I’m not sure exactly how it happens, but every once in a while I am lucky enough to be such a big fan of a musician that I inevitably become some sort of an acquaintance of theirs, maybe even something of a friend. This is the case with local guitar-slinger Dave Drouin, which made lining up this interview one of the easiest in my short career. In lieu of dealing with publicists, time changes and speaker phone conversations, Drouin stopped by my apartment and over the course of a couple beers, let me pick his brain about his new band Cold Engines and the break-up of his former band that I spent much of my late teens and early twenties traveling around New England and beyond to see.
Drouin, 30, has been tearing through jams playing guitar for the progressive jam rock act the Brew for close to a decade. Coming out of Amesbury, Ma (that’s about 45 minutes North from Allston) they came into my musical hemisphere while I was in high school and unknowingly shaped much of what would become my musical tastes at the time. As I grew up going to a Brew show became constant recreational activity and escape from the rigors of the real world. Even as new musical preferences evolved, I always looked forward to seeing the next Brew show and I came to know many people who felt the same. It’s safe to say somewhat scene developed around them, not only a fanbase, but a tight-knit group of dedicated followers.
Some big names caught word, Grammy Winners, big time producers and promoters, Bruce Hornsby for one, Bobby Keyes (producer of New Kids on the Block) another. Packed rooms gave way to sold out clubs and theatres and opening spots for Gregg Allman, moe. and even friggin’ Michael McDonald. All great for support and exposure, but in the long run may have influenced the band to mold themselves into some sort of adult contemporary pop-rock act they never seemed to be cut out for. As a result, despite playing over eight hundred live shows over eight years, they were never able to make a studio record that matched the greatness of their live act. Frustrating both the fans(me) and later to find out the band too, the wear and tear of road life caused this once “on the brink” band to fizzle out quickly. Not to go out with a glimmer of hope, the announcement of their break up in 2012 cited one last mysteriously shelved album recorded at the now famed Bombshelter in Nashville.
Two years later, after pulling in some of the area’s top notch musicians to back his new project Cold Engines, I got the chance to give Dave Drouin, the once lead guitarist now front-man, some serious Barbara Walters treatment about the break-up of his former band, mingling with the Black Keys and becoming friends with the B52’s . You can check out Drouin’s new band that he’s branded as pure American rock n’ roll for yourself this coming Friday, November 28th at T.T. the Bears in Cambridge
Allston Pudding: You’re from the North Shore/ Southern New Hampshire area which is away from the city, has it ever felt like you’re missing out on being a part of any sort of musical scene or community?
Dave Drouin: I grew up in Seattle, and then I moved to Savanaah Georgia, then I moved to Amesbury, Mass. So I guess I am really kind of a North Shore guy. Only the past six years I’ve been living in Southern New Hampshire. So I am kind of new to New Hampshire, but Portsmouth has a thriving scene and musical community and its pretty great now that even bands like Wilco are coming through to the Music Hall. In the early days of the Brew, we were only a band for a few years when we played the Middle East downstairs, then sold out the Paradise. That was a huge luxury to not have to shlep through the small bars of Boston for those years before getting some real opportunities. I always felt traveling coast to coast though, that the Boston show did feel like home, even if I lived like forty minutes away. That’s a good question though.
“That was a huge luxury to not have to shlep through the small bars of Boston for those years before getting some real opportunities. I always felt traveling coast to coast though, that the Boston show did feel like home, even if I lived like forty minutes away.”
AP: Thanks, The Brew from the outside, I guess you could say a fans perspective always seemed like a band on the brink but then you kind of suddenly broke up. Were there any signs that the band was breaking up or was it really just a sudden thing?
DD: Yeah it was sudden, yup sudden. Yeah, there were signs that the time had come. The speed in which we were writing songs as a band was slowing down a lot. It was way too slow for me. I prefer to write every week and not overthink it. I wanted to write about my own life, what’s fucking happening to me, not trying to aim at commercial hits, which is a much slower process. I’m not saying we were really doing that all the time, but I was being edged out in a lot of ways and the pace of what I wanted to make music at wasn’t being fulfilled anymore.
AP: There’s a mysterious last record you guys recorded at the now famed Bombshelter in Nashville. How did that opportunity happen and will we ever hear it?
