To say that Toronto’s DEBT CEMETARY is a phoenix risen from the ashes of previous bands would shortchange their defining feature: a ruthless dedication to music. If anything, Debt Cemetary has scratched and clawed every possible inch to resurrect from the plots designated for previous bands. In a turbulent time where the winds of change are constantly blowing trends and technology in music in every direction, Debt Cemetary refuses to die.
Things were really happening before singer Davey Knight’s previous band, Family Meeting, was abruptly laid to rest after the departure of a key founding member. While this could and has buried many musicians’ resolve, the ending of this band lit a fire in Knight to carry on. Having been the primary writer on what turned out to be Family Meeting’s eulogistic final track, Four Months Of Rain, Knight, who had previously worked very collaboratively on songwriting, decided to fully take the reigns himself, allowing him to find his voice as a songwriter, spending hours alone crafting the songs down to every meticulous detail of every note.
The painstaking attention and dedication to the writing and production of Debt Cemetary’s 3-song debut, Dig It Yourself, is epitomized in the dedication that was required to bring the songs to life. Drawing on a different DIY abbreviation, Knight commuted over 200km for each session with engineer Zach Gerber at Skytrack Studios. While to some, this alone would show a musician’s dedication, the as-of-yet-unnamed Debt Cemetary studio project needed more, and Knight was determined to provide it. Having yet to find collaborators for the band, or even stamping it with an official name, Knight performed every aspect of the record himself, save for drums, where he was joined by Kevin Gallant of Summerside fame. This is the point where most project musicians would pat themselves on the back and call it a job well done. While Knight was amazed he was able to do it himself, and knew that at worst he would have a pro-level performance reel, he knew that Debt Cemetary was destined to rise.
But how could it rise when Knight was sitting on what was essentially a solo studio project? How does one overcome the desertion and heartbreak that are the inevitable impetus for any new artistic venture? And more importantly, in a scene where bands seen as peers are few locally and far between geographically, how do you find collaborators to do justice to such a determined, articulated vision? When something shows as much drive, dedication, and craftsmanship as Debt Cemetary, it has a certain artistic pull, and Knight did not have to wait long to fill out the lineup, quickly adding David Huzyk (of Wet Bandits), and Eddie Knowlton (of Fast Eddie) to turn the band from a fledgling project to a burgeoning five-piece behemoth. The new formation wasted no time giving fans a taste of what was to come on Dig It Yourself, getting themselves on stage before even finding a permanent drummer, which later became Nick MacDougall (of Hotel Murder), to round out the lineup.
The names Debt Cemetary and Dig It Yourself conjure powerful imagery, channeling the struggles needed to create music that needs creating, and the price that needs to be paid to create it. While the headstones of previous pursuits remain in the graveyards of bands-past, these bands lead us to Debt Cemetary, and one listen to Dig It Yourself, out now on Thousand Islands Records, will show that this band will refuse to be buried.