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Monster riffs driving force of wild, hairy ride

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When Hamilton hard-rock outfit Monster Truck was named breakout group of the year at the 2013 Juno Awards in Regina, guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Widerman was shocked.

"We've been asked about it a lot, and honestly, I can't overstate how shocking it was," he says with a laugh, on the line from Edmonton. "We'd written it off as an impossibility. We were sure that Walk Off the Earth was going to take that one because of the success they'd had with that YouTube video."

Indeed, the clip for the indie pop band's cover of Gotye's super hit Somebody That I Used to Know -- which features all five band members playing one guitar -- was the music video seen 'round the world, but it was four dudes from Steeltown with an unapologetic love of beards and boozy boogie rock that took home the prize.

"We could have made our own viral video if we had a camera set up in our parents' houses that night," says a laughing Widerman, who's joined in the band by bassist Jon Harvey, organist/vocalist Brandon Bliss and drummer/vocalist Steve Kiely. "Steve's mom was sobbing inconsolably."

Indeed, the Juno win was an affirming moment for a band that started out as a side project to blow off steam and indulge in their mutual love of '70s rock 'n' roll. All four members of Monster Truck had day bands, so to speak; Widerman and Kiely both played in the Reason, another successful Hamilton act.

"When we started Monster Truck, it wasn't anyone's focus. It was a product of selfishness. We wanted to do what makes us tick. When we started playing shows, we didn't take it seriously; it was about having fun," Widerman says.

The band's brawny riff rock, combined with its whatever-goes approach, resonated with audiences who also wanted to let loose. It wasn't long before Monster Truck realized it was on to something, but with all four guys in their early 30s, they were going to have to make a decision and were going to have to take it seriously.

"Were we really going to leave the bands we were in and go back out in the van and be broke? We decided had to give it one more shot -- and we went from sleeping on floors to opening for Deep Purple inside of a year. We've gone through a lot of (expletive) with other bands and being told we were going to make it. After a while, we didn't believe anyone anymore. With this, we trusted ourselves," Widerman says.

The band put out a pair of EPs -- 2010's Monster Truck and 2011's The Brown EP -- to build momentum before releasing its full-length debut, Furiosity, in May via Dine Alone Records.

"I'm proud of how we unrolled the band in terms of releases. We had not one, but two, radio singles on our second EP and we won a Juno a month before the album came out," Widerman says.

Still, Monster Truck isn't getting cocky. The band knows it has work to do and is hoping to develop its presence in the U.S. and European markets in the new year before starting work on a sophomore album.

"We've still got mountains to climb," Widerman says. And they plan to have fun doing it.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2013 C3

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