Published Jul 28, 2008Booze and poetry have always been a winning combination, one that Toronto roots-rock combo NQ Arbuckle have built their reputation on with their past two releases. But on their third, XOK, the predominant lyrical themes have decidedly shifted from singer/songwriter Neville Quinlans drinking habits to exploring the heart of the Canadian psyche through bleak portraits of small-town heartbreak, combined with the lingering effects of history.
Still, its hard to gauge that shift when talking to Quinlan, whose self-effacing manner wildly contrasts with the depth of feeling hes always been able to put down on record. "We dont live up to anyones expectations that well, he says. "Im also terrible at writing songs with choruses and bridges in them. I mean, theres a standard format to country songs that works really well, but I could never write something like Theres A Tear In My Beer. I can take that idea and use it in a million different ways, but not in any formal way.
Aside from Quinlans poetic obsessions on XOK, highlighted by a nod to the revered Canadian writer Alden Nowlan, he says the biggest difference from their previous album, The Last Supper In A Cheap Town, was having the opportunity to record on their own timetable. He adds that the two years spent touring in between also contributed much to some of XOKs unexpected sonic experimentation.
"The idea of just playing half-hour or 45 minute [opening sets] totally bores us, Quinlan says. "So instead we go out and play to no one across the country and Europe, but we play three-hour shows. Weve become totally fearless in that way. Its kind of a trade-off, but hopefully its made us a better band. Doing a five-hour show in Calgary really makes you think about how we can stretch this out and still make it interesting.