DD: Yeah we cut a whole album there a year ago this month. It’s still shelved. I’ve heard it.
AP: What was it like recording with Andrija Tokic at the Bombshelter?
DD: It’s a fully analog studio. So it was straight to two inch tape. So there’s no Pro Tools, there’s no pitch correction, no fixing anything. You either be great or be gone. Fortunately we were riding pretty high on some new songs and crushed it. We brought in the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and Earl Scruggs’s son, Chris Scruggs, played peddle steel, and then this dude Ryan Cavanaugh, legendary banjo player. We were ballin’ on a budget all around Nashville playing with superstars. Andrija is one of the best producers in the world right now, he did the Alabama Shakes record, the guy has platinum records on his bathroom floor. Tons of gear, tons of good times.
AP: Out of the thousands of the shows you played with the Brew, was there one person or group you guys played with or opened for that has had the biggest influence on you, or developed a close relationship with?
DD: The Black Keys; when we played with them they really blew my mind. That two dudes were making the sound they were making, and the fact that they came over and wanted to talk to me after my set, cuz they played before us then we went on. It was right before they exploded, and I really hadn’t even heard of them at the time.
AP: (laughing at this answer at first I then realize Dave is serious and stop) I thought you were joking. When was this?
DD: Not joking, this was at Moe.Down about five years ago. I couldn’t believe two dudes were filling up a festival crowd sound. It just blew my mind on simple you could make music that’s still effective and that stuck with me huge, and then to watch them explode against a culture where like Ariana Grande and well you know, the fact that these two older garage rock dudes could still fucking put out the biggest album of the year. I just love that.
AP: Did you get to meet them?
DD: Yeah, they loved our set and we got to hang out and shit. So that was a cool meeting, and Michael McDonald too. He was just way too supportive and it was like “wooooah.” The Bruce Hornsby stuff was cool. Playing with Bill Kruetzman (Grateful Dead drummer) on that tour was nuts. It made me want to play music til I’m old, because he’s so old and killing it! I was like “wow you can really just do this until you are seriously old.” So things like that always pump me up. The B52’s, I became friends with their drummer Sterling Campbell and we still stay in touch. He was also in Bowie’s band for years. The support of your heroes, when they tell you you’re doing something right, that’s all the fodder I need to not doubt myself into the ground, because that’s what happens, you’re like I fucking suck.
AP: The new band is Cold Engines, a typical journalist question, where did the name come from?
DD: My songs were piling up and I needed to get my songs out. So I thought about my favorite players and friends in the area that I could get together; Geoff Pilkington from Soul Rebel Project, Amelia Gormley from New Highway Hymnal, Aaron Zaroulis, our drummer with the Brew, one of my best friends. So we got together and got to play in this barn that has a whole bunch of Harley’s in it. The landlord came out with the Bikes one cold day last winter day and said “sometimes it’s really hard to start these cold engines.” And I was thinking of band names at the time and thought it was great. We practice in another barn now that also has a bunch of motorcycles. It’s where I keep my motorcycle.
AP: Does everyone in the band have a motorcycle?
DD: No, everyone loves to ride but we don’t all own one.
AP: Is this new record the music you’ve always wanted to make?
DD: I think I hit the sound I was going for like 70 percent of the way. The sounds in my head made it out though. The band I was in in the past was such an exercise in songwriting that so many people were hearing the songs in so many different ways that it became a tiresome. It was constantly bending a little for each other and the producers, parents, everyone. It was all too democratic, by the time the song made it out it was this watered down parody of itself. In the early days it was a pretty potent band. This band (Cold Engines) tries to get out the rawest truest form of the song. We’re not always trying to change it to get everyone in. Good or bad, it’s a more complete vision of the song.
AP: How is adjusting to a schedule to over 150 shows a year to just a few a month? Is it a big adjustment?
DD: It is. It’s better in a lot of ways because I have a lot more time to write. When I play now I want to play, but before there were a lot of shows where we were playing so much that I didn’t even really want to play, and I get to spend a lot more time with my wife.
AP: Have you been able to book gigs from the relationships you built from playing all those shows across the country?
DD: Yeah, it’s been a huge help.
