Pierre Fortin, Charles Perron and brother Sylvain and Sébastien Séguin had met a few times since putting a hold on their activities as Les Dales Hawerchuk. But one December night in 2015 at Saint-Sacrement, things were about to get serious.

As he was heading to the Mont-Royal avenue bar and venue, Séguin knew the only thing on the day’s agenda was the return of the Dales. As a matter of fact, in his pocket he was holding what would amount to throwing oil on the band’s still smouldering embers: a demo of his latest two songs, which would become the basis for their fourth album.

“It was a year ago almost to the day. We’d given ourselves some leeway to explore other things. Some of us became fathers, others found stable jobs, but we all wanted to come back to rock ‘n’ roll. We were thirsty, hungry for more,” says Séguin, who wrote the majority of the band’s new songs on Désavantage numérique, released on Nov. 25, 2016.

Les Dales Hawerchuk“I played my two songs for them,” Séguin continues. “They all loved it, and we immediately started talking about our comeback. The first thing we did was set some rules. No more playing in Shawinigan on a Tuesday night. Not that I have anything against Shawi – on the contrary, we’re going back soon – but it’ll be on a Friday or a Saturday, so that everyone can enjoy themselves without worrying about the next day. The rest of the time, we’ll spend with our loved ones. We also wanted our comeback to be carried by explosive, pedal-to-the-metal, new songs. We were done with compromising to get airplay on commercial radio. We don’t give a fuck.”

And that last point seems especially important to the singer and guitarist. Essentially born of the success of its 2005 song “Dale Hawerchuk”, the Lac-Saint-Jean-based band had garnered massive support from commercial radio and Musique Plus, who were thirsty for rock back then. All over the world, bands like The Strokes, White Stripes and The Hives were ruling the airwaves. Abrasive electric guitars were all the rage, and that was the wind beneath the Dale’s wings.

“When we recorded our second album, we tried repeating that feat with the single ‘À soir, on sort,’ but the result wasn’t the same. And thus the pressure for more radio hits started to wear the band down. Our third album was released in 2011 and our record label, C4, folded. That didn’t help. But the break did us a lot of good. We’re back, but we’re not putting any pressure on ourselves. We just want to tour our usual venues and have some fun.”

“We needed to step away from hockey and talk about other stuff. Yet, these days, I’m inspired to write a song about Radulov.” – Sébastien Séguin, Les Dales Hawerchuk

And this return to their roots can be heard right from the first few notes of Désavantage numérique, a titled that translates as Penalty Kill, and inspired by declining record sales, and one of the very rare hockey references on the album. Such nods are typical of the Dales. “It’s totally by design,” says Séguin. “We needed to step away from hockey and talk about other stuff. We’ve grown up. We don’t have the same preoccupations as a 25-year-old kid anymore. But that said, lately I’ve been inspired to write a song about Radulov.”

In the meantime, Les Dales Hawerchuk are focusing their attention on gasoline. As a matter of fact, someone will have to explain this fascination for gas that all musicians from Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean seem to have. There was Galaxie’s Tigre et Diesel, then Fred Fortin’s Ultramarr, not to mention the band named Gazoline, and the Séguin brothers sing about their love of gas-powered machines and the smell of exhaust on more than one of their songs.

“We’re kinda born into it,” says Séguin. “We rode Ski-Doos and ATVs when we were kids. Around the Lac, gas stations are family-run businesses. Not so much anymore, but back in the day, you didn’t say you were going to fill up at Esso or Shell, you said you were going to fill up at Perron’s or Martel’s, the families that ran gas bars. Gas-powered machines are part of our DNA. We always hear about the smell of our grandma’s strawberry or blueberry pies, and it’s true they smelled amazing, but I remember the smell of my dad after a Ski-Doo ride just as much.”

Those two odours came together and gave us a generation of big-hearted rockers. A generation still leaving its mark on the history of rock in Québec, as the Dales are.