The Parkas at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Tuesday (February 3) and every Tuesday in February. $5. 416-777-1777.
You don't need to be living in the same teeming urban metropolis as the rest of your band in order to get opportunities in the world of CanRock. Just ask the Parkas. "Our first songs were written while Greg was in England," bassist Mark Rhyno says before a 360 show sandwiched between electronic acts. The band includes guitarists Mike Brown and Grady Kelneck, brothers Greg (drummer) and Mark Rhyno and keyboardist Andrew Collins.
"Grady and I would be in a room with Mike and we'd come up with stuff and put Greg's lyrics over it, from across the pond."
After three years together, the Parkas have honed the harmony-based twangy pop sound of their year-old Now This Is Fighting release. It's on Winnipeg's Endearing Records label and was recorded at Andy Magoffin's House of Miracles, which Mark says felt like recording in Big Pink.
Despite home bases from Thunder Bay to Guelph, the boys are ready to settle in to Toronto. They're scheduled for Tuesdays in February at the El Mocambo.
"It's a weird thing," says Greg. "Even now, we don't live in the same city. But once you get on the road, it doesn't matter where you live. The thing about our band is that we were born in the bush and we tend to retreat to the bush. I like Toronto a lot, but I also like getting away from it."
Mark and Greg's and Grady's fathers played together in rock bands the Shades and Jalopy over 30 years ago.
"If we didn't play together, we were grounded," says Mark.
So how did the boys hook up with Winnipeg-based Endearing?
"We went on our first big tour and played the Halifax Pop Explosion, and Blair Purda, who runs the label, was there. He liked what he saw, and a few months later, when he saw us at Canadian Music Week, he signed us. We were new to the game, and it was nice to have a label behind us."
Their influences are varied, from the Rolling Stones to Robert Wyatt, but Greg says, "I want to write songs that are somewhere between the Palace Brothers and the Funk Brothers," referring to the legendary Motown studio band. The boys are excited about playing the El Mo, even if it's had a makeover.
"We would have loved to have played the old El Mo, with the dirt and grit," says Greg. "It's different now. It's somewhere between Ted's Wrecking Yard and a theatre, which is good because our act devolves into stand-up comedy.
"Hopefully there'll be a giant cane close at hand."
As for future plans and ambitions, "I would have said five years ago that our goal was to play the El Mocambo, so now we've got to adopt new goals," says guitarist Brown.
"My goal's just to balance my cheque book," adds Greg.