The Redwalls with the Shout Out Louds at Lee's Palace (529 Bloor West), Thursday (August 4), $10. 416-532-1598. Rating: NNNNN
Here's a conundrum: you graduate from high school and you've got a record contract. Do you go on tour and try to make it as a rock star or enter the hallowed halls of higher learning?
Baby-faced British Invasion-ophiles the Redwalls opted for door number one. Their drummer, however, chose door number two, which is how Ben Greeno wound up rounding out a foursome with the Baren brothers - guitarist Logan and bassist Justin - and their guitarist friend Andrew Langer.
Greeno claims it was a no-brainer.
"I was actually going to Columbia College in Chicago," he says on the phone from his home in that very city.
"College was kind of, y' know, filler while I was playing music. I wanted to be down in the city, and when I found the band, I quit school."
There's something profoundly fucked up about the fact that we've created a society that fosters this way of thinking, but since I only say this with the dubious benefit of hindsight, I don't bother pointing it out to the 21-year-old Greeno.
When he joined the Redwalls a couple of years back, they were still gigging as a cover band. One of his first tasks was to learn 70 cover tunes.
"Oh, man, we had two sets of an hour and 15 minutes each, with tunes by the Animals, the Kinks, Dylan, the Beatles, some Supremes. Tons of shit."
Playing covers, Greeno explains, was just a job. "It paid good money, but we always wanted to play more original stuff. We started trying out originals in the cover sets, and people really liked them, so we realized that playing our own stuff might actually work."
But there's very little, if anything, that is original about the material on the Redwalls' latest album, De Nova (EMI), which is not to say it's bad.
It's actually quite good, in the way that the White Stripes' De Stijl or Uncle Tupelo's No Depression is good. It's good in the way that everything about emo is bad. It's good as a derivative amalgam that's fairly indistinguishable from though not identical to its roots.
In the Redwalls' case, those roots are very Beatles, with early-era Bowie in some places. You've got some Stones in there and some T-Rex and plenty of jangly guitars and 60s harmonies. Sometimes they get all psychedelic, but not in a messy way.
These were the kids in high school who shunned new pop in favour of the old stuff. Every school has that group. At mine they were the stoner outcasts.
"Yeah," agrees Greeno, "that's usually where it starts. You start out listening to the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Then you find out what influenced them and keep backtracking."
The Brit obsession was totally second-hand, by the way, and the band never even made it there until, like, last year.
There are lots of yeahs and heys on the record and everything is "alright." For the most part, the lyrics are pretty run-of-the-mill, except when they get all serious like on Glory Of War, a tune about, um, war. And on Falling Down, which is about the Federal Communications Commission.
"The FCC has come into the spotlight in the past few years for censoring the media, with the Janet Jackson at the Superbowl thing and stuff like that. When we were on the radio in Chicago, Logan accidentally said 'fuck' on the air during a song and the guy flipped out.
"The FCC thing was all still fresh, but the radio incident was kind of silly and nothing actually happened."
So they say "fuck" a lot in the song. I dunno, you gotta choose your fuckin' battles, y'know? Fuck.
I ask if anything exciting is coming up, like appearances on Letterman or trips to Japan.
"I've actually heard both those things, but we're always the last to know."
Betcha they won't say "fuck" on Letterman.