Idlers (13 septembre 2008)
Entrevue de Val avec Chris
La formation de Terre-Neuve THE IDLERS sera de passage au Bar St-Laurent 2 (5550 St-Laurent) le 23 septembre prochain. Voici un entretien avec le saxophoniste Chris qui dresse un protrait de la réalité d'un groupe reggae/dub/ska des maritimes!
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[VAL]: How did THE IDLERS get started? The band has been out there since 2006, recorded a demo, got your first full length Corners out last December, things seems to be rolling smooth and fast for THE IDLERS?
[CHRIS]: Things are coming together well. There’s a great support network in Newfoundland for developing bands, and the audience, Music NL and the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Concil have really helped us out a lot. It’s good to IDLE.
[VAL]: It's hard to skip the part of where you're from, because we so not used to get bands from Newfoundland in Montreal. How is it to come from Newfoundland?
Do you find it's harder?
[CHRIS]: The geography is a huge challenge. It’s very expensive to move ten people off the Island, and there are few places to play between here and Halifax. Canada is a hard country to tour in general just because the major cities are so far apart. From a business perspective, it could be much easier to be based in Montreal or Toronto, but we’d all have to give up a lot to do that. The music scene in St. John’s is incredible. I think it’s one of the best places in the world to develop a band. There’s a large and dedicated live music audience here that have a great ear for music. Even better for us, they love to dance and have a good time. We give them the soundtrack for that.
[VAL]: How is the ska/reggae scene in St. Johns? Do you have a lot of venues? Do you have all-ages venues of mostly 18+? How is the crowd? What about other bands? I have a feeling the scene is probably tighter than here in Montreal, do bands support each other and come to see each other's gigs? What do you feel is missing in your scene? What bands from Newfoundland would you suggest we check out?
[CHRIS]: The scene here is unlike anywhere else I’ve been. There’s been a small, but consistent reggae/ska presence since the late seventy’s. There are plenty of live music venues. In fact, the downtown core is small enough that you can stroll from bar to bar and see five or six great bands in one night. Pretty much all of the venues are 19+, but occasionally there are all ages shows. Most of us in IDLERS play in a other bands in St. John’s. It is tricky for scheduling. We’re touring with THE DISCOUNTS. They’re IDLERS members with Neil Conway at the Helm. There’s also SECRET REGGAE BAND, SKANK, FUNKY DORY, THE ALL RIGHTS, HEY ROSETTA!, QUEENSMAID. There are so many! If I could add one thing to our scene it would be more up and coming bands from outside Newfoundland. Being on tour is often the only chance we get to see what’s happening in the rest of the country.
[VAL]: Touring out from Newfoundland and with a ten-piece, that's a challenge I guess, a lot or organization challenges. From what I hear, you guys are experienced in that field, you've been out of Newfoundland a couple times already. How do you manage the road? Are you taking the boat? I guess it must be soooo expensive to get a van on the boat.
[CHRIS]: We purchased a full-size fifteen-passenger van just before we came up for the Montreal Reggae Festival. That is making a huge difference in how and how far we can tour. We did a tour last November where we flew to Halifax, played around the maritimes, then flew to Toronto to tour southern Ontario. It was great…kinda like being rock stars, but way to expensive to repeat. That’s when we decided it was time to buy a van. We’ve only taken it up and back to Montreal for the Montreal Reggae Festival. This is going to be the first “tour” with her. I’m really looking forward to it.
[VAL]: You have long hours of drive because your first show is in Oshawa!! Who's the designated driver? What happens with ten band members in one van? Any funny story for me? I'm not sure but I think there is one girl in the band (Susan). How hard/horrible/weird/fun is it to be stuck in a van with nine guys for almost two weeks?
[CHRIS]: You should rephrase that last question to “what’s it like being stuck in a van with Susan for over two weeks!” Unfortunately, Susan isn’t coming out on this tour. She may meet up with us for a few dates. The drives can be long. We play Corner Brook on the 13th (Sunday) and then the next show is in Wednesday in Oshawa. We’ll spend the day in western Newfoundland Sunday, then take the evening ferry across. There are five of us that share driving, so we’ll rotate drivers and shotgun the twenty or so hours straight from North Sydney to Peterborough where we’ll be staying with some friends. The only stop we have planned is in Moncton to do some radio interviews. It will be a long drive, but once we get there all the drives are much shorter.
[VAL]: You're touring with THE DISCOUNTS. How did you guys hook up?
[CHRIS]: THE DISCOUNTS are three/four members of IDLERS with Neil Conway as the frontmant. Very different reggae inspired sound from IDLERS, and with only one extra person, and no extra gear, it’s very convenient to travel together.
