyone ear holes!”

Not too late to change:

“Like my last record, the first song was the last song written. It’s sorta an ambiguous call out to anyone who is prejudice towards people that are different, and that today could be the day you change your behavior for the better. It all started with the guitar riff at the beginning. I was kinda fooling around with it at the end of a practice, so we jammed around with it till we had an idea for the chorus and a verse nailed down. The weird squeak part is Darryl the sax player’s mouthpiece played off of the sax.”

Time:

“Whether there are not enough hours in the day or that time is money, it seems time is a recurring theme in my life. The idea for this one kinda came to me on tour in the fall 2018. The chorus was kinda in my head and when I got back from that tour it was the first thing I worked on at the jam space. A lot of the time I feel like I’m spinning my tires. Like time is so precious yet I waste so much of it on dumb tasks and YouTube videos among other things.”

Checkmate:

“This was the first song written for the new record. It was supposed to kinda have a Rancid outcome the wolves feel to it. It’s about how I feel my hands are tied at points in my life and no matter what I do, I can’t really please everyone. Not quite a hopeless feeling but more like an acceptance that this is what life is, and I’ll still try to make it better but not get too frustrated when I can’t.”

Smart ones:

“This is currently my favorite song on the record. The chorus of this one was stuck in my head on the spring tour 2019 and took a while to actually get out. When I first brought it to the jam space to show everyone it wasn’t more than a few parts and we didn’t think it would really turn into anything. The pre chorus idea is really what opened it up and kinda strung the 2 parts together. The idea that if there is nowhere to hide, then one would have to run. If there is nowhere to run to, then one would have to hide. But if you can’t hide…. I kinda feel that about the world these days. Things aren’t getting any easier economically. Very polarized politically. It feels like we are reaching some kind of a breaking point. When it comes will there be nowhere to run to or nowhere to hide?”

Take a stand:

“The battle between the rich and the poor seems to be as old as the invention of wealth itself. Growing inequality has imposed such hardships in some countries that people are taking to the street with literally nothing to loose. It feels like we are still far from that in the western world, but not necessarily. It’s arguable that minimum wage is not a living wage and the consolidation of wealth and power has reached a level like never seen before. Must we wait till things are so bad we have nothing left to loose or can we do something today in our lives to make a positive change? John Prine has been a big inspiration to me and this song I feel has that timeless folk theme that he seems to build so many of his songs around.”

Get away:

“Maybe the catchiest song on the record. This one is largely about getting older and being backed into a corner in life. When the life you have always lived without problem starts to be in question. I love the chord progression in the chorus. I think I’ve used similar progressions a few times and letting the top 2 strings ring out on all the chords really fills out the guitar part.”

Cigarettes:

“This is by far the oldest song for the record. It was partially written years ago when I was still in high five drive but never quite finished. It didn’t really fit what I was doing so it was kinda shelved. During the writing of “Death and taxes”, it kinda popped into my head so I dusted it off and finished it. A lot of people have told me it has kinda a ska vibe but that wasn’t intentional. Some days I ask myself “what’s the point?” We try so hard to make our little changes in life, yet the world just steamrolls your efforts into oblivion. An ant trying to take down the evils in the world one punch at a time. It’s easier to just pretend everything is ok and pour another drink.”

Not doing a good job:

“This song is definitely a nod to 90 punk rock. Lyrically, it’s a bit of a shout to myself if I’ve gotten a bit too relaxed in life. If I’ve stopped caring about things that are actually important, if you plan on leaving the house at some point. JP, the engineer producer, did the backups in the chorus. We really wanted a Bad Religion feel to it, so I think he layered like 3 different harmonies. It’s not right up front and a bit of an Easter egg part that you would really need to hear on headphones or something.”

Smoke:

“This one was nearly cut from the record. In the end, it turned out really great and I’m glad we didn’t axe it, but it just seemed very different from the other songs. The organ part was JP and Laura’s idea and I think really made the instrumental and solo parts. It went to a really dark place lyrically and some of the scary parts of life I don’t like to think about a lot. That we will get old. That some of us are stuck in loveless relationships. That so much of what people say are lies to save face.”

I don’t care:

“During the writing of “Sibling cities”, I was kinda tossing around the guitar part in the verse but couldn’t really land on anything, so it kinda simmered until summer 2019. I think the sax part is what really opened this one up. It’s hard to care when it feels like you’re the only one and some days I should have just stayed home. This isn’t true and I see reasons every day that prove many people care and usually more than I do. It’s just hard to keep that in mind all the time. It’s also easier to not care and just throw your hands up and walk away. This is something I’ve always struggled with. When there is little hope for resolution it should be all the more reason to be diplomatic and build a bridge as opposed to a wall.”

Streams of whiskey:

“Last spring, I did a show around St Patrick’s day with a rad band from Winnipeg called the dust rhinos. They’ve been buds for years and they backed me up for a few Pogues covers for a show. Really liked this one, so we decided to learn it and toss it on the album. Darryl, our sax player, learned to play the penny whistle just for this song!”

A newer hope:

“Another page from the book of John Prine. This one I think has a great classic folk song feel. Very proud of the lyrics. Kinda focuses on the Reagan administration and reagonomics of the early 80s. I feel a lot of the songs on the album were kinda negative and bleak in terms of the future of the world. I wanted to have one that makes it feel like there is still hope to pull out of this nose dive we are in. I tried to talk Darryl into surrendering one of the sax solos for a fiddle solo played by JP, but both solos he did were too good and couldn’t decide so we scrapped the idea.”

No other way:

“It was nice to bookend the album with the 2 songs that I thought stood out of the rest in terms of style and sound. The 1st track has more of a 90s punk feel then all the rest I thought and a neat way to kick it off. This one is slower and a really neat groove that isn’t found anywhere else on the record. The lyrics were really tough on this one and it had about 5 rewrites. It was hard to pin down what I really wanted to say. This was also the only track that everything was live off the floor aside from the vocals, although we might have kept a few of the scratch vocals at some point. It just felt perfect like it was. Great way to end the album!”

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