AP: Along the same page, you used to have a plethora of material to play live, but with only the new songs to work with are you planning on extending these out live?
DD: Yeah they’re definitely extended live. We already have 35 songs, just this week I brought three new songs to rehearsal, and we’ll play these out this weekend. This is why I want to play shows now.
AP: What can we expect to see at T T the Bears on November 28th
DD: You can expect to see a super tight fucking band that’s playing really honest music at a high energy level. Expect to get your socks fucking rocked off, we’re gonna bring it hard.
Press Photos By Dawn Kingtson
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Cold Engines off to an auspicious start with debut CD Day Drinker
By Bill Copeland on November 4, 2014
Cold Engines is an all star line up of musicians who have already achieved many things in the New England music scene. Taking their alt-country sound into the studio was a wise choice, resulting in Day Drinker, a ten track album loaded with fresh, perky country sounds pushed along with a driving rock edge. David Drouin, Aaron Zaroulis, Amelia Gormley, and Geoff Pilkington are onto something interesting and engaging here.
Opening track “Kismet” is timeless in its lush harmonies and smooth underpinnings. Not easily pigeonholed into any one genre, it leaps out of the stereo speakers with a warm freshness. A whispery low key lead vocal sounds mysterious and inviting while a myriad of fine touches from the instrumentalists create a large wave of something lively and new.
“I Know That Love Is Real” swings in on a sprawling pedal steel line before giving more breathing room to an engaging vocal. Voice and pedal steel melody continue to offer their own special sounds. An instrumental break proves engaging as it unfolds, driven by a lead guitar phrase with a lot of personality.
“Candy” chugs along at a comfortable cruising speed until bass player Amelia Gormley coaxes it forward with a dark, smooth low end. Over this beauty of bass finesse, a smooth, distant vocal emits in considerately measured emotion while perky guitar notes travel down their forlorn melancholy road. An adept drum technique from Geoff Pilkington puts a pushy pattern behind all of this, impressing while it suavely moves the song along.
Next up, “Marry The Season” turns like a sweet waltz on a gentle, movable beat. Moving with as much grace as a dancer, the tuneful number has the sweet personality of a country gentleman politely courting the right lady. The vocal is tender and self-restrained, and balances well with perky little pedal steel notes in the backdrop.
On “Your Turn,” Cold Engines rocks it up, sprinkles it with soulful organ and jazzy horns, and takes it out of the oven nice and warm. This one feels like part classic rock and part classic R&B. It’s got swing and it’s got smack. The lead vocal is engaging and it gets plenty of lift as it launches itself over a heft of organ swirls and mounds of horns.
“When She Comes” offers more of Cold Engines’ bracing rock and roll approach. Lead vocal swagger and assertive guitar chords roll on with self-assurance and verve. Both are engaging while the chorus is quite hooky and the rhythm section keeps it full of bopping action.
The catchiest song on this outing is “Alibi.’ With hit single written all over it, the song lurches forward with a 1970’s punk rock energy and simplicity. Harmony vocals sweeten its infectious chorus and the number lodges itself in one’s consciousness like something that suggests it’s going to be a big thing in the year to come. Its backbeat will jumpstart a bunch of people to get to their feet. It is anthem, attitude, and just plain fun all wrapped in one rocking number.
“Leave But Stay” is an elusive song. It glides by the ears with no distinct features to mark it by. Yet, it’s a song that sounds good as it progresses through its multiple facets of mellow, easygoing expressions. It simply offers a well spring of smooth vocals, gentle guitar work, and an unobtrusive rhythm section. You’ll like this one, even if you can’t quite define what it is that pulls you in.
“Never Was” is a drum smacking, low end pumping, keyboard driven joy ride. Its engaging vocal goes into a dreamscape of keyboard tinkling while the voice remains just weird enough to keep one listening. This number is action packed, with a very exciting sound that moves it down the rails swiftly when it shifts into top speed. It’s flinty guitar picking contrast brightly with the washy sound that makes this song feel like its gaining on the next race car on the tracks. The vocals goes from soft croon to a guttural belt, and that description is only a slight glimpse into all that is going on here.
