London Ontario Home to Southern Style Rock and Blues with Delta Stone and the Wardogs

Ian Stone and Nick Houle are the driving force of London’s Delta Stone and the Wardogs. The two guitar players started out as an acoustic duo a few years ago and have been steadily building a loyal fan base as well as growing their band into a 7 piece blues/rock outfit which has already been recognized with a major award at The London Music Awards this year. 519 sat down with Ian and Nick recently at Eastside Bar and Grill, a popular London music venue and a place they call home.

Tell us about yourselves. What was your musical upbringing and how long have you known each other?
Houle: My uncle played in bands when I was younger and I would hang around with them, I don’t really have any musical education. I dropped out of high school and played guitar a lot. I met Ian when I got work in a cover band that he was fronting, we started writing tunes and looking for the kind of players we needed to do the kinda tunes we were writing.

Stone: My dad started me with drums and I played those until I started jamming with my cousin; he was a guitarist. I played in the high school jazz band, the four of us in the rhythm section had our own rock outfit at the time. I came to London for college in 2009 taking Music Industry Arts. Eventually joined the band Bender, a local classic-rock cover act. Then I met Nick about three years after that when he joined Bender and we started writing songs and conceived Delta Stone almost right away. That was 2014 and we’ve been working together since.

Delta Stone is the name of a song and album by another band. Is there a connection there or did it come from somewhere else? Ian, is Stone your real last name?
Houle: I had no idea, I’ll have to check that out. We wanted a name that said “Blues”, because that’s where we come from, but also something that said “Rock” because that’s what we are, but Delta Rock didn’t have that ring. Ian’s name was close enough so there it is.

Stone: No connection, we just put it together one day. It’s not my real last name, it’s cool though because few people can ever get my real name right anyway, so this is fine.

Two years ago you debuted the Wardogs. Was the Wardogs already a band or did the two of you recruit each member? How did that all come about?
Houle: We knew London’s super drummer Warren Stinson from working with him in another project we play for called Loveless. Megan Schroeder and Rickie-Lee captain that ship and it’s a ton of fun playing those shows. Warren’s really a great player, so once we worked with him we knew he had the chops for what we needed. Warren campaigned for the bass player Mark Irmler because they play together a lot and lock up intuitively, Marks a vet and played with some impressive names, he’s a great musician. Having a tight rhythm section is the corner stone of a band so that was great and we’re glad we listened to Warren on Mark. I think I found out Ryan played keys from someone and I just approached him like “we need keys man, please learn these tunes and play these shows”, and in no time he was running at our speed and is now invaluable to Delta Stone, we’re lucky to have him.

Stone: When we started together in 2014 we had ideas of being mostly acoustic oriented. However, being a couple of losers with Marshall half-stacks we seemed to write a lot of high gain stuff. We felt these tunes were stronger so we got excited about producing them. About 2016 we decided to look for a group to include us to play the tunes we were writing. By 2017 we had drafted the first line of the Wardogs. We wanted to be able to distinguish between the duo and the rock thing. Having influences from greats like Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band or Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble surely had something to do with it too.

There was also a video of you playing Too Much For You at that time, yet the song was officially released this past summer. Is there a strategy behind the recording and release of your singles or did it just take a while for that one? I’ve also noticed on Spotify your singles are released like 45 rpm vinyl with an A and B side, that’s kind of cool.
Houle: Oh thanks. I like that too, and yeah we had a strategy for the releases in the first year, we released a single with a music video and big release party every 3 months up until Too Much For You, at that point we assessed what we’d learned from those releases and updated the strategy, we’ve gotten very busy with gigs and writing and recording lately, the more you get into this business the less time you have.

Stone: We’ve been known to bank songs until we feel it’s time to release them, for whatever reason. It’s somewhat strategic, but mostly for things like if we think the song is ready to be produced. Or, if we think that we haven’t produced enough (insert adjective here) songs we may pull a song out of the bank that suits it, or write a new one to fit. The next releases have had a focus on putting out a faster song or two, so we’ve focused on that this time.

Singles are the new-old-game it seems, plenty of people are doing records still, but singles fit our writing style just fine. It’s a great throw back to the sound that we’ve been shooting for too. Plus when we get to doing vinyl we’ve got our 45’s already figured out. A and B also sounds way better than Song 1 and 2.

Back in May you performed at three different events in one day. That must have been a rush and certainly hectic. How did that turn out?
Houle: Well that’s the video for “Pay My Tab” actually, Kevin Labonte of KXL Productions came with us that day and filmed a ton of footage, so we got a video out of it and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had, I love traveling, driving and playing, I could do it every day.

Stone: It was fun, It’s a lot to do on just a few hours sleep. It wasn’t too hectic, we got rained out for one and that freed up an hour or so and gave us lots of time in between.

You guys are the Best Blues Band at this year’s Forest City London Music Awards. How does it feel to be recognized like that so quickly as a band and has it helped raise your profile?
Houle: That was a hoot, what a great night, Maestro is cool as hell, and I guess getting recognized is never a bad thing, it feels good and kind makes you content for a while, but its good to remember that we’re not doing it for awards, we’re doing for the money. Lol

Stone: It feels good, surprising too, considering how new we are, and I feel that we were nodding at the blues with our work more than trying to be a blues band. I hear from most of the fans I talk to about their favourite song from us being On My Way, or Cajun, or another rock tune of ours. Zeppelin had a few blues numbers on their albums and we liked that idea and rolled with it. It shows the heritage of our rock side. It’s definitely helped the resume though, for sure.

You nearly opened for Starship until illness forced them to cancel but you did open for April Wine at London Music Hall. Also Myles Goodwin and Brian Greenway both have blues projects. How was the night and did you get a chance to talk music with those guys?
Houle: That night was amazing, we were so nervous that the crowd wouldn’t like us, we’re just some small bar band in London, Ontario who lucked out to have the chance, it was such a humbling experience. We hung out and hoped to get a chance to meet the guys, but they were busy and hungry and it was late, so we didn’t get a chance to talk at all really, but they were nice enough to make time for a quick picture, that was pretty nice of them.

Stone: The Starship night was fun, I hear he’s recovered just fine now so that’s good. We got to play the whole night with Starship fans so that was cool, they dug it. We talked to the band a bit after the April Wine show and shot a photo, they were very nice. Kind of a surreal thing to play that show and get the response we did.

Are you still an active duo or is the focus on band shows?
Houle:
Yes and Yes. The focus is on band shows. Ian and I play together without effort, it’s very easy for us to communicate through a performance, so the Duo gigs are great. But yes the focus is always on band gigs.

Stone: We’re not as focused as we once were but we still keep on it. I think the thing that’s fallen away is the acoustic writing. However half the reason the band exists is because we put out 10 rock tunes for every acoustic tune so I think it works.

Have you been busy writing music? Is there an EP or album coming in the near future? What can we expect in the new year?
Houle: Well we’re always writing, but we still have a lot of stuff that hasn’t been recorded or released. We actually recently finished up in the studio on the next 2 singles we’ll have coming out, they’ll both have B sides as usual and the first one’s called “High Road” and it drops April 4th. There will be a release party and video premier at Eastside Bar & Grill in London, Ontario and we’ll be hitting Toronto, Oakville, Chatham, Sarnia, Kitchener, Woodstock and we’re adding more places all the time.

Stone: The second is a well anticipated one called “Faster Than Your Angel Flies”, likely to be released late next year, possibly even spring 2021. We have plans to expand our online presence too, we’re still testing ideas but it looks like a solid thing to revisit.

Photo: Dan Boshart
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