THE COAST as part of EDGEFEST at Downsview Park, Saturday (July 12), 4:45 pm. $80. 416-952-2222. Rating: NNNNN
The Coast know what it’s like to slog it out as a struggling band, which is why they’re considerate enough to backtrack on their current U.S. tour to make up for a recent show that got cancelled due to van troubles.
“We were driving on the interstate, doing at least 120 kilometres an hour, and all of a sudden the gas just stopped working,” recalls singer Ben Spurr.
Yes, it’s definitely better to lose the gas than the brakes, but it still meant that the four-piece was stranded far from their gig in Minneapolis and had to cancel the show. Committed to their rapidly expanding fan base, the Coast quickly re-booked the show – even though it meant a long haul all the way through North Dakota.
So far, 2008 has been a breakout year for the band. Their atmospheric Brit-rock guitars and melodic, Ryan Adamsesque vocals have lots of people listening. Back in March, they played four packed showcases at South By Southwest. Shortly after, they released their debut LP, Expatriate, and now they’re one of the youngest, freshest acts at Edgefest.
But the buzz didn’t happened overnight. The Coast – rounded out by Ian Fosbery on guitar, Luke Melchiorre on bass and older brother Jordan on drums – started playing together in high school as the July 26th Movement, learning their instruments from scratch in the Melchiorres’ basement.
As Spurr remembers, their first gig was a non-event. The band was booked to play Etobicoke’s Ribfest, but when they showed up, “there was no sound system or mixer.”
Initially, things didn’t get much better. Still in their teens, the quartet took their first steps into the Toronto scene playing battle-of-the-band nights.
“It was one of those deals where you’d sell really expensive tickets to your friends, you wouldn’t get paid and all the other bands would suck,” explains Spurr.
Battle-of-the-bands promoters are infamous for exploiting young groups who don’t realize that they can organize their own shows, build relationships with like-minded acts and keep the profits for themselves. The lack of community in these types of arrangements soon wore thin on the band.
“We got really pissed about doing it after a while because we felt bad selling $10 tickets to our friends all the time and having the promoters treat us like shit.”
After taking some time to rethink their approach – and write some new songs – the band re-emerged as the Coast. A self-titled EP released in 2006 scored them a dedicated manager and a deal with respected indie imprint Aporia. The band began opening for hot acts like the French Kicks, Foals and Tokyo Police Club, and even had a song featured on MTV’s Newport Harbor.
Now things are in high gear. This fall they tour the U.S. and then head to Europe for dates in Denmark, Germany, France and the UK. If anything, the Coast are proof that hard work, dedication and good songs can take a band from a Toronto basement to pretty much anywhere.