Cuff the Duke Life Stories for Minimum Wage

Emerging from the depths of suburbia, Cuff the Duke developed their sound isolated from any burgeoning "insurgent" country movement. In fact, they were genuinely baffled when Toronto audiences drew connections to the country resurgence south of the border. "I can't say we were familiar with any of those bands," admits guitarist and keyboardist Jeff Peers. "I mean, Giant Sand? We were in Oshawa - there is no scene!" Singer and guitarist Wayne Petti suggests their direction was born of necessity, noting that they began playing and four-tracking in high school. "Country songs were just easier to write," he shrugs. Life Stories For Minimum Wage is an ambitious and confident debut. Petti's distinctive voice pierces through great washes of spacy guitar and keyboards, which do convey the bleakness of the American Southwest - or the desolation of strip malls in Southwestern Ontario. Frequently atmospheric, the album also consistently rocks out with bursts of pop-punk and rockabilly. Their songs surge with indie-punk energy, as if the Violent Femmes suddenly commandeered the Sadies' tour van. They reflect the inevitable cultural isolation of coming of age in the 'burbs, with songs like "Anti-social" offering an even harsher indictment. "When I was growing up there were a lot of pot-heads," explains Petti. "In that song I was just venting - I wasn't even sure who I was referring to, but I just knew it made me feel better." Singing in a band helped draw him out of his natural shyness, even though he wasn't initially confident about his voice. "I started singing with a friend of mine in high school, and he was all about Blue Rodeo at the time. Five Days in July - I learned how to sing to that album." Petti's nasal indie-rock voice also provides a younger generation with an access point to country. "My dad never thought I should sing," laughs Petti. "He always thought I was singing out of my range, but I just thought that's how country should sound. (Three Gut)