In the early days of The Proud Sons' existence the five-piece Winnipeg, Manitoba band went on a working trip to Memphis, Tennessee. Their destination was Sun Studio, the legendary recording studio at 706 Union Avenue that helped make the likes of Carl Perkins, Howlin' Wolf and B.B. King famous.
The pilgrimage to the heart of rock 'n' roll was essential for the band.
"We did our first demo EP there at Sun Studio," says drummer Jay Mymryk. "That's the same studio where Elvis and Johnny Cash got their start. We also went to Graceland."
"I think that trip gave our band a bit of an identity," adds lead singer Ryan McConnell. "That was a bucket list thing."
The footprint of that trip can be heard all throughout The Proud Sons' four-song debut EP. The band, made up McConnell, Mymryk, Jason Stanley (keys) and brothers Kyle Meyer (guitar) and Jesse Meyer (bass), salute decades of musical history in their songs. Their signature harmonies wouldn't be out of place grooving through Laurel Canyon in the '60s, their tight '70s boogie rock could satisfy any request to "Play 'Freebird'!" and the I-did-my-baby-wrong/my-baby-done-me-wrong narratives of their songs hearken back to the themes that have been the foundation for so much R&B and country & western music.
"It's kind of a throwback to older sounding rock 'n' roll music, but it sounds new," says McConnell. "There's four of us that sing all the time so there's four-part harmonies in every song. We go with a vintage vibe in terms of songwriting and arrangement. We're just trying to be real. There's nothing we've done that we can't go and replicate exactly onstage. It's just very organic and raw."
Signature track "Company" is certainly real and raw. The song, according to McConnell, captures "when you've just started to grow up and you realize someone in your past was probably the person you should have been with." A similar honesty is reflected in "Rolling Stone" ("That's about being young and chasing women and drinking," says McConnell), "Fourth Of July" ("How underwhelming it was losing my virginity," he says) and the gut-wrench of "Best Bad Decision" ("Its about realizing that a relationship didn’t work out, but having no regrets. Still being happy it happened because you get to learn from it").
These are songs that could fit just as comfortably on a playlist with The Eagles, Black Crowes and The Rolling Stones as they could with Chris Stapleton, The Wild Feathers and Blackberry Smoke.
The EP was produced and mixed by Brian Moncarz (Our Lady Peace, The Trews, Yukon Blonde), and mastered by Pete Lyman (Chris Stapleton, Zac Brown Band, Shooter Jennings). The bulk of the EP was recorded live-off-the-floor in the Chapel at Coalition Music Studios with some additional work at Moncarz's Rattlebox North Studios, both in Toronto.
In addition to being tight musically, The Proud Sons are all tight personally. They're all long-time friends — Mymryk and McConnell have known each other since they were three — and that has created a unique connection.
"All five of us are so tight. We're absolutely best friends. If this band didn't exist we'd still hang that much," says Mymryk.
If being lifelong friends and musical companions wasn't enough, the five men that make up The Proud Sons also have another bond — their band name.
The name is the result of family and loss. The Meyer brothers' father passed away before they were teens. Mymryk's father passed in 2006. One of the last things Mymryk’s father said to him was to "make him proud, son." It stuck, and it resonated not just with Mymryk, but the whole band.
"We've always had that thing that we could related to each other on," says Mymryk. "That's where the name comes from."
They'll have plenty more opportunities to make people proud when they hit concert stages this summer. The Proud Sons' sound is one that makes them easy companions to a wide variety of acts, having already shared stages with the likes of The Sheepdogs, Dallas Smith and The Tea Party.
The band just want people to have a good time at their shows.
"Rock 'n' roll music should be fun," says McConnell. "Expect good music and a good time."
Which, when you think about it, is exactly what rock 'n' roll should be.