Published Dec 15, 2008They've often been referred to as "Canada's best kept secret" and have been subject to much national media attention since the release of their selt-titled EP back in 2006, but evidently Toronto boys the Coast no longer want to hide their talent away, and have been off flaunting all they've got around North America and Europe after releasing their debut album, Expatriate, in April. Back home for a well deserved rest after a year's worth of touring, the guys played their last show of 2008 in front of a heaving crowd of friends and fans alike at Sneaky Dee's on Saturday night. Before the party kicked off, however, vocalist Ben Spurr and bass player Luke Melchiorre found a few minutes to talk to Exclaim! about their insane touring schedule, winning over new fans and why the band is more Canadian now than it ever has been.
How did the recent European tour go?
Luke: Extremely well. I would say it's the best tour we've done all year.
Ben: People liked us, for sure, and the gigs we played had a lot of people at them. I don't know if that was a good reception, or luck, or whether the gigs we played were just really well promoted.
Where did you get the best reception?
Luke: Germany. The best show we played was in Camden - it was amazing - but the two shows in Germany were a lot of fun.
Ben: I don't know how the Germans got this reputation for being so nasty, they're fun loving!
Do you prefer playing to an audience that's familiar with your music or do you enjoy the challenge of a new crowd?
Ben: It's good to play both. I mean, we love playing in Toronto because we don't do it much any more, so we've been really looking forward to tonight. It's nice to try to win people over but its cool to have people singing along to your songs too. That means you're doing something right. It's good to see that, but its also good to have a bit og a challenge. Our gigs in Toronto are more like parties now - there's not a lot of pressure to play really well.
Were you opening for other bands in Europe?
Luke: We did sometimes. That was one of the things that was so exciting with the European shows - a lot of the time we were the headliners. There was no expectation from us because we don't have a label, all we have is a record, and every show was really good.
So do you think you've cemented yourselves a new fan base?
Luke: I don't think we've cemented it yet, I think we're on the way to doing that. We're going back to Europe in February and hopefully in May. It's been a long year of touring. I think I say this to everybody we talk to but we've played over a hundred shows, so to have some of the better ones at the end of the year was really gratifying and exciting. I definitely want to go back to Europe soon. When we go back we're playing some bigger venues - I know we're playing the Roadhouse in Manchester.
Ben: We're playing the same place in Edinburgh.
Luke: Its called Sneaky Pete's. It's a tiny place.
Ben: Yeah we don't play to crowds of more than thirty - we refuse to go on.
Did you discover any new bands out there?
Luke: You know what's strange? When we were younger we were all a lot more into British music, but I have to say recently I've been more into American and Canadian music. A lot of the British stuff I just feel like I don't get. I don't want to name names or knock any bands specifically but it just doesn't mean much to me. Like Johnny Marr just joined the Cribs. I love Johnny Marr and I love the Smiths but I've listened to the Cribs and its just never done anything for me.
Do you see yourselves as a typical Canadian band?
Ben: It's funny because a lot of reviews comment on how British we sounds, which we always lived with because we listened to a lot of British music. I think maybe there's something to that because we got such a good reception over there. We're hoping to be in the UK a lot more, so maybe we sound more like a British band than a Canadian band.
Luke: Someone said we sounded like a Canadian band trying to sound like a British band and ending up sounding like an American band.
Ben: The one I heard said we sounded like the Arcade Fire trying to sound like the Flaming Lips trying to sound like New Order!
Luke: I think that was in the Guardian! The core bands we listened to when we started were British.
Ben: We listened to a lot of the Verve and New Order but that's not really what we listen to now. Now we listen to a lot of Canadian stuff. Local bands like the Born Ruffians, Wolf Parade, Broken Social Scene: all the big Canadian bands.
Have you been writing new material on the road?
Luke: We've been trying! It's kind of like asking a married couple if she's pregnant yet - you know people always do that? We're working on it!
Ben: We have a lot of stuff we've been fooling around with. Its kind of funny, we've been home for a little while and we've been desperate to practice but we've moved to a new rehearsal space and the power's gone out, so we haven't been able to play. Now the power's back on but we have no heating, so we're going to spend the winter trying to writing the new record in sub-zero temperatures.
Luke: Literally - we'll be wearing jackets.
Ben: We'll be able to see our breath. Then we'll be a real Canadian band. The next record's going to be about arctic winter and shit like that because we're going to be freezing.
I heard you've had some strong label interest in Europe - is anything happening with that?
Luke: We have a rule with our manager not to let us know anything until its very, very close to being final, so I've heard people say that there's interested but I don't know.
Ben: There's a reason we're going back so soon, I think.
Do you have a preference as to what kind of label you'd like to be on over there?
Luke: I think our preference is always indie.
Ben: I just think it makes more sense for our band and the way that we sound.
Luke: Plus there are all these horror stories. I kind of feel like if you go with an indie label, you're kind of in it together, but with major labels I've heard that a lot of them time they're holding the bag at the end of the day and its not a cool situation to be in.
So what would be a successful end to 2008 for the band?
Ben: Well, we're not doing anything else besides tonight!
Luke: Getting very drunk tonight and playing a good show.
Ben: We're hoping tonight's going to be a lot of fun. It's going to be bittersweet, because it's our last show of the year. We don't have another show for a couple of months so it's going to be really strange.
Any plans for 2009?
Luke: I would hope that late next year or early 2010 we'll see a new record. That would be my aim, and I think we'll be touring Britain and Europe a lot more, and maybe America.
Ben: We might be in the Midwest. We're going to tour a decent amount but not as much as this year I hope! This year we've almost played a show every three nights which is pretty insane. We don't know any of our friends' bands who play that much.
Luke: We prided ourselves, for a while anyway, on being able to say to our manager, "you get us a gig and we'll play it." We definitely tested that!
Ben: I don't think we said no to any gig. I think that's the mentality of bands who can't get gigs too often, so next year we have to prove we can get gigs by not playing so many shows!