THE MONGRELS with the ILLUMINATI and BLOOD CEREMONY at the Silver Dollar (486 Spadina), Friday (January 19), 9 pm. $8. 416-763-9139. Rating: NNNNN
When Tricky Woo's Andrew Dickson began looking for a suitable singer to front his new double-drummer-powered heavy-rock unit, he knew the prospective vocalist would need some serious pipes to be heard over the brutal bashing of the Mongrels.
An audition was given to the mysterious Amy T., a Tricky Woo fan recommended by Dickson's wife, Caroline. She belted out the new Mongrels tune City Living off a sheet of paper with such power and conviction that Dickson hired her on the spot.
According to Dickson, despite the fact that Amy T. had never sung with a rock 'n' roll band, she seemed very poised and confident, almost like she'd been through a similar process before.
"I'd wanted to work with a female singer for a long time," explains Dickson from his Montreal home, "and once I heard Amy, we started working together right away. I hadn't seen her on Canadian Idol and I didn't even know she'd been a contestant. She didn't tell us anything about her Canadian Idol experience, thinking that being the rock snobs we are, we would've said, 'Sorry, no chance!' Afterwards, I saw a clip on You Tube of her singing a Shikasta song that was pretty funny."
Oddly enough, Amy T. wasn't booted from the Montreal competition by the Canadian Idol judges for choosing to sing Shikasta's Come Around. She actually made the cut to continue onto the next round in Toronto but for some reason disappeared after being handed her coveted golden ticket. Ever since, she's tried to keep it her "filthy little secret," without much success.
"It was something I did for kicks, and it turned out to be not so much fun," says Amy T. "You do your thing, they give you the golden ticket and then you wait around a few months before you get to Toronto and do the really stupid business. I'd passed through five rounds and had my golden ticket, but I didn't go to Toronto because it wasn't what I wanted to do with my life. At the time, I found out that I'd gotten into grad school for journalism at Concordia, so I said, "Enough is enough. '"
From Dickson's perspective, everything is running according to plan for the appropriately named Mongrels, assembled from various members of Bionic, Soft Canyon, Local Rabbits and Blood Sausage. They've written a fistful of bruising tunes and are already deep into recording their debut disc, which should be out in time for summer.
"Over the years," says Dickson, "Tim (Bionic drummer Tim Dwyer) and I talked about having a band like this, but for one reason or another we were never able to find the time to do it. Finally we found the right people, great musicians I've known on the Montreal scene for a while, and Tricky Woo is currently on hiatus, so the time seemed right for the Mongrels.
"We've played three shows since our inception, and I believe we've got something special. At least I can't think of any other band that sounds like we do."
True enough, the dual-drummers concept isn't all that common these days, but the Mongrels take on hard slamming rock 'n' soul on the groups' raunchy six-song demo has definite similarities to that of the Dirtbombs and the Bellrays, particularly in Amy T.'s R&B-schooled approach to the microphone.
"Oh yeah, the Bellrays are an amazing band for sure. And I can see what you mean about Amy's vocals. She definitely draws on an R&B inspiration, but we're forcing her to listen to more Led Zeppelin whether she likes it or not."