ROCKWOOD – Three former Rockwood Centennial Public School students have been spending evenings and weekends playing live shows, practicing their set, and writing and recording original songs.
They are part of a band called Bluff and their first album, Breeding Grounds, will be released on Feb. 14.
The album takes listeners on a journey of self-discovery, with the songs intertwined with haunting philosophical narration.
It’s like an “educational amusement park,” the band’s vocalist Kurt Carter told the Advertiser.
Band members describe the genre as a little bit of everything, including grunge, metal, funk and blues.
“But also so much more than that,” Kurt said.
“If it’s a little bit challenging to listen to, that’s good,” he noted when describing the dissonant sound of the band’s music.
Brothers Kurt and Derek Carter, the band’s drummer, tried out seven potential bassists before inviting Jacob Pope to join the band.
The brothers said they chose Pope because of his attention to detail and how he takes the role seriously.
The teens are all students at John F. Ross High School – Jacob in Grade 11, Derek in Grade 12 and Kurt in Grade 12-plus.
They played their first official show together at Royal City Studios in Guelph, and fans in the audience included friends from school as well as the Carter’s parents and grandparents.
Royal City Studios is where the teens learned to perform live, often showing up to the open mics at the now-closed music venue and recording studio.
“We met so many amazing people there,” Kurt said.
It’s the place where most songs in their new album were recorded too, along with Rye Field Studios in Brantford and the recording room at their high school.
While recording, editing and mixing the music Kurt said they aim for a natural feel.
They record “as analogue as possible,” without a metronome, and keep post-recording edits to a minimum, to authentically recreate what it sounds like to hear them play live, Kurt explained.
He’s the bands manager and also does most of the mixing and mastering.
Kurt said the crowd at that first show had good energy, and members would scream along with the band anytime he encouraged them to. Attendees formed a mosh pit during the show too, he said.
Jacob said playing a live set for the first time felt “incredible.”
Since then, the band has performed about a dozen live shows, playing a combination of mostly original songs with a few crowd-pleasing covers, such as Man in the Box by Alice in Chains, Nirvana’s Breed and School, and Under the Bridge by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers are the band’s biggest influence, its members told the Advertiser.
Bluff’s original songs have serious, thought-provoking lyrics that cover dark themes including suicide.
“I wrote Rain recently after a buddy of mine’s dad [died by] suicide,” Kurt said, and two of the songs are written from the perspective of his friend’s dad.
Most of Bluff’s shows have been in Guelph, but the bandmates are hopeful they will get to play in their hometown of Rockwood this summer.
Derek said the band’s goal is to pursue music full-time after graduating high school.
For Kurt, this feels like a pipe-dream, but also his only option.
“I’m doing this because I need to do it,” he said. “It’s the only thing I really feel confident in.”
“There’s a lot of pressure for him,” Jacob noted.
He plans to pursue college as well as playing with the band, to give himself a backup plan.
Live at Onyx
Bluff’s next live performance will be at Onyx in Guelph on Feb. 28 for round two of Battle of the Bands.
Tickets are available for $12 at gainmedia.ca/battle-of-the-bands/.
Attendees can pick up the album CD for $10 at the show, or find it online on Spotify, Apple Music, Youtube, or “wherever else you get your music,” Kurt said.
He recommends people check out recordings of their live performances at firstname.lastname@example.org.