Cold Engines closes out with “Do Me Wrong,” a mostly solo acoustic guitar number accompanied by backing vocals on the chorus and a forlorn keyboard melody in the backdrop. It’s a heartfelt tune that fills its space well with a unique vocal timbre.
Cold Engines is a group of folks with a sound all its own that could go places. This new Day Drinker album should make for a good calling card to get them into some nice rooms and to pile up positive reviews.
Dave Drouin Interview
-Andy Sears Allston Pudding
Corrine Constantino Axs.com
Cold Engines, winners of the New England Music Awards 'Best Rock Act of the Year 2016', are set on full tilt with their upbeat Rock n' Roll sound fronting 'Los Lobos' on July 14, 2016, at the annual Lowell Summer Music Series located at Boarding House Park.
Cold Engines, a vibrant Rock and Roll Band, solidified for the first time at the end of the year 2014. Cold Engines members are: (led by) David Drouin, - Vocals, Guitar and Lyricist. Aaron Zaroulis - Drums, Geoff Pilkington - Percussionist, Bongos and Eric Reingold - Bass.
David Drouin paired with current band mate Aaron Zaroulis after a former project 'The Brew', a long running band from the Boston area dissolved amicably. Both David D. and Aaron Z. are seasoned Indie musicians with previous stages at popular venues of Boston including The House of Blues and The Paradise Rock Club. Cold Engines band members focused in-studio completing a series of albums in record time (18 mo), gaining the attention of The New England Music Awards with the release of its third album "Better Off Dead". The beat driven Funk/Rock/Blues fusion style of the crew is showcased in singles such as "Show You Crazy" and "Waterfall", or the sultry Blues/ Rock Fusion singles "Never Been Promised' or "Better Off Dead' the title song of Cold Engines latest album. "Better Off Dead" cemented among music critics Cold Engines wide range of genres, versatility and cohesiveness. The band has rocketed out of the studio after three complete albums in less than two years, touring New England from Vermont to New York.
Fresh American Rock n' Roll takes center stage this Thursday evening in Lowell on two stages: Guest performers to 'Los Lobos' at the open air stadium of Boarding House Park with The Lowell Summer Music Series in session. And again tonight at the Official After Party for LSMS. Join them at the Olympia's Zorba Music Hall and 'NEMA Nights After Party' as well as the annual Newburyport's Waterfront Seriesthis August 2016. Cold Engines recent tour schedule can also be viewed here.
Note; Tour Tickets for Cold Engines are available on a first come first serve basis. General Admission seating and Free Admission for children available for the Lowell Summer Music Series throughout the season.
Cold Engines take it to a higher level with Better Off Dead
By Bill Copeland on December 15, 2015
Cold Engines’ third CD Better Off Dead is their best yet. Not only do they feature Sarah Blacker on backing vocals, Cold Engines have tuned up what was already a fine machine of rock and roll performance, songwriting, and recording. These 12 tracks will finally gain this band the widespread attention they’ve deserved. Cold Engines might also start showing up on the list of nominees at music award ceremonies. Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based guitarist-vocalist David Drouin and Boston-based bassist-vocalist Amelia Gormley have already played with award winning bands.
Opening track “Show You Crazy” pulls the listener right it with its engaging guitar riffs and hooky, hippie vibe chorus. With a backbeat and low end irresistible, the guitars and vocals have plenty of groove to lay their feisty grit and breezy aplomb over. This tune could go over well on local radio and at any party you play it at. Beneath the fiery talent is also a depth, the soul of a great rock song.
“Waterfall” plays like a waterfall of sound. A spiraling lead guitar phrase spearheads this track with a three dimensional life force. Combined with a sweet engaging chorus, it’s one of those songs that immediately grabs the ear and never lets go. Some primitive percussion and fuzzy guitar will make you want to shake it while an undeniable passion in Amelia Gormley’s bass playing pushes the song forward while reaching the listener at a deeper, more personal level.
Title track “Better Off Dead” offers some of the best guitar work on the album. This lead guitar has a unique personality and sound, and its melodic phrasing follows unusual patterns. It’s also catchy as hell in its rhythmic underpinnings, and it’s really cool when the lead guitar takes off on a burning flight of fancy.
