Punk rocks Riverboat Gamblers are something to behold. Singer Mike Wiebe is a feral animal stalking the stage, jumping into the crowd and climbing any available rafters, exposed piping or speaker cabinets while his bandmates rip through high-energy, melodically charged garage sound.
Theyve built a reputation for furious performances, but their LPs have inconsistently captured that live energy.
Theres some really out-there songs on the last record for sure, Wiebe said. I think were trying to narrow in on the vibe for this new record were working on now. I feel good about trying something a bit grittier, which is what were going to try to do with the next full-length.
Theyre fortunate to have made it this far. Over 15 years, the band has gone through enough guitarists and drummers to rival Spinal Tap. Prior to 2009s Underneath the Owl, founding bassist Pat Lillard called it quits, and Wiebe got divorced.
But the Gamblers returned rededicated, and even earned props from Bruce Springsteen, who called Wiebe one of the hardest-working men in show biz.
These days, Wiebe feels even better equipped to deal with the everyday trouble and strife of being in a band.
Ive kind of learned to be a little more Zen about it. I used to obsess about the band ... just getting really stressed out about a lot of decisions, he said. I kind of realized the thing that works best is to keep working the best you can, but also to realize theres a lot of shit thats just out of control, that what happens is going to happen the way its going to happen.
For example, after expressing dissatisfaction with their label, Volcom, Riverboat Gamblers patched the relationship and will return for their forthcoming sixth album next spring. Wiebe feels everyones on the same page now, and is heartened by the work Volcom did promoting Owl. Despite complaints in the blogosphere, the disc was one of their best-selling albums.
You can overthink it ... but thats what happened, he said. Were still here, and things are going pretty good right now.
Wiebe is extremely excited to be touring alongside Off with Their Heads and Dead to Me. Those groups helped out when Gamblers guitarist Fadi el-Assads mother was injured in a car accident, and he had to return home for a week earlier in the tour. The other acts guitarists filled in, further cementing the tourmates bond.
Its like the tour of the summer Id like to see. Those are my two favorite punk-rock bands stateside. Theyre fucking awesome, Wiebe said. And were all really good friends, so its been really fun. Were always jumping up onstage and helping out on each others stuff.
Photo by Gary Copeland