Billy Talent with Alexisonfire at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Tuesday (September 16). All ages. $20. 416-870-8000.
ben kowalewicz, vocalist for lo- cal outfit Billy Talent, thinks I don't like him. This is because I just have to snicker at the tune Standing In The Rain, from the band's major-label self-titled debut. I'm sorry. But it's a tune about a smack-addicted hooker. One of those I-feel-the-pain songs.
What's with the music world's fascination with working girls? Everyone from Irving Berlin to Sting, Donna Summer, Elton John, Janis Ian, Isaac Hayes, AC/DC, the Pretenders... and this list could go on forever.
Unlike the love song, the I'm-so-lonely song or the the-world-sucks-and-everyone-is-against-me song, this is one cliché that most artists come up with by looking from an outside perspective. They've been in love and felt lonely, but they haven't been hookers (nor have many of them even fucked one).
They do, however, feel the need to express some sort of view on or from the perspective of the hooker, like they have any fucking clue about what her story might be - the hooker as catalyst of the music world. The band hopes the record sells, but the chick is still all alone on the street. It's bizarre, no?
"Not really," says Kowalewicz.
"I wrote that song when we were recording the album in East Vancouver, East Hastings. It's heroin-riddled. I'd go to work and always see this girl who was about my age, and she just looked like death warmed over. We'd lock eyes sometimes, and I wanted to write a song about her. I was inspired by Roxanne."
To give the band some credit, after 10 years Billy Talent (formerly known as Pezz) is finally getting somewhere. Kowalewicz is talking to me from London, England; it's the band's first tour of Europe. The record is getting mucho attention, and with its experimental melodic, punk rock kind of prog feel, comparisons to At the Drive-In abound.
I wonder aloud if this doesn't send up a red flag, considering that At the Drive-In suffered the ultimate bust after failing the admittedly impossible task of living up to ridiculous media over-hype.
But Kowalewicz dismisses this outright, saying, "I don't believe in any of that (hype stuff), to be totally truthful with you. We're just having a really good time. We've always wanted to come to different parts of the world and play and meet people." Besides, he says of At the Drive-In, "We were and are huge fans of theirs, and at intervals they've influenced us quite dramatically."
So playing on this tour with Mars Volta, an At the Drive-In offshoot, has been quite an honour. Another major coup is the show they'll be playing with Jane's Addiction in the near future.
"Which I can't believe. We played Lollapalooza, and to see them every night was amazing. We'll be playing with them in Brighton on Hell Night."
And they've already opened for the Buzzcocks.
The recent recognition isn't totally undeserved, and the tattooed, black T-shirt set should be pissing themselves over the complex, rapid-fire onslaught of punk nouveau this record delivers.
"It took us a long time to get where we are and be the songwriters we are," says Kowalewicz. "It's really kind of funny that suddenly people care, when we've been the same four guys doing it for years."