A beatnik vibe permeates “Crawling.” Its slow burn saxophone(Andrew Fogliano) makes one picture a 1950s coffee shop where young hipsters come to read Jack Kerouac and discuss what’s wrong with the system. It’s also a fine transition piece to a feisty follow up song.
“Never Been Promised” begins with eerie keys before it smacks everything out of its way with snappy drumming and forceful low end. The lead vocal here is appropriately quirky, distinct enough to make one listen closer to find out what’s going on with this guy. The song takes intriguing twists and turns while background cooing gives it a haunted dimension. It switches gracefully between its otherworldly soundscape and its more slamming, rocking statement. All of the song’s elements add up to a number that has a three dimensional personality. This song is saying something and its vocal is compelling enough to keep one listening.
Adding to this CD’s quirky personality is “Sing To Me,” a number drenched in alt-country idioms, a complete left turn from the previous songs. Yet, Cold Engines make it fit right into their repertoire of explorative music. Guest vocalist Sarah Blacker turns this into a fetching duet number as well as a fun, two stepping piece with plenty of country grit.
“Walking” finds the band getting a bit jazzy before they jump right into “Vegas Gold.” This one rocks right out with determination and purpose. It’s got a rhythmic underpinning that never lets go of the listener’s imagination and a lead vocal croon that takes rock and roll belting to a higher plain. David Drouin’s vocal timbre brings intrigue while his passion makes this a wild ride into a dark but fun place.
Cold Engines mellow it out on “Still Falls,” a tenderly played and sung number, each note ringing out with purity. The lead vocal is cool, contemplative, and deep. The song showcases what this band can do with subtle nuances, and they do a lot. One feels a well spring of emotion behind this tune.
“Running” sounds like its title suggest, an endless run of intriguing sounds that this band conjures up with their creativity and ingenuity. Segue into “Wolf,” a tune that begins with a sampling of Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. from the first “Wolfman” movie. The band plays it wild, ferocious, and they never let up, singing about being under the werewolf curse. It’s a good piece of chunk with a lot of unexpected, unpredictable twists and turns going on.
Cold Engines close out with a cover of The Doors classic “Blue Sunday,” milking this Jim Morrison penned ballad for every nuance possible, offering a sample of their influences as well as an interesting arrangement of a well respected song.
Cold Engines keep taking their songs, their sound, and their recordings to a higher level. This third CD, Better Off Dead, is a document of a band that could be going places, big places.
Hippo Press Dec. 4th 2014
As a member of The Brew, Dave Drouin enjoyed critical acclaim and big-stage gigs over a 12-year run. In retrospect, though, none of that success matches the fulfillment Drouin feels with his new group, Cold Engines.
“It was a pretty good band, but I don’t know if it had the honesty of this project at all,” the songwriter and guitarist said recently. “This just so happens to be my dream band.”
Listening to Cold Engines’ debut album, Day Drinker, it’s not hard to share his enthusiasm. Soaring harmonies, layered percussion and a spicy mariachi trumpet mark the opening track, “Kismet,” and it stays satisfying throughout. Urgent, evocative yet disciplined and polished, the record is sure to wind up on many regional top 10 lists at year’s end, and a deal with a prominent Boston label is imminent.
The 11 songs on the disc were all written as the end of The Brew loomed, a period of increasing artistic frustration for Drouin.
“I was standing in a studio for months at a time waiting for the main songwriting dude to write songs,” he said. “The whole time, I was writing my own songs that weren’t getting accepted to the fold. I was like, ‘I have to start my own band.”
Drouin first reached out to New Highway Hymnal bassist and singer Amelia Gormely, a longtime friend.
“I always knew I wanted to be in a band with her, so that’s how it started,” he said. “She’s got a badass look and style, and she plays a seriously badass bass.”
The next recruit came from his old band.
“Aaron Zaroulis was my brother in The Brew, and my favorite drummer on the North Shore,” said Drouin.
Soul Rebel Project percussionist Geoff Pilkington completed the band that entered the studio last July. NYC session guitarist David Krystal joined a few months later.
“I needed certain pieces, and these were the first people I called,” said Drouin. “Lucky for me, they all wanted to do it.”
Day Drinker includes guest appearances from Adam Ezra, Johnny Blue Horn, Audrey Ryan, Ben Alleman and Steve Benson, but it’s the band’s undeniable chemistry that shines through. The twang and soul of the studio travels well to the stage.
