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Home » Rock n Rolla

Watters Bros bet the house on Rock Mansion

Submitted by on February 1, 2011 – 2:50 pmNo Comment

The Watters Brothers band has hit full riot mode with their third album – a 13 track self-released juggernaut of blues and electronic suffused rock anthems entitled Rock and Roll Mansion.

For the brothers, Muddy (31 years) and Danny (28), the last five years aspiring as a rock band in Ottawa has been a full-on immersion. Their very own rock and roll mansion – a clapboard duplex in Centretown that houses little more than instruments, sleeping materials, and a fully dedicated recording space – adorns the front cover of the latest release. A fitting reference to their number one point of focus, the photo is a statement in itself.

“This is what we do,” says Muddy, definitively. “Anybody ever asks what I do, I just say ‘listen to my music’ – that’s pretty much our thing. If you ever came by, you would see that you have to sit by the drum kit or something because there is no couch or waiting room or anything. This place is pretty much a studio. It’s takes over the whole house, which is how we like it.”

The Watters Bros themselves have been on an unceasing stomp to take over, at least in local music competitions and on radio, with their trip to the finals of the 2010 Big Money Shot, a top-10 song on Virgin Radio, and success in the Canadian Radio Star contest already bringing them to the precipice of breakthrough.

In addition, the band has played two Bluesfest editions, opening for Cake and Sean Kingston, and has a great supporter in the management at Wakefield’s esteemed Black Sheep Inn.

“I think we sort of lucked out, as we’ve had great support from Paul at the Black Sheep,” explains Muddy. “He really likes us and I think had a lot to do with getting our Bluesfest gigs. He’s asked us again to do the CD release at his place, which was a nice surprise. We weren’t really wondering where we were going to release it, but he had a word with us after hearing the record and we just immediately said ‘let’s do it.’”

Raised in the Ottawa Valley by a music-obsessed father and tantric sex writer/instructor mother, the boys were fully supported from their earliest musical endeavours, eventually scoring gigs in a blues band with their father.

“Our dad was clearly into music – I mean he called me Muddy Watters, you know?” Muddy says, chuckling. “He would wake us up in the middle of the night and play Jimi Hendrix records, just like ‘get up, get up, you’ve got to hear this!’ So we were into music right away, but initially tried to set ourselves apart by making a lot of rap music, then punk, and eventually some film scores.

“Now we actually play in a band with my dad, a blues band called Phlegm. We’ve done a lot of gigs, it was his idea, but our father was never pushy about doing this as a career. If anything, he was more concerned if we got into the career, if it would be a very good idea.”

The road to “making it” in the music business is an oft-mapped route of rocks, pitfalls, and near misses. With the $5,000 second prize in the Big Money Shot, the Watters Brothers were achingly inches away from the truly liberating $250,000 first prize. Sanguine but not bitter at their loss, the Brothers credited sponsoring radio station Live 88.5 in the Rock and Roll Mansion liner notes. Near misses can have a silver lining too, Muddy believes.

“We didn’t get the big cash, I guess they said we were on the edge, but not completely Nickelback or whatever they want in that style,” he reveals. “But they’ve been really good and supportive of us, and the money we received basically paid for making, distributing and packaging the record. We hope to use the rest of it on a tour at some stage.

“To get into the mainstream, I guess it depends on the writing. There is a certain formula for what commercial radio is. I don’t really listen to the radio much, preferring my own mix of all sorts of genres, but I guess if you really, really want to be a commercial success than you simply have to listen to the radio and make something like that.

“There’s a certain sound that they want. [Live 88.5] told us that they dig the show and band, but felt the songwriting was basically on the edge. Whatever, that’s fine, that’s cool. When you try and write, you have to think what you want to hear and not what’s expected. I don’t see it as a disappointment.”

With three albums under their belt – all of them self-produced at the “Rock Mansion” – and satisfactory progress in major contests and on local radio, the band is finally able to put slightly more emphasis on small details of refinement. Representation, studio albums, and tours seem to be a logical graduation. In fact, Rock and Roll Mansion nearly occurred independent of its namesake, with a Montreal label first vying for rights of release.

“We actually started this album with some sessions in Montreal, and the recordings were pretty cool,” says Muddy. “The offer was pretty tempting: they set us up, let us crash there, and recorded a few of our songs. But it just didn’t seem right to me to do an album called Rock and Roll Mansion and not use the actual rock and roll mansion.

“It’s tough to say when a label asks you, because it’s got to be right for you. They are going to put up money and they will expect it back. With the industry these days – the CD sales and that – you’ve really got to think about what team you want to be a part of. Maybe this album will be the last we do from our own mansion.”

In the meantime, one can expect these brothers to pursue their particular rebellion without hesitation. One of their earliest hits, “We’re going to make it,” directly proscribed their personal philosophy of “living it hard and fast.” With a ready-made mansion at their disposal, a spanking new album, and dollars and sense to fuel them after the Big Money Shot experience, the boys are living the rocker lifestyle loose as a favourite zoot suit.

“It’s easy to rock and roll all the time, but you have to stay alive!” says Muddy, chuckling. “That lyric is all about the parties and things like that, but it’s always been our way to enjoy every moment in life we have. The mansion is a great place for people to come and celebrate that, but I now find that I’m far more productive if I buckle down on all the A&R things, get the rest, and make things happen.

“You have to keep your head and your health if you want to stay successful in this biz, but I think it’s the same for every musician – you have to be a little crazy and wild if you even consider a career in music!”

Story by Cormac Rea; photos by Alexander Vlad

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