If you're a rock band looking to gain an international following, being from an out-of-the-way place like Antigonish, Nova Scotia, is a challenge. The Trews escaped the fate of most small-town bands in 2002 by winning an Ontario radio station's talent search competition, which led to TV appearances, a major-label record deal and, most recently, a gig opening for Canadian rock royalty: the Tragically Hip.
Isthmus spoke with Trews guitarist John-Angus MacDonald about the Hip, a new album (2008's No Time for Later) and chasing fame in America.
How does being from Nova Scotia figure into the music the Trews make?
I think Nova Scotia has a great tradition of music. Almost everybody there plays something, musically speaking, so it was pretty natural for us to pick up instruments at a young age. Plus, being from a small town, boredom played a big part for sure.
Tell us a bit about the process of recording No Time for Later.
We turned over our previous two records so quick that we wanted to take a little more time to figure out what we wanted to say this time around. For No Time for Later, we spent a lot of time just writing - about five or six months collecting our thoughts, in fact - beginning in late 2006. Then we brought some producers up to Toronto from New York and spent some time in a recording studio in Brooklyn, N.Y.
It seems that Canadian rock bands inevitably draw comparisons to the Tragically Hip. How do you feel about this?
It's funny, we get that question a lot in Canada but hardly ever in the States. We grew up fans of the Hip, and with our success here in Canada, we've gotten to know them quite well. I think they're a great example of how to do it right. They're all still friends, they tour a lot, and there's not a ton of melodrama. I guess they're kind of like Canada's R.E.M.: They've managed to stay on the righteous path and keep their eyes on the prize. We hope to do the same.
What do you like most and least about Madison?
We've only played Madison once or twice but have positive memories of hanging out there. Our van got dented in a hailstorm last time we visited, but it's going to take more than that to scare us away.