Elmira’s Dan Bossenberry fronts the band on vocals and guitar, using the alias Dan Howler, along with brothers Ian McLennan (bass, backing vocals, guitar, mandolin) and Duncan McLennan (drums, backing vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion).
“We got a huge response that I don’t think we were all really expecting. But we were really thrilled with the support we were given. I don’t think we could have picked a better place. The staff was incredible, the Boathouse has really stepped it up and we really saw that when we were there. It was a two-night show. It was a really great time. We were really happy with that,” Howler said.
Their first full-length studio album, Mayfair Hotel, was recorded at the Sound Distillery in Kitchener and mastered by Will Muir. They were able to afford it through a Waterloo Arts Fund grant, which they received in April of 2014. They’ve been working on it ever since.
“We all have jobs outside what we do with music. We’d go in after work and work until as late as we possibly could, so I think that’s what took it a long time. But it was a great experience because it kind of gave us time to reflect on the music every time we’d leave the studio. It was a cool experience being able to work on it for that long of a time. I feel like we definitely picked it apart a lot more than we would have if we tried to rush it.”
While at EDSS, Howler took a position at Maxwell’s Music House in Waterloo as part of the high school’s co-op program. He met Duncan there, who was working as a sound technician and bartender. Duncan’s also a classically trained drummer. They started playing together, and eventually became a wedding band two years ago. From there they decided to write original music and put together the album.
As for what genre to put it in, he says it’s being described as a “smorgasbord of sounds.”
The variety of music on the album is reflective of the different musicians that played on the album.
“There’s a guy named Ryan Cassidy that’s a top jazz player in Kitchener-Waterloo. He played sax as well as the horn parts for the album. We also got to work with one of the top blues bands, Daddy Long Legs, a guy named Mike Elliott, he played on a couple songs for us.”
Howler says he leans toward folk in his songwriting, but a variety of influences, such as pop, folk, country, jazz, and R&B, pushed the album to where it is.
As someone who’s been playing music since he was a child, Howler never saw it as more than a hobby. He decided it was time to go for it.
“I felt that it was just time to get the songs out. There are songs that I wrote in high school all the way to now, so it’s just been sitting on my back for a long time and it was time to get rid of them and put them out in the world and stop being so judgmental of my own music,” Howler said.
The nickname Howler came during his time at London’s Fanshawe College. People in his class kept calling him the Howler when he’d perform and it grew from there to the band name and an alias. He says Dan is who he is but Howler is the performer.
“Before the Dan Howler Band started we were playing a lot of bar shows. We were going under the name Wolf Party and it was kind of just as a gimmick where people would come out and howl. We had wolf masks. So we tried to incorporate that into the new album, tie it into the howler image. When you come out to one of the shows you can see it. It’s definitely a party and we try to keep it like a wolf pack,” Howler explained.
For the Elmira folks, they might see the Dan Howler Band perform in their hometown next year. He’s hoping to get some people together for the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival for a show called Sap Fest. They did it two years ago and he says it was a success.
“Growing up in Elmira and playing music, it seems like ‘how do I get into the music scene in the city and how do I get in the industry?’ I feel like I was really lucky meeting a guy like Will Muir, who runs The Sound Distillery. It’s people like him who are really pushing and helping young artists get off their feet and start. There are people out there who can help you.”
You can listen to the album on www.bandcamp.com, and they’re hoping to have it up on iTunes soon.