by Owen Cunningham
Sometimes you’ve got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. The silencing of Bemus Tun was a shock to me as well as to the musical community of Sydney. They were the guys who rocked the Capri Club every time they played. They were the guys who would sit down and have a drink with you in between sets and chat about everything that was going on. They were the guys who just loved to be up on stage playing their music.
But alas, they have decided to call it quits. “The fun and excitement wasn’t there anymore,” lead singer Darren Gallop explained. “We didn’t just jam, it was all about making ourselves do it until it wasn’t enjoyable. The spark was gone. We had all seen it coming I think for a while and since I always considered myself kind of the leader, I brought it to everyone’s attention, ’cause I could see it and feel it.”
In an interview before the breakup, bassist Jason Rudderham talked about the frustrations of being a band and trying to make a reasonable go of it. “We’ve been a group for two years now and we go through times where we grow on one another but it all comes down to playing and making money. It’s easier to notice different things when you’re in a slump because you notice everyone’s annoying little habits.”
Not that it was anything personal that really broke up the group. Time just has a way of wearing you down. Like trying to record a CD, which they had hoped would be out by spring. As Gallop explains, “Everytime we came close to getting enough money something would happen like the van would break down or something stupid would happen and it just felt like we weren’t getting anywhere. We were going hard at it for two years so it wasn’t like we didn’t give it a good shot, we just weren’t stimulated enough to keep going. Maybe if we were in a different place like Halifax or Toronto then maybe, but Sydney isn’t the best place to be for people our age and I don’t think we realize until we leave how depressing it is.
Bemus Tun felt there wasn’t enough of a following in Sydney to support all of the talent around, especially those making original music.
“If you play covers and Celtic stuff then maybe you’ll be able to survive,” says Rudderham. “But that wasn’t our style of music, not that we don’t like it, it’s just not what we did.”
LeLievre picks up where Rudderham left off. “We know a lot of bands who have their own songs but they can’t play them at certain places because management tells them just to play covers. We enjoy playing other people’s music, but we would rather play our own.”
This was one of the major problems leading to the break up, it was so much extra work finding places to play that would allow them to play their own music.
Another factor was the sheer impracticality of it all, having to travel to play, having to work to support playing. It was getting to be too much for Darren Gallop who also acted as manager of the band.
“With the summer coming up and me working out Louisbourg it would be me working four days out there, then on the weekends going up to Halifax. Getting home bent out of shape and tired and then having to start the week over again. I just want to enjoy myself and see some things. I’ll hitchhike for six weeks around the countryside, busking maybe and trying to find some clarity, doing a lot of writing. I’ve just felt unhappy and stressed out for a long time. Kind of trapped and tied down. It wasn’t as if I could just say, I feel like taking off for a while and just go. And even when I get back, I really don’t want to play that much because I want to have some fun. I’ve wanted to jam with other people for a while now. I think everybody did. I want to jam with all sorts of different people with different styles. I think it will make me a better writer and a better player. It’s like having sex with the same woman for a year and a half or two and the thought of having sex with another girl’s just mind-blowing.”
For guitarist Mike LeLievre, his love of music will keep him going. As he said in an earlier interview, “If at some point I see the band falling apart or if it does fall apart, I’ll try another band, play by myself or whatever. It all depends on character and whether or not we’re cut out to make it.”
Drummer Brian Talbot has also made the decision to make a living playing music. After a tour with the Cape Breton Summertime Revue and trips to the UK and Newfoundland with Slainte Mhath, he just wants to play. “I think I had my calling about six months ago and I realized that this is what I want to do. If Bemus Tun plays three weeks out of the month and I’ve got a week off and someone wants a drummer, I’m there,” he said in an interview after returning from the UK.
The band is grateful to their families’ and friends’ support.
“When I first told my folks I was going to take a year off school to see where my music would take me, they were a bit concerned, but they trust me and they know I will do the right thing,” says Talbot.
“There are some people in my family who would like to see me holding a solid job with some money in my pocket, but I think they can see how happy music makes me and help me out a lot,” says Rudderham.
Mike adds, “My mom still thinks I’m going to be a rock star and my dad helps me out in any way he possibly can.”
Darren said his mom was just happy to see him doing something constructive. He said she really didn’t think he’d try to make a career out of it but he’s learned a lot about managing, not only the band, but also his life.
The band would also like to thank people like Rob Stone who they said provided them with sound, advice and all sorts of little gadgets and Nigel Kearns who showed them the route to be taken with ideas and help with recording their demo tape. Also Colin McCullough who did all the art work they needed on their posters and other promotional material.
My hat goes off to the boys who rocked Bunkers during the warm weather and kept us smoking out on the balcony. We’ll miss you.