For fans of: Neil Young, Tom Petty, The Wallflowers
Hometown: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Members [L to R]: Jarrett Murphy (guitar, vocals), Tim Baker (drums), Matt Mays (guitar, lead vocals), Andy Patil (bass, vocals), Rob Crowell (keyboard)
Fun fact: What began as a quest for tickets to one of Levon Helm’s Midnight Rambles resulted in the band being invited to play a Ramble themselves.
Why they’re worth watching: As if his band’s debut wasn’t enough, Mays’ second solo album was released in Canada this November. When the Angels Make Contact is the soundtrack to an independent film of the same name, which Mays wrote and co-produced.
We’re still kind of buzzing about the whole thing,” Matt Mays recalls, three days after his band’s performance at Levon Helm’s Catskills ranch. “We didn’t really think it was happening when it was happening.”
Despite their disbelief, having played with the roots-rock icon is just one of the many happenings Mays & El Torpedo have every reason to buzz about.
After one listen to the band’s eponymous debut, what sparked Helm’s interest is clear. The band plows through the 13 tracks with seasoned gusto, singing of wanderlust and thwarted loves. Though often lyrically introspective, the songs refuse to sacri?ce their rock ’n’ roll chops for pandering sentimentality, even on the more wistful “What Are We Gonna Do Come The Month Of September?” and “Wicked Come Winter.”
Like Neil Young, Kathleen Edwards (who appears with the band on standout track “The Plan”) and Helm’s Band-mate Robbie Robertson, Mays & El Torpedo reaf?rm that the Great White North can rock the country roots just as hard as its neighbors to the south.
“We’re just pretty down to earth dudes and we like real things, and roots music just seems more real than a lot of music these days,” says Mays of his band’s attraction to a genre largely forged more than 2,000 miles south of Halifax. “It comes from a pretty deep place, so that’s why we tend to go there.”