Spotlight On Niagara

The Lucky Ones: Time To Get Punked

By David DeRocco

New York City has The Ramones. Hamilton has Teenage Head. Is there an argument to be made for anointing THE LUCKY ONES  as official flagbearers for the Garden City punk rock scene?    

“No, there’s been plenty before us,” laughs Steve Stumble, vocalist for The Lucky Ones. “My old band The Sick Boys, and of course the original ones The Unknowns. I won’t claim that one. I’ll leave that one to Dave Cornelius and the boys back in the day.”

What has local punk pundits considering that question is the unexpected but much anticipated new full-length release by The Lucky Ones, Better Late Than Never. An album five years in the making, Better Late Than Never features 14 tracks of blistering punk fury that throws down the gauntlet to any up and coming wankers who want to claim the local punk crown for themselves. And although there’s an authentic punk intensity to the music, the songs are laced with humour rather than hard-core punk ethos That’s something Stumble says more aptly reflects the attitudes of he and his bandmates Chris Nowicki (guitar), Rob Knuckles (bass) and Eric Hutt (drummer).

“We’re not out on some political agenda or to change the world, said Stumble, long-time organizer of the local S.C.E.N.E. festival and the man behind Stumble Records. “We’ve always been about getting away from our lives and having fun for a night band instead of ramming an agenda down someone’s throats. A lot of songs on the new record are just ridiculously funny. There’s a lot of vulgar language. A lot of stuff on this record takes the piss out of St. Catharines which is even funnier.”

With an album cover depicting the band on the front page of the “Sub-Standard” newspaper, to songs about a friend’s wife’s infidelity (Ricki-Jo’s Parking Lot) and the sketchy clientele at the Carlton Heights Pub (Monday Night at Carlton Heights), Better Late Than Never is rich with local references, but not so local that it can’t appeal to people outside the area. In fact, the album has already hit #83 on the iTunes Top 200 Alternative charts in Germany, a pleasant but unexpected achievement according to Stumble.

“It’s kind of shocking considering we’ve never been there and don’t really have any connection there. It’s funny. Even with my old band The Sick Boys we used to ship over 500 units at a time to Germany and they’d sell. I don’t know why, it must just be an old punk market in Germany. It’s kind of mind boggling. (Germans) like David Hasselhoff so I guess they’ll like anything.”  

 In an era where digital music rules, investing the money into a both a CD and vinyl release plus a glossy new video for the first single "Better Days" – all for a punk album no less – is rare for a band without a major label record deal. The Lucky Ones have been truly lucky, however, thanks to supporters like former Supergarage vocalist Marco DiFelice,  who works for a company that secures song rights for production and has secured payment to use three tracks by The Lucky Ones.

“Most bands wouldn’t have been able to do this, but we’ve lucked out. We had two songs in the TV show Lost Girl and another song in the TV show Orphan Black. We got paid some decent money to do that, about $9,000, and we all just put that into the record. For most bands to come up with that kind of money is impossible.”

While it’s typical for a band to have an abundance of tracks to choose from before putting an album together, Stumble says the 14 tracks on Better Late Than Never represent nearly all the band’s available original material – 10 songs written specifically for the record, two that were slated for tribute albums for The Dropkick Murphys and The Vindictives, and two songs that are collaborations with Samurai Attack member Shohei Shiraishi. Given that reality, it may be a long time before the next Lucky Ones LP gets released, which doesn’t appear to be a problem given the positive reaction to the new album. In fact, Stumble says the band turned down a U.S. record deal, one that would have required them to hit the road for five months in support of the release. However, it did lead to a management deal with Mark O’Shea, whose industry cred includes serving as tour manager for Nine Inch Nails, Catherine Wheel and Lords of the New Church.

With  the new release, The Lucky Ones will be performing on a string of dates that includes the official album release party September 16th at the Warehouse in St. Catharines and an October 7th gig at Hamilton’s This Ain’t Hollywood. And while the band is happy to be headlining shows, Stumble says it’s going to be a challenge living up to the credo expressed in the album’s last track, “Old School  Punk Rockers.” The real lucky ones, however, will be fans who get to see the band playing longer sets now they have a new release.  

“The older I get the more it’s taking a toll on my body. I did a show last year and when I woke up it felt like someone had beat my legs with a baseball bat. This is going to be quite a challenge for us because we’re headlining all these shows and we’re playing an hour set. All the shows we’ve done in the past two years have been a half hour or 40 minutes. But it’s good to be back. I love playing live!”