So you want to be a rock n roll star but don’t fancy facing the ordeal of trying out for American Idol or The Voice, no worries! Just shell out enough pledge money and you too could have been singing background vocals on The Trews’ latest self-titled record.
That was the carrot tossed out by the pride of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, whose pledge campaign included the right to head into the studio and sing on the backing track of one of five songs featured on their latest Home Music Company release.
“If our fans are going to support us with their own money, we wanted to do something special for them,” noted lead vocalist/guitarist Colin MacDonald, talking on the phone from Watertown, NY as the band concluded a brief U.S tour to launch their fifth studio recording. “It was really cool to get our fans involved. Knowing we were investing their money in the project, we knew the onus was on us to come up with a great record – and I think we achieved that objective.”
Understanding that it has been over 12 years since, MacDonald, lead guitarist brother John-Angus MacDonald, bassist Jack Syperek and drummer Sean Dalton, headed west from the Maritimes, won a Rock Search contest on St Catherines Ontario radio station Htz-F.M and clinched a management deal with Larry Wanagas’s Bumstead Records company, The Trews have stayed the course, on the strength of their great live performances.
“Fame is kind of like being on a wheel,” informed MacDonald. “Sometimes you’re on top and sometimes you’re on the bottom but that wheel is always turning. We’ve had some records that have done well and some that haven’t done as well but we’ve always been proud of our material and we’ve always tried to put on the best live show possible.”
The Trews certainly got off to a great start with their 2002 `House of Ill Fame’, release produced by Big Sugar guitarist, Gordie Johnson which featured key tracks like “Not Ready To Go” and “Tired Of Waiting”.
By the time they released their follow up Jack Douglas (Aerosmith, John Lennon) produced `Den Of Thieves’ recorded in 2005, The Trews found themselves opening for The Rolling Stones at their surprise Phoenix club rehearsal date for their Bigger Bang tour. This exposure earned them an opening spot on Robert Plant’s national tour.
“Plant was such a cool guy,” enthused MacDonald. “He hung out with us and wanted to know about the band. I remember us being at the Calgary Saddledome watching him rehearse “Going To California”. He comes over to me and says `You know, with those old songs, sometimes I like them and sometimes I hate them’ He’s talking about Led Zeppelin songs? Listening to him sing “Going To California” had me in tears.”
As rock music became overshadowed by more computerized dance/hip hop music, The Trews hung tough, first recording their 2008 ‘No Time For Later’ before trying an acoustic approach with their 2009 ‘Acoustic – Friends & Total Strangers’ release, recorded at Toronto’s Glen Gould Theatre. “Yes we were an acoustic band for a year,” acknowledged MacDonald. “We just tried a different approach, played smaller, more intimate venues and we totally enjoyed the experience.”
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Still with the likes of The Sheepdogs and Monster Truck bringing live rock music back in vogue, The Trews were encouraged to re-focus and after releasing their 2011 ‘Hope And Ruin’ studio record and a 2012 7-song EP titled Thank You And I’m Sorry, the Trews have continued their rich vein of creativity by releasing a self-titled recording, co-produced with Gavin Brown and John Angus MacDonald that literally bristles with power rock excitement.
Tracks like the lead off “What’s Fair is Fair”, new single “Rise In the Wake” and the outstanding “Age of Miracles” are pure vintage rock and roll yet the band also shows their acoustic side with a stand out “In The Morning” featuring the vocals of Serena Ryder and a moving tribute to their late agent Paul Gourlie who passed away last year on “65 Roses”.
“It was a struggle at first,” noted MacDonald of the writing process behind the record. “We started writing in January and for the first few months we weren’t sure if we had anything. But we filled our I Phones with everything we recorded and by April, bits of songs started to emerge and take shape.
MacDonald pays tribute to the band’s fans for keeping the faith and notes that the advent of social media has allowed them to stay in touch with their supporters who came through with enough pledge support to fund their new record.
“You either embrace social media or you quit,” noted MacDonald. “It is so important to be in touch with the fans. It’s not like the old days when we thought of rock stars as being on some kind of pedestal. When I was a kid I didn’t think rock stars were human beings, I thought they were like some kind of comic book characters. But we’ve never been big enough to even pretend to be rock stars and I believe that contact with our fans has sustained us.”
To launch their new record, The Trews will be heading out on the summer festival circuit, after concluding a U.S slate of dates by July. One highlight will be performing at Cape Breton’s debut Cape Fest summer festival in Sydney Nova Scotia September 12th opening for Aerosmith and Slash before hitting a Live Nation national club tour in the Fall with a possible Australian tour looming.
“At the heart of it, we’re just four guys who love to play music,” concludes MacDonald. “We’re not in it for the glory or the money – we haven’t had much of either. But so long as we can reach our fans, none of that other stuff matters.”