The Rathburns’ lead vocalist Frances Virgillio had to renege from executing a planned phone interview with Music Express – something about having to work a double shift as a server at Earl’s Kitchen restaurant/bar in Woodbridge Ontario – balancing one paying job to sustain her budding music career.
“You got to work so you can work,” laughed Virgillio when we finally hook up over the phone to chat about her quartet’s two year existence and the release of the band’s second EP, a four-track release titled `Heavin, Heavin’. “Actually the owners of the restaurant have been very good to me. They know how important weekends are to me and they are very considerate when it comes to a key mid-week date. They are very understanding.”
Fresh off performing at the Music Express Canadian Music Week showcase at the Rivoli May 6th and having launched their latest release by performing at 94.9 The Rock Toronto’s Gen Next event at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre in early April, The Rathburns, comprising of Virgillio, her guitar-playing sibling Joey Virgillio, bassist Erik Kolomayz and drummer Matt Burdon original formed a group in late 2012.
“My brother Joey and I used to play acoustically together in a duo we called Fir. We were playing pretty folk songs and pretty covers but we said to ourselves, this is not a reflection of what we are listening to,” explained Virgillio. “We were into dirty garage rock bands like The White Stripes and The Strokes and Joey was also into people like BB King, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. What we liked about these artists was that they weren’t afraid to show their vulnerability. They weren’t afraid to screw up, they totally let loose.
The Virgillios met bassist Kolomayz when Joey and Erik were attending a sound engineering course at Gil Moore’s Metalworks Recording Studios in Mississauga and after a brief period with drummer Rob Pagliari, they settled on Matt Burdon as their regular percussionist. “Our edict to the band was, `are we ready to be a family because we’re going to live and breathe this,” she noted.
Although the band’s name is in reference to Rathburn Road, (located in Etobicoke near Pearson International Airport), there is no geographical affinity to the area even though the band displays a Rathburn Road sign on stage. Virgillio, who actually lives in Bolton Ontario, says she was just driving in the area, thinking about a suitable new name when she happened to manoeuvre on to Rathburn Road. “It was like tree, sign, Rathburn Road,” okay, that works!” Virgillio explained. “So I called up the other band members and they were cool with it.”
Writing by committee, the Rathburns soon had a bunch of songs together and they decided to loaded up as much gear as they could fit in their car and headed north to record at Virgillio’s parents Muskoka cottage. “We recorded six songs in like two days. We just went berserk, recording and playing around, it was such a good vibe and a great bonding experience for the band,” noted Virgillio. “We release the six-song, self-titled EP in November 2012. Listening back to it, it was obvious we really needed to develop our sound, needed to sound a little more professional and needed to legitimize our sound, but it was fine for our first effort.”
These lessons were applied to their second EP “Heavin Heavin” which has been released with assistance from “Redd”, who works as a booking agent at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre. “Redd had seen us play at the Indie Week Finals at the Mod Club, liked our set and we traded emails,” informed Virgillio. “She booked us to play at the ‘Unsilent Night’ gig at the Phoenix, just before Christmas and when she found out we were releasing a second EP, she arranged for the record launch to be at the Phoenix on the Gen Next showcase sponsored by Rock 94.9 Oshawa.
Redd has since agreed to manage The Rathburns and her savvy on the local music scene has impressed Virgillio who calls her `a real shark’ in developing the band’s music credibility.
Virgillio is aware that the challenge in developing the band’s career is in their hands and sees social media as a necessary evil. “Oh My God, it’s the worst, I hate social media so much but it’s such a crutch now, we need it, that’s how you reach people,” shrugged Virgillio. “There’s so much you have to learn, the proper etiquette in dealing with promoters, how to work with people in the industry. It’s an on-going education. But if you are going to be committed to your career, you have to take the time out to learn the process.”
The Rathburns have done the rounds of Queen Street clubs and are striving to play higher profile venues. “We need to play better shows,” Virgillio allowed. “We need to find a purpose for our shows. The Queen Street shows are fun but there comes a time when you have to grow and develop.”
Still the Rathburns are encouraged by a number of new artists progressing through the industry with a number of key bands receiving national radio exposure. “Authentic music was always here, it’s just that now it’s getting some tender, loving care it wasn’t getting previously.” concludes Virgillio. “
“We have received some radio encouragement from Rock 94.9 but we want to receive airplay based on our own merits and not by being part of some existing trend. We try to maintain some authenticity in our writing and we just hope that radio will accept it for what it is. I wouldn’t want to write a `radio song’ just to get radio exposure. If we all did that, then you wouldn’t get anything new. Everything would sound just the same.”
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