Top Grade

Burlington punks rock the burbs.


Grade with Reach the Sky and Catch 22 at the Opera House (735 Queen East), Saturday (March 30). $12.50. 416-466-0313.

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here’s a definition of dedica-tion. Singer Kyle Bishop, lead lungs for Burlington punk-metal marauders Grade, missed two shows on the band’s current tour after a bout of heat exhaustion in Texas provoked so much vomiting that it bruised his larynx, making him susceptible to laryngitis.Those were the first shows Bishop’s missed in the band’s eight-year history, which includes a tour of Japan, New Zealand and Australia as well as extensive tours of the United States.

Now Bishop is getting his injured voice box worked back in as Grade make their way home to the Opera House for Saturday’s show with labelmates Reach the Sky and Catch 22.

Headfirst Straight To Hell is their second full-length CD with Chicago indie Victory, home of heavyweights Snapcase and Hatebreed. The CD showcases 13 thoughtfully written, complex tunes. Bishop sometimes sings, sometimes screams the vocals, backed by axemen Shawn Magill and Brad Casarin and the rhythm section of Matt Jones and Charles Moniz.

This album veers away from the lighter, poppier songs on their last release, Under The Radar, but Bishop says it doesn’t matter which songs he sings — they’re always intense.

“We come off way heavier live. Live shows are always more aggressive. With the energy of the crowd, all your emotions and sweat come out.”

Obviously, Bishop has no problem giving his body over to the music. He pounds away at the theme as he talks about songwriting. “It’s about digging into the inner workings of your brain and heart to the point of embarrassment, so much that it hurts. That’s when it becomes honest.”

A lot of people around the world are getting into what the band have to say. With the help of the exposure provided by Victory Records and their rigorous tour schedule, Grade have a bigger following outside Canada than here at home.

“We did three European tours before we toured Canada.” And why is that? “We’ve had fewer tours in Canada because there are fewer opportunities.”

Bishop is happy to say he feels this is changing, that more people here in Canada are getting interested in checking them out. On the local scene, they’ve had larger numbers of eager kids turn out to suburban shows than to shows in Toronto’s core.

“People in Toronto tend to be more jaded. That’s just an urban thing, a big city thing. Kids in the suburbs just want to rock out and have fun.”

Signing with an established, albeit indie, label like Victory contributed to feelings that the band had sold out.

“Some people rejected us, sure, but some stayed with us. Either way, Toronto is our favourite place to be and to play.”

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