CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN with the EXCHANGES at the Bovine Sex Club (542 Queen West), Saturday (February 25), 9 pm. $6. 416-504-4239. Rating: NNNNN
Seems that Clothes Make The Man have taken the old saying "If you want it done right, do it yourself" to a level that borders on obsessive. When I call vocalist and guitarist Ryan McLennan, he's at the tail end of a long day devoted to getting out press kits for the band's new album.
"We do everything ourselves. From artwork to booking shows, accounting, promoting, the website - whatever, it's all us," he tells me. "We don't like having to rely on other people to get things done, so from the beginning we decided to be a total DIY band. Right down to putting together press kits and getting them out."
So far it's working just fine for the Ottawa-spawned, Toronto-based hard-rocking garagey quartet. In short order, they've generated a lot of buzz on the local scene with two solid EPs and super-high-energy live shows with enough decibels to attract the cops, if not A&R executives.
That, of course, may change with the release of their self-titled debut full-length album, which finds the band maturing at a dizzying pace, with tight melodies, crunching guitars and lyrics that read like they came right from a personal diary. It's the total package, and has enough radio-friendly tunes to take them to the next level - a place where most bands usually have to start to delegate some authority. Even a known control freak like Neil Young doesn't book hotels personally.
"I guess at some point things will have to change," admits a steadfast yet very affable McLennan. "It started out of necessity, but now that we've been doing it for a while, we really like the control it gives us, and I'd like to keep it this way as long as possible.
"We finally broke down and had someone help out with the new album: producer Geoffrey McPeek, who did a great job. It was a very positive experience, so I guess things are changing a little. Who knows, we may even have someone else booking shows someday."
The production is first rate, with a big, beefy sound that has more in common with that of bigger acts like the Strokes or Supergrass than many of the DIY bands that CMTM rub shoulders with. Does this mean these hardcore indie boys are shooting for the big time, hoping to sip a little gin 'n' juice with the likes of Kanye or Bono?
"Oh yeah, definitely. Total world domination, for sure," answers a sarcastic McLennan. "I can't say we wouldn't want that type of success, but it would have to be on our own terms. In the near future we'd be totally happy getting to do a full tour of Canada.
"We're big fans of Fugazi and pretty much follow their business/marketing plan of self-management and low ticket and album prices, and we've released all of our music ourselves so far."
No one can argue the merits of having Ian MacKaye as a role model, but how does the band get time to write songs? And couldn't taking on such a business plan lead to many hours in an Econoline van instead of a limo?
"That could happen for sure. The MacKaye model is more about the control we can have over the direction of our career. Most unsigned bands would send their press kits to every major label out there, but we haven't even sent one. Rather than chasing after them all day, we can just keep building our fan base through word of mouth, doing killer live sets and good songs. Then the labels will come to us."
I mention that leaving such an important decision to fate would probably drive him over the edge. McLennan takes a long pause before replying.
"Yeah, it may drive me crazy, but at least it'll be on my own terms."