Eric Charles Band review by Jason Schneider
As purveyors of gritty, no-nonsense rock with a melodic edge, the Eric Charles Band have all the tools needed to make a lasting impression on the Canadian music scene. The Kitchener, Ontario-based five-piece has released its self-titled debut, produced by Gavin Brown (Billy Talent, Three Days Grace), with the first single, “In For The Ride,” paving the way at commercial rock radio earlier this year. The band’s second single, “Can You Feel It,” has been warmly received, and its video continues to rack up significant YouTube views.
After spending several years within the Kitchener-Waterloo scene as a solo artist, Charles formed the group in 2013 in order to do live justice to the more expansive material he had been writing. The band, featuring lead guitarist Nick Maldonaldo, keyboardist Luke Collins, bassist Neil Nunnamaker, and drummer Eric Sherlock, attracted immediate local attention, earning a slot at Kitchener’s inaugural Big Music Fest in 2014, alongside headliners Slash, Aerosmith and Bryan Adams. After further gigs including Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern and the Kingston Merchant, they hooked up with Brown at Noble Street Studios, finding a great fit to refine the raw power of their live show.
“This is some of my best material and the band kicked ass in the studio,” Charles says. “We came in prepared after performing the songs live for over a year. We knew what was working and what needed some tweaking. We wanted to bottle up the live show energy and let it all out in the studio.”
Along with its two explosively catchy singles to date, Eric Charles Band also showcases the depth of Charles’s songwriting on the darkly hopeful “Never Did You Wrong” and “Come Back to Life.” Balancing that are the pure power pop thrills of “Do It Again” and “You Read,” while Charles’s troubadour roots shine through on the gorgeously sparse “Into You” and the soaring “Where Did the Years Go.” This track in many ways is a tribute to the scene Charles grew up in, when Kitchener-Waterloo was overflowing with great singer/songwriters such as Danny Michel, Shannon Lyon, Paul MacLeod, Rob Szabo, Ian Smith, and others. As he carries on that tradition, Charles has created a bridge with this album; for all of its reminders of a time when unpretentious guitar-based pop still had a place on the radio, Eric Charles Band sounds incredibly fresh and vibrant.
That’s not saying what Charles is doing is a complete throwback. A better way of putting it might be asking: How can anyone resist songs simply filled with killer hooks and honest lyrics? Although the 12 tracks tell compelling stories on their own, together they add up to one of the most joyful and invigorating listening experiences of the year.
The Eric Charles Band is off and running. Are you In for the Ride?