Montreal’s The Damn Truth offer up powerful echoes of the rock ‘n’ roll of a bygone era, whether it be in the way frontwoman Lee-la Baum yowls and prowls the stage like the delinquent spawn of Plant and Joplin, or in the band’s penchant for cutting and insistent Zeppelin-esque riffing.
It only seems fitting, then, that the Truth gained an early foothold in the music industry in way that would do their old-school Rawk heroes proud, by garnering big airplay on their hometown radio station.
“We were lucky in that the Montreal radio station really liked us and started playing one of our songs,” Baum says. “And people started calling up and saying, ‘What was that song I just heard?’ For a little while, we had people who kept calling and requesting it, over and over again. It was like a throwback, a testament to the magic of radio.”
The Damn Truth formed about seven years ago, when Baum and guitarist Tom Shemer began looking for fellow musicians who shared their love of ’60s and ’70s classic rock and ’90s grunge, at a time when fey indie rock was ascendant in the city they called home.
“Everyone else seemed to be playing this indie pop thing with synthesizers and drum machines, and we couldn’t find a space to operate within that,” Shemer says. “We were trying to pull a band together, find other people that wanted the same things we wanted, and then start writing together.”
Shemer and Baum eventually found a couple of kindred spirits to fill the band’s bassist and drummer slots, and that line-up went on to record 2012’s stellar debut full-length, “Dear in the Headlights.” (FYI: Drummer Dave Traina was one of those original recruits; current bassist PY Letellier joined later on, replacing a previous four-stringer in 2016.)
But though the Truth’s music is redolent of the aforementioned classic rock stalwarts, theirs is no precious by-the-numbers neo-retro act. The old-school echoes are balanced by modern production values, and by intimations of more recent rock influences, be it the Black Keys or Jack White or the Strokes.
“We’re not interested in sounding like a band from the ’60s, even though we love a lot of that music,” Shemer says. “It’s important for us to sound fresh and new. If you go back and look at what Jimi Hendrix did, he used every piece of technology available to him, because he wanted to sound like the future. That’s how we feel as well.”
The band’s 2016 release “Devilish Folk” is arguably even fiercer, more visceral and riff-centric than its potent predecessor; Shemer notes that producer/sound man Tchad Blake, a much-in-demand veteran who has worked with with the likes of the Black Keys and the Arctic Monkeys, helped a good deal in getting the band’s lethal sound across on the record. But for all of the simmering raw energy that infuses “Devilish Folk,” as well as their previous record, Baum warns that the band is best heard in its natural element, live on the stage.
“I’m kind of a beast when I perform,” she says. “That’s my niche. I love getting up and singing my ass off for a group of strangers. That fact, and the fact that we’re all so close as a band really makes us who we are on stage. When we’re on stage together, it’s like there’s love in the room. And when you leave the show, you leave really feeling something.”
The Damn Truth will play Preservation Pub Monday, Feb. 12 at 9 p.m.