[VAL]: It's not your first time around, but this time you'll be going as far as Toronto and crossing Quebec and the maritimes in one long tour, what are your objective toward this tour? What's different about it? What have your previous touring experiences been like?
[CHRIS]: Right now we’re building our fan base across eastern Canada, old school, by playing as much as we can wherever we can. Each time there are more and more people at our shows, and we have tons of media coverage on this tour. I think this is going to be the best yet! Last summer we played the Montreal Reggae Festival, and we’re hoping to play a tour of festivals next summer. I’d like to see us expand our route into the North Eastern States or to Western Canada over the next year. We’re getting to the point where the tour pays for itself, and it would nice for everyone to come home with some rent money eventually to make up for missing almost three weeks of work. I love being on the road, playing every night. It’s exhausting and exhilarating!
[VAL]: Your music is incredibly interesting with solos and bridges here and there, a lot of instrumental parts, a great horn section and everything is so tight. It must be difficult to make everyone happy in terms of the writing process? How does that work?
[CHRIS]: This group is incredible in the writing process. Most songs start with only one or two members, and are more or less written by the time they reach the rest of the band. IDLERS, as a group, then basically workshop each one to see how to best shape them. We all have different backgrounds in music, and have very different views on how the music should end up, but we somehow come to an agreement. They usually take a few different forms before we settle on something, and even then it’s rarely the final version. We like to see how audiences react to songs and use that to influence some decisions. We rehearse at least twice a week in full, and small groups will often jam outside of that. Occasionally, someone’s idea is given the kibosh, but that hasn’t caused any flare ups yet, and we usually try everyone’s ideas as much as we can.
[VAL]: Influences. I must say you guys have a unique sound. What would you say major influences would be for IDLERS' music?
[CHRIS]: Here’s my personal list, in no particular order:
THE GLADIATORS, DESMOND DEKKER, BOB MARLEY, THE SKATALITES, MADNESS, DEXTER GORDON, HANK MOBLEY, (I am a saxophone player), FAT FREDDY'S DROP (if you don’t know them, check them out. Absolutely incredible sound), anything from Studio One, …the list could go on and on.
[VAL]: Let's talk about your album Corners. You released it independently in December 2007 if I'm correct. How did that work out? Is it hard to tour and to get out of the Island without the backup of a label supporting some expenses? What about distribution? Is your album available outside Newfoundland? Why have you chosen that direction? Is it mostly because of the industry? Does being on an island influenced your options? I'm the kind of person that still likes to get a cd copy and look at the pictures and stuff, can our readers get their hands on it and how?
[CHRIS]: We haven’t really pursued label support or traditional distribution. With all the new technologies out there, it’s easy to get your album out there without either of them. Our cd is available at our shows, at a few across the country and on iTunes and CDBaby. We’re able to tour thanks mostly to support from the audience in St. John’s, and Music NL and the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Concil. They provide to artists for various projects, including tours. I like the idea of staying independent of the big business for as long as we can, it makes for a lot more work, but I think it’s worth it in the end.
[VAL]: I must say you have a very pleasant website to surf on. I enjoy the design and the layout. It's simple but efficient and pretty. You seem to put a lot of work in promoting yourselves on the web. Who has that talent for design? How important is image for a band? You also have a MySpace, how do you find being on these sites like Facebook and MySpace and all, helps? Do you find it's necessary nowadays?
[CHRIS]: We are incredibly lucky to have Jacob Rolfe, who also happens to play the character Jacob on Trailer Park Boys, do all of our artwork. I’m always amazed that everything he does for us is so original and entertaining, and recognizable as a Rolfe. His artwork has become so synonymous with IDLERS, that his designs for other projects are mistaken for THE IDLERS material. Check out his website John Duff (trombone) handles most of the web design, I (Chris Harnett, sax) do the promo work and Paul Schiralli-Earle does the bookings and management. Stuck in Newfoundland most of the year means we have to be very savvy at getting our name out there before we hit the road.
[VAL]: Since you've started, you have been pretty busy playing shows and releasing the album. What's happening with IDLERS for the months to come? Any plans for the next year?
[CHRIS]: Well, there certainly aren’t any plans to slow down. We’re on tour September, and October, and there’s talk of another in November. Music NL and ECMA awards conferences are coming up in the next few months. If the stars align, we’ll be in the studio the winter to do some more recording, and hopefully release that album come the spring with a video that’s already been shot. We’ll be hitting the road again in March and May once the roads thaw out. Come the summer, we expect to spend a lot of time on the road playing festivals and bars on our current route and hopefully in a good few new places.
[VAL]: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this inteview. We'll be seeing you September 23rd @ Bar St-Laurent 2. Have a safe trip!
Merci à Chris d'avoir pris le temps de répondre à nos questions.