THE ATTICS at the Drake (1150 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, January 5), 9 pm. $10. 416-531-5042. Rating: NNNNN
When you're from Winnipeg, it can be tough to catch a break - especially when you despise the testosterone-fuelled cock rock that seems to dominate the city of perpetual winter.
So what are four well-educated young guys to do when Vaclav Havel is a way bigger influence on them than Van Halen? For the Attics it's easy: sing songs about highly topical subjects and play anyplace that'll have them until people get the message.
"Yeah, it wasn't easy when we started in 2003," says guitarist and singer Rob Mitchell. "Winnipeg is pretty much a hard rock city, and here we were singing these songs about Soviet invasions with catchy, Britpop-type melodies to people expecting Led Zeppelin covers.
"We're not over-serious - we like to have a few drinks as much as the next guy. Like most bands, we write our lyrics based on what we sit around talking about, but in our case we tend to be talking about politics more than partying."
The constant touring worked. As more and more people caught on, so did Maple Music/Universal, which has picked up distribution for their latest release, Once A World. The title track even sat at number one for a few weeks on Winnipeg's modern rock station, Kick FM, either proving people are more open to their message than they thought or that people will dig anything with a good groove.
Whichever it is, things are starting to happen, and the Attics are finally catching a few breaks.
"It's been a great year for us, for sure. We're even having our first video shot as we speak. A friend of ours who does freelance news coverage is filming in Iraq and wants to use our music for a documentary he's doing, so not only will more people get to hear our music through a different medium, but we also pretty much get a free video for Once A World out of it.
"He's got some great footage, like this 30-kilometre line of battered oil trucks on the highway that are all leaking oil onto the road and into the surrounding sand and soil, which is completely black from the ongoing abuse. It really ties into what we're talking about, and is pretty different from most of the videos out there now. It might be strange, though, that it's our first video and we're not even in it."
When I suggest they use star wipes of their faces between montages to get the best of both worlds, Mitchell chuckles but isn't convinced. Then again, he probably has a lot on his mind, what with the big tour coming up. Whereas most Canadian bands dream of making it big in the U.S., the Attics have a different perception of success.
Starting in February, they'll embark on a month-long tour of Eastern bloc countries as well as a swing through the Baltic states. How a young band with limited resources can pull off a tour that has them appearing in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland, Ukraine, Estonia and Russia is beyond me, although, it does fit in nicely with the Attics' backwards modus operandi.
"Well, we have some money saved because we have this bad habit of never paying ourselves. Though I think it's natural for bands to want to make it in the U.S. and it'd be great if we did, it's not at the top of our priority list. There are so many bands competing for the same venues, and we're happy doing the circuit we do and seeing more and more people each time we come back. We have the same feeling about moving to Toronto, but we might still do it.
"Getting the chance to play in places like Latvia and Russia just blows my mind. Not only am I getting to go to places I'm very interested in from a socio-political standpoint, but I think the crowds will be incredible, too.
Mitchell's got some major fantasies about the tour
"It's easy to be blasé about concerts in Canada when they happen all the time, but for a lot of these people it'll be their first time seeing a real rock band. In the States we're nothing, but in a place like Latvia we'll probably be full-on rock stars. Maybe it'll be like some sort of Beatlemania thing where people will go crazy over us, chasing us down the streets and everything.
"I mean, c'mon, how cool is that?"