Billy Talent Keep It Grim on New Album
Toronto rock band Billy Talent have written songs about everything from a priest who molests children to “a friend” with multiple sclerosis, to a vitriolic rant on an ex.
On their third and newest album, ‘Billy Talent III,’ the topics are equally, um, negative: botched suicide (“Saint Veronika”), destroyed lives (“Rusted From The Rain”), loss and death, again (“White Sparrows”). Any happy songs, say, about puppies?
“Yeah, how I like to light the puppies on fire,” quips frontman Ben Kowalewicz.
“‘Definition of Destiny,’” drummer Aaron Solowoniuk reminds his bandmate, referring to the last song on ‘Billy Talent III.’
“Yeah,” Kowalewicz agrees, before explaining what it’s about. “We have lots of friends who are going through moments in their lives now where everything they’ve wanted to do or accomplish, they’re realizing they haven’t done it yet. They’re stuck in these jobs and relationships they’re not happy with.
‘You get to a certain age where you just go, ‘F— it. This is what I’ve got. I guess I’m just going to keep going with this’ — until you have that epiphany. You can change. You can do all the things you want to do, if you actually sacrificed and try your best. You have to make yourself uncomfortable in order for those things to come.
“So that’s kind of a happy song,” he laughs, realizing that’s the best he can come up with.
Billy Talent — Kowalewicz, Solowniuk, guitarist Ian D’Sa and bassist Jon Gallant — recorded ‘Billy Talent III’ with producer Brendan O’Brien (AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots), and one of their best songs, ‘The Dead Can’t Testify,’ came at the 11th hour.
“That song, Ian and I finished writing that night and I finished singing at 11:00, and we had to be done by midnight. I was actually tracking right at the end,” says Kowalewicz.
Beyond the ominous dirgy march of the music are lyrics that tell a story about a woman accused of being a witch, sentenced to death and returning for revenge. Considering it was written so quickly, the story is vivid, well-composed, and not a slap-dash nursery rhyme.
“It’s this Tim Burton evil empire kind of song,” says Kowalewicz. “I came up with a couple of these really weird ideas, and then they evolved into this song about a ‘witch’ who gets hung and killed, when she wasn’t a witch, and then she comes and haunts all the people who hung and killed her — ’til they die.”