WAVELENGTH ZINE FUNDRAISER III: PAY WHAT WE NEED featuring FEMME GENERATION with I CAN PUT MY ARM BACK ON YOU CAN'T , JON-RAE FLETCHER & THE RIVER , FOX THE BOOM BOX and DJ CAPTAIN EASYCHORD at Sneaky Dee's (431 College), Friday (November 26), 9 pm. $10. 416-603-3090. Also playing the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Tuesday (November 30). Free. 416-598-4753. Rating: NNNNN
Nowadays signing to a major label can be like committing career seppuku.
Back when Elton John was still a fresh face and Steely Dan's studio budgets equalled the combined GDPs of several small European nations, the major-label contract was a hallowed entity. It was a Learjet-propelled prize that could catapult a band from obscurity to celebrity.
But especially in Canada, for every success story like Sam Roberts or Billy Talent, the industry has disembowelled countless bands like Dunk and Sandbox. Need proof? Their entrails are lining the discount bins down at Sonic Boom.
So when local quartet Femme Generation heard they were perking label ears earlier this year, understandably, they weren't exactly cracking open the Kris and dancing on the ceiling.
"We've had some interest," says Femme Generation vocalist Bernard Kadosh, sitting with his band in a café on Queen. "But then you sit down with them, and they're like, 'Y'know, you guys have to tighten the screws a little bit. '" Kadosh's face flashes a look that mixes bewilderment with disgust.
"Most of these guys aren't even artists," adds bassist John Rivera, "and they're telling us what to do?"
Drummer Paul Filippelli also weighs in: "Being tight isn't the point!"
Indeed, "tight" may mean something in the lexicon of the aforementioned Steely Dan, but to a crew of DIY rock doods who made their debut EP in an old hockey arena and drive to gigs in a decommissioned ambulance, the word holds about as much water as one of those cone-shaped paper cups you get at a water cooler.
Still, it's no wonder the vultures are hovering. The band's EP, Circle Gets The Square, is a punchy gambol through post-punk beats, indie dynamics and prime-time Brit-rock. With singer Kadosh's howl and the band's spiky rhythms, the EP has earned comparisons with the punk-funk of bands like the Rapture. On the track Emergency, Kadosh even howls, "Death to the disco, death to the disco."
But, while this sort of post-punk rabble-rousing is de rigueur right now, it's starting to feel like the whole new-new wave bubble could burst at any second. When the Killers are playing Kool Haus, pestilence and famine can't be too far off.
Kadosh isn't concerned. "If we'd put this EP out two years ago," he says, "it would've been called garage or something. So I don't think we're too concerned with labelling ourselves. We're very influenced by the 70s and the 80s, so I think we're coming from the same place as those other bands. In a lot of ways, we feel like their peers."
OK, Kadosh knows his band isn't touring Europe just yet, but they're not going to peddle their asses to the first bidder either.
"Like the Vampire Beach Babes and Robin Black," spits keyboardist Aaron Hutchings. "The rock industry boys are splitting Toronto's scene into two strands. You see guys walking around here with their shiny shirts thinking they're going to be rock stars, and their albums are getting shelved.
"Then there's the innovative stuff," he continues. "Like the Wavelength scene where it's more art for art's sake. Bands help each other out. On the industry side, everybody is clamouring for the same positions, and that's why they're failing."
After barely a year together, it's pretty clear Femme Generation know where they stand. Record execs, approach with caution.