NQ Arbuckle: Live in Guelph, ON

NQ Arbuckle

It has been several years since we enjoyed live music from Toronto-based band NQ Arbuckle, making it long overdue to repeat that experience. And can you believe that it has been close to a decade since NQ Arbuckle last released a studio album – yes, that would be their 2014 “The Future Happens Anyway” – a personal fave that earns many frequent spins here at GDW HQ (no lie, this CD has not been removed from my car since the arrival of the pandemic).

With that very CD spinning during a commute recently, I contemplated how amazing it would be to both hear LIVE music and NEW music from NQ Arbuckle – and band-founder/front-man Neville Quinlan must have somehow tuned in to that same frequency.  Releasing their album, “Love Songs For The Love Game” just last month, the NEW music box was instantly checked.  Announcing his name as the opening act for Whitehorse on their current Ontario spring tour meant checking the LIVE box too – and with a date that worked perfectly for us, we found ourselves making plans to visit the Royal City Mission in Guelph on a Friday evening.

NQ Arbuckle

Performing the opening duties as a solo artist, with just his acoustic guitar (and a large plastic potted plant), Neville endeared himself to the Royal City Mission immediately when joking that this was as close as he would likely get to playing the Hillside Festival (popular annual local event). “We never play Guelph, so I’m really happy to be here,” he shared. “This is a great day. I just released an album called Love Songs For The Long Game. This is the first song on it called No Hands Bicycle and it’s about how we are all quietly self-sabotaging our lives.” Pausing briefly, Neville would ad-lib a little more prior to performing this recent single. “And I figured it out,” he exclaimed. “I became a parent recently, like 14 years ago, and I remember singing to my children when they were falling to sleep, and I was always singing drinking songs with them, so this is about-not-that, but-kinda-that.”

Performing nine tunes across his 45-minute opening set, Neville took the opportunity to road-test four cuts from the new album, including the title track and “Seven Year Itch.” He also took time to discuss the origins of the album artwork.  “So, during the pandemic, my back alley behind the house was just filled with children, lousy children, and like a good alley guy, I built them a hockey rink and then of course they destroyed my garage,” he reminisced. “There was a group of kids farther down the alley and they were all spray paint kids, graffiti artists. Anyway, I went up to them – and I was a little intimidated, but I have a beard, so sometimes you can get away with shit like this – I just walked up and was like, ‘dudes, gather round,’ and all of them, with their little cutoff pants and spray paint cans and smoking cigarettes and everything, and I was like, ‘none of you should be smoking, and I want you to paint my garage because I need an album cover.’  They did it. It didn’t start out well, and it took longer than we thought, but if you look at the album cover, it’s the side of my garage, and so I’m trying to raise enough money to pay them back now so they don’t spray paint anything else in my house.”

Neville would also dig into his extensive back catalogue of material to share some popular cuts – including both “Hospitals” and “Red Wine” from “The Future Happens Anyway,” and the crowd favorite, “Officer Down,” from “Let’s Just Stay Here,” the 2009 collaborative album with Carolyn Mark. “It took me a while to notice that the lights are still on. I actually feel like I am in a church right now, and you do not want me as your priest,” he joked, prior to a performance of “Skydive,” another earlier composition. “I was actually the reverend at Luke [Doucet] and Melissa [McClelland’s] wedding, so, you can either buy a t-shirt, I can marry you, or I can play at your wedding. I don’t know, I wasn’t a very good reverend.”

NQ Arbuckle

As for the large plastic potted plant, Neville would direct our attention to that as his time wound down. “I haven’t figured out what to do with the plant yet. There was a half-hearted ‘hide behind the plant’ there,” he joked. “I’ve been dragging it in the car, and I was pulled over by the police, and he asked me ‘why do you have a plant in your back seat?’ And I said, ‘it doesn’t look very innocent, does it?’ And he said, ‘get out of the car.’ Ha, true story.  That wasn’t a true story. I was just, I’m sorry, you’re all making me nervous. I can see everyone. It’s broad daylight. I don’t think I’ve ever played this early in my life. I play in a rock band. We play a bunch of cool bars, and we start at eleven at night and we go until three. You know, like normal people.”

Performing the fourth new album track, “No One Dances To The Words,” Neville would close the show on a high, digging into his 2008 “XOK” album to share “I Liked You Right From The Start.”  “This is about a small bar in Alberta, when I’m in Alberta. And about my wife, when I’m in Toronto,” he stated with a mischievous grin. “Ha, may they never meet.”

Set List:

  1. No Hands Bicycle
  2. Skydive Home
  3. Love Songs For The Long Game
  4. Hospitals
  5. Officer Down
  6. Red Wine
  7. Seven Year Itch
  8. No One Dances To The Words
  9. I Liked You Right From The Start

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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