Now or Nowhere is the third album by The Damn Truth, a band that, in many ways, has been hiding in plain sight for the last nine years, slowly bubbling up from the underground on to the radar of a wider audience. They've played Europe and across the United States, opened tours for ZZ Top (and partied with Billy Gibbons in his pyjamas), the Sheepdogs, Styx and Rival Sons, sold out the legendary Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles, and even had one of their videos featured on the official Janis Joplin Facebook page. It's a lineage of hard work that's come to fruition with Now or Nowhere.
The Damn Truth are Lee-la Baum (lead vocals/guitar), Tom Shemer (lead guitar/vocals), PY Letellier (bass/vocals) and Dave Traina (drums/vocals).
With six tracks produced by Bob Rock (Metallica, Aerosmith, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi, Tragically Hip) at The Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, Now or Nowhere is a definitive statement about the band, about the times, and about ourselves as we navigate life, love, and everything else in a world gone seemingly upside down and sideways.
Unable to finish the album with Bob because of COVID-19 restrictions, the band recorded the remaining three songs in Montreal, with mixing help from Jean Massicotte (Patrick Watson, The Damn Truth), Vance Powell (Jack White, Chris Stapleton), Nick DiDia (Bruce Springsteen, Rage Against The Machine), and Mike Plotnikoff (Van Halen, Cranberries, Three Days Grace). It's worth noting there are three Grammy Award winners on this album (Bob Rock, Vance Powell and Nick DiDia).
"I realize that people see us as a hard-rock band," singer/guitarist Lee-la Baum says, "and we are, but we're also, deep-down, rock 'n' roll hippies. All those things about being self-reliant, and community, and peace, and love -- well, that's us. That's who we are."
As if to reinforce that point, when Lee-la and lead guitarist Tom Shemer first met, they were both naked at a hippie festival not far from the Sea of Galilee (where the Bible says Jesus walked on water). "Yeah, totally naked. Just Lee-La and her guitar," Tom adds. "And we've been together ever since. No pretensions. Nothing to hide. Just love."
The power of love is the real thread through this album's musical layers.
The '60s ethos of organic self-sufficiency is the lifeblood of The Damn Truth and the secret to a work ethic that has garnered them almost 2 million streams on Spotify, 60,000 followers on TikTok and more than 2 million YouTube views. Lee-la's voice on the Yves Saint Laurent Mon Paris perfume video ad has been heard internationally, doubling their fan base overnight as the word about The Damn Truth and their powerhouse singer circled the globe.
"We are fortunate enough to live in a time where knowledge is free, and you can basically learn how to do everything yourself." Tom says. "That was instrumental for us as a young band with no budget. We had to make and shoot our own videos, produce and record our own releases and do all the promo ourselves. The by-product of this was that, in a sense, we were the artist, record label and distributor of our art, which allowed us to have insight into what it means/what to expect from a record label, filmmakers, etc."
That DIY attitude appealed to Bob Rock and was reminiscent of his early days working with indie bands during his formative years in Vancouver. He was so impressed with The Damn Truth's attitude and songs, and with Lee-la's voice, that he decided to record them live off the floor, in keeping with the band's '70s rock roots. This allows for a better band dynamic and ensures the bed tracks have that powerful live gig energy that's so crucial to the Bob Rock sound. (Bob calls it, "Getting the FEELS.")
"He just got us, what we were about, what we were trying to do," Lee-la recalls. "He was all about the music and having the band support the song every step of the way. He had a clear vision but was also very open to our suggestions and ideas."
The Damn Truth's family vibe and down-to-earth accessibility have endeared them to a loyal fan base who have been championing the band by word of mouth, with Lee-la as their unofficial den mother.
"I honestly really love interacting with our fans," she says. "I think they are the sweetest. I think our fans get what we are into, and our peace and love and rock 'n' roll vibe still resonates with people out there. As it should!" says Lee-la.
"What we learned was, you're gonna find your tribe if you look hard enough."
In so many ways, a rock 'n' roll tribe of love and community is something we can all be a part of, right here, right now.