The Music at the Mod Club Theatre (722 College), Monday (August 23). $17 advance. 416-588-4663. Rating: NNNNN
Rob Harvey, singer in UK sensation The Music, has a reputation as a coy interview, sometimes a bastardly one. When I'm connected to his suite in a Los Angeles guest house, he answers softly, perhaps still recovering from his recent trip Down Under.
I try to feel him out, keeping the questions in the realm of mundane: How was the trip? Australia? Jet lag? His answers are detailed but not overdone, courteous but restrained.
But when I ask Harvey if he feels people have made too much of anything about the band, his voice rises an octave.
"They worry about the way we look too much," he says,"and that becomes what people talk about, the stuff that has nothing to do with what we're doing."
The first time I saw Harvey and his band of youthful cohorts was as the opening act for Coldplay's show at the Bell Centre in Montreal, the biggest venue Harvey's ever played. For a stadium gig, their first, this gang of manic noise-makers managed to bring energy, zeal and abandon to a set that was more North England rave-up than corporate stadium rock show.
Their music was an aural fireball of hallucinogenic swells and trancelike rhythms, a perfectly crazed blend of Led Zeppelin and Happy Mondays, with Harvey channelling a vocal synthesis of Plant and Ryder. The impact wasn't felt by me alone.
The Music were 2002-2003's it band. The press had them crowned as the new sound of post Britpop England and the biggest thing since - wait for it - Oasis. The eponymous album sold mad numbers, and they were continent-hopping before they were old enough to order a whiskeys in Ontario.
"When you start a band, you do it for very personal reasons," Harvey says. "You don't think you'll be travelling around the world and be welcomed in places you never dreamed of visiting. It changes the way you look at the world.
"We're all very different people now," he continues, "and that's a major factor in how the music's changed. But the focus is still the same. We called ourselves The Music because that's what's important to us. It's that simple, really."
The new album, Welcome To The North, is proof of that. Harvey and long-time friends Phil Jordan (drums), Adam Nutter (guitar) and Stuart Coleman (bass) have stayed true to their origins (musical and otherwise), but the music has been affected by the experiences of the last two years. And that quality is particularly strong in the way Harvey's songwriting has evolved.
"There's a lot of observation in the songs now," he confides. "The world is very confused these days, complicated. It can't be reasoned out simply. Things are being meddled with carelessly, and the consequences of these choices are so much larger than the specific decisions being made. You feel powerless to deal with that. That's what the songs are getting at.
"I'm in a strange headspace. The songs are more like questions, really - something to try to awaken little emotional pockets in people."
I can see now that Harvey isn't tough to talk to at all. An interviewer just has to concentrate on the music itself.
"I hope people can get from the music that there are others who feel the way they do," he says, "and that they can find some experience of being brought together, brought closer to each other - if only for the length of a song.
"I'm listening to Bob Marley's Exodus now," he adds. And he is. I can hear it playing in the background. "It's insane, so bloody good, just to be able to get people to feel that they're worth something, that everybody should be counted.
"It's very easy to feel disconnected from people, even people you're really quite close to. In the experience of listening to music, you may not be thinking exactly the same things, but you're very close. It brings you much closer to shared understanding.
"If you can do that, then you've done something."