“The last few shows I’ve played have been the best of my life,” said Drouin. “I can’t even believe this new band is hitting on a level that my band of 12 years couldn’t get to.”
The album was completed almost a year from the day his old group performed its final show.
“I released a lot of albums with the Brew and it just kind of felt like the continuation of my life,” Drouin said. “Like that’s what I’m supposed to do — make records. It wasn’t shocking or surprising; it felt totally normal to have a new album a year later.”
With the record deal imminent, a new album (mostly) reflecting a group dynamic is underway.
“Sometimes I bring a completed song to the table and everybody contributes to the arrangement, sometimes I’ll write one with everyone there, sometimes Aaron and I will meet up,” Drouin said. “It goes from not being democratic at all to all of us writing together on the spot. We don’t have any hard and fast rules.”
Record deals, press raves and fan acclaim are a bonus.
“We’re not trying to do anything other than try and get back to why we started playing music in the first place,” Drouin said. “We’re having a ton of fun, which is the only reason, I think, to be in a band anyway.”
Newburyport Daily News
By Ann Reily Features Editor
Things are heating up fast for Cold Engines, a new band featuring two former members of the popular local rock band The Brew. After The Brew broke up last summer after 11 years, guitarist David Drouin kept busy continuing to write music and performing as a solo act around the region. But he really missed being in a band.
“The Brew had run its course,” Drouin said. “I found myself in this situation like, ‘Who am I without music?’”
So the Amesbury native decided to form his own group, choosing musicians from his favorite local bands.
“I handpicked them,” he said of fellow Cold Engines members Aaron Zaroulis of Ipswich, Amelia Gormley of Newbury, Geoff Pilkington of Rowley
Zaroulis was the drummer for The Brew, while bassist Gormley plays with The New Highway Hymnal and drummer/percussionist Pilkington is part of Soul Rebel Project, Mighty Mystic and Left Over Wine. Added to the lineup just seven weeks ago, Krystal is a guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who is a veteran of the New York City music scene. Following a handful of successful shows over the past few weeks in New Hampshire and Maine, Cold Engines will perform this Saturday at the Byfield Community Arts Center. The concert is a celebration of the band’s first CD, “Day Drinker,” which was released last month.
The album features 10 songs and a number of local guest artists, including Adam Ezra, Johnny Blue Horn, Audrey Ryan, Ben Alleman and Steve Benson.
With a focus on a “country-esque form of storytelling,” Drouin describes the band as “progressive-alt-country” with some British rock influences.
Because he was one of the main songwriters for The Brew, he said that the new group is “not a crazy departure.”
“People who like The Brew will like this,” he said, although he is quick to add that there are definitely differences.
“This band is more about the guitars and songs,” he said. “We have no agenda at all. It is about real, honest songs. And everyone sings in the band.”
Inspiration for those songs comes from everyday life, said Drouin, who gets some help from Zaroulis on the writing front. Personal experiences, national topics of interest, even overheard conversations all contribute.
“Songs just come pouring out of everything,” Drouin said. “It’s easy to get inspired once you let yourself get warmed up to being inspired.”
As for the name, that was inspired by the band’s frequent surroundings. The musicians practice in a private motorcycle museum in Byfield, so they are constantly playing around “cold engines,” said Drouin, who now lives in Exeter, N.H. Saturday’s event will also feature acclaimed Boston singer-songwriter Sarah Blacker, who will open the show at 8 p.m., and Merrimac artist Shane Taylor, who will create live art during the concert. A $10 cover charge includes a copy of "Day Drinker."
The show is part of the “Local Live” series co-presented by the community center and Fusion Blue Productions of Newburyport.
Dave Hill, owner and production manager of Fusion Blue, suggested the Byfield center to Drouin, with whom he had worked previously on Brew shows. Hill likes that it is a departure from the typical bar scene, where music is not necessarily the main attraction.
“It’s a destination for (people) to go see that event,” Hill said. “It’s more of a showcase space. It’s just a much better execution when we do shows at the hall.”
The concert will also serve as a benefit for the community center, with proceeds from food and drinks going back into the nonprofit venue.