After piecing a band together with various players for years, Dustin Bentall feels it’s all come together now.
When the Dustin Bentall Outfit comes to Comox next weekend to play the Filberg Festival, the roots/country rocker from Vancouver will be joined by fiddle player Kendel Carson, guitarist Adam Dobres, bass player Del Cowsill and drummer Rich Knox.
This version of the Outfit plays on Bentall’s third album, which is being produced by Vancouver’s Ryan Dahle, who has worked with Hot Hot Heat and The Manvils.
“We’re doing it with Ryan Dahle producing, which is cool because the last two records were produced here, and we wanted to go with kind of a different sound on this one,” said Bentall. “We hit it off. The band is more of a solid band. I’ve been putting together the band together as long as I’ve been playing music, and it really came together for this record, and that’s really exciting.”
The Dustin Bentall Outfit has a strong connection to Vancouver Island, as Dobres and Carson played together with Outlaw Social in Victoria.
“When I started playing around Vancouver, I was hanging out with guys from The Seams,” said Bentall. “Through Cameron Latimer and those guys, I met Adam Dobres. We started playing shortly after. I saw him play, and I was absolutely blown away by his guitar playing.”
Through them, Bentall met Carson. Carson started playing with the Grand Cariboo Opry, a generational variety show Bentall’s father Barney Bentall — who is also playing the Filberg Festival — put together with members of his band, the Legendary Hearts, and other musicians.
“We started jamming a ton through that,” said Bentall. “Then all the while, at the same point, I was needing a bass player who could go on the road and really hammer it out on the road for a long time.”
John Ellis, who produced Bentall’s first two records, 2007’s Streets With No Lights and 2009’s Six Shooter in Ashcroft, had just done some gigs with Cowsill, and he suggested Bentall get together with Cowsill because he’s such a great bass player and he didn’t have a band, explained Bentall.
Cowsill came on board, and he, Dobres and Carson were all part of Six Shooter. Throughout this time, the band was playing with a lot of different drummers.
“With our kind of music, a lot of older guys like playing with us … super experienced cats from Vancouver like Pat Steward and Geoff Hicks and guys from out east,” said Bentall.
But guys like Steward and Hicks have families, and they couldn’t go on the road and crash on people’s floors when they needed to — they’d already been there and were past that, he explained.
Bentall became connected with Knox, who is originally from P.E.I., in Toronto.
Bentall’s band became friends with Toronto band Sweet Thing, whose bass player Morgan Waters is from Victoria and knew Dobres and Carson. The members of Sweet Thing are also in a cover band called Dwayne Gretzky, and when their guitar player had an accident while loading gear and took a thumb off, they asked Dobres to play with them in Toronto. That same day, the band asked Carson to be the lead in their music video, and that night, the Outfit went to the show and met Knox.
“We became really good friends really quick,” said Bentall. “We’ve been playing together just over a year with Rich. That’s been sort of the final piece we’ve been looking for with this band.”
Bentall has been to the Filberg Festival a couple of times and was last here in 2008.
“We’re really happy to come back,” he said. “It’s such a great festival. It’s so much fun, so laid-back and such a nice setting. Dad’s up there too, so that’s cool.”
In the three years since Bentall was here, among other things, he has formed the Outfit, released Six Shooter, played in Europe and opened for Blue Rodeo across eastern Canada.
“The tour with Blue Rodeo was amazing, so many consecutive shows playing to bigger audiences, which is just amazing for us,” said Bentall. “Playing to thousands of people for 25 shows, that really made a difference to us as a band, for being exposed to that amount of people and selling our records to them.”
Getting the chance to hang out with guys who have been around for a long time and learn from them was also a huge influence on Bentall.
“To be able to soak a bunch of that in was a really great experience,” he said.
With all of these experiences in the past three years, Bentall says he has learned to trust himself and the decisions he makes.
“I guess in a lot of ways, the biggest thing I’ve learned is you find out that the more choices you have to make, I found out that what I feel, what I think, is ultimately what I need to go for,” he said. “Of all the great things that have happened in the last few years, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, too, and learned from them. Because it’s me and my band and our music, it’s ultimately what we want. That’s also what we’ve done with this new record, and that is really exciting.”
Looking ahead, the Dustin Bentall Outfit is thinking of moving to Austin, Tex., for the winter.
“It’s not easy in Canada doing our style of music, where in the States, it really thrives,” said Bentall. “We really feel as a band that we almost owe it to ourselves to at least try because there’s potential there.”
For Bentall, who says headlining a show at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver is also a goal, success means being able to play and write music for the rest of his life.
“I’ve never had big aspirations to be a huge star,” he said. “To be able to have a ranch and be able to live on it and tour and make music all my life, it’s kinda simple, but it’s all I really want to do.”