Paul Emery and the Dickens with the Raving Mojos and Slim Cessna's Auto Club at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Friday (January 9). $6. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
Toronto musician Paul Emery wants to accomplish one thing with Lives Of The Future Blessed, his newly released melody-driven roots rock album with band the Dickens. "I want to sell 500 copies," he deadpans. "That would be incredible."
If he can't meet this goal, the local veteran could wind up devoting a bit too much time to his favourite hobby - drinking. Not a hard thing to do, since he's also co-owner of hip, tiny drinking hole the Communist's Daughter, a venture he took to free up valuable music-making time and avoid the 9-to-5 life.
And what does the guy's music sound like?
"If we were a body, we'd have Neil Young in our stomachs, the Rolling Stones in our mouths, the Replacements in our hearts, and our knees would be the Who."
I make no witty remark about having the Rolling Stones in one's mouth.
"We're just a 2004 model of what you'd consider classic rock. We don't have choirs and naked Englishmen onstage with us. That comes later."
Although he's been in several bands since the 1980s, Emery's probably best known for Bill Puddle, a group that dissolved a few years ago.
"It went really well for a long time," he says. "We had a nice recording, but it felt more like the end of something."
So he packed his bags and hooked up with some friends, including members of Toronto's the Soft and Satan's Arch Enemy God, and formed the Dickens.
Emery writes the songs, but what's a man without his band? Paul gives me the lowdown on who's who in the Dickens.
Drum master John Macdonald is the silent guy.
"Very quiet, doesn't say too much. He has his opinions and stuff, but he's more of the quiet one."
Simon Lewis, the Dickens' bassist and Macdonald's former colleague in the Soft, is "more interested in experimenting."
And guitarist Duncan Blair loves playing guitar.
"He's good because he's open-minded, especially while we're playing," says Emery. "He's not afraid to change it up."
Sounds like some dependable folk.
Playing in the T.O. music scene for a long time might make one jaded, but Emery doesn't go that way, man. He believes the scene is just as vibrant as ever.
"There are lots of little groups. A lot of people are still playing," he says. "But I think communities are isolated. Toronto is so big, and there are so many scenes, the city doesn't feel like my best friend."
Emery, one of whose favourite foods is toast, was set to celebrate his birthday as well as New Year's Eve by bowling.
Although he doesn't believe in New Year's resolutions, he laid down the law for what's to come in 2004.
"Have a good time, all the time. Wait, that's from Spinal Tap. Really, it's a brand new year. Let's go out there and support Paul Emery and the Dickens. I want you to feel my CD in your pocket."