Kevin Mears, lead vocalist of long-running Winnipeg rock band Monuments Galore, rolls his eyes when asked how many times the group, which got its start in 1982, has performed at the Royal Albert Arms Hotel, an Exchange District icon that has also played host to the likes of Hüsker Dü, Teenage Head and Green Day.
"My DNA is splashed all over that room from back when we used to do three sets a night there, six nights a week on what seemed like a monthly basis," Mears says, seated in Cheers, a Logan Avenue breakfast-and-lunch nook located minutes away from where the 62-year-old married father of two works as a supervisor for a data collection company.
"So I don’t know, is gazillion a number?"
It is in our book, which means tonight will mark the gazillion-and-first occasion Monuments Galore (whose odd moniker came courtesy a conversation Mears had in the early ‘80s with a co-worker, who, over lunch at the Legislative grounds remarked, "There sure are a lot of monuments here," to which Mears shot back, "Yeah, monuments galore"), takes the stage at the Albert, original lineup intact, in support of a new CD entitled The Single Years.
The attractively packaged release, with liner notes provided by John Kendle, Winnipeg music journalist and managing editor of Canstar Community News, and cover art featuring a shot of ‘60s "it girl" Twiggy, gathers together nine songs issued independently by the band between 1983 and 1986, prior to its landing a recording contract with BMG/Eureka.
Mears says the group last performed at the Albert Street watering hole on March 6, 2020, a couple weeks before "the world went to hell." He came up with the idea for the compilation disc a few months later, freely admitting it’s a project born entirely out of boredom.
"I was sitting around at home, unable to rehearse with the guys or anything, when I started pulling out the old master tapes and whatnot to give ‘em a listen.
"That’s when I started thinking how nice it would be to have all those songs in one place for the first time ever, so I sent everything I had to Richard Duguay to see if he could remaster them," he says, referring to the former member of legendary local punk outfit Personality Crisis, who now runs Los Angeles-based Into the Black Recording Studio.
Mears says he was "floored" the first time he heard what Duguay had been able to do with decades-old songs such as the ska-influenced Doom and Gloom and the poppier-sounding Young Girl, both of which had originally been recorded "on the cheap."
"He couldn’t redo what we did playing-wise, obviously, but he was able to pull the guitars up, clean some of the vocals; you know, make everything a little less... murky. I was like ‘holy s---, do we ever sound good.’"
If you take in tonight’s show — tickets are $10 each with all proceeds going to the bar, which was largely shut down the last 18 months owing to COVID-19 —you can expect to hear most of the songs on the new disc, as well as ones from the fivesome’s self-titled 1989 release, which was reissued in 2016 as Colour, Depth & Field.
One thing to note: while Monuments Galore used to routinely take the stage at midnight or later, there will be none of that this evening. The group is second on a bill boasting two other bands, Furley and Hommer S. Thompson, meaning Mears should be home and in bed by, "here’s hoping," he says breaking into a wide grin, 11 p.m.
"You know that saying ‘You’re not as young as you used to be?’ Ha, ain’t that the truth," he says with a laugh. "Mind you, ever since I stopped smoking, my voice has never sounded better. Whether I correctly remember every single lyric to our songs after 40-some years, though, well, that’s another story."
Admittance to tonight’s show requires proof of double vaccination. Copies of The Single Years are also available via the band’s Facebook page.
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.