WHALE TOOTH at Whippersnapper Gallery (587A College), Friday (August 21). $10. 416-887-7483; and at the Drake Underground (1150 Queen West), Monday (August 24). Free. 416-531-5042.
Toronto pop band Whale Tooth have a simple formula for determining whether a new song is working: if it doesn't make the kids dance, start the writing process over again.
"I used to play in an alternative rock band, and those crowds just stand there," says singer/guitarist Norm Maschke. "As you progress, you learn what works and what doesn't.
"If a song gets my feet moving when I'm playing it, then someone else will probably dance to it, too."
This might lead you to think Whale Tooth are yet another electro-pop band hoping for a dance club crossover hit. But in their case, any new wave references are more Elvis Costello than New Order. The five-piece excels at bouncy, major-key guitar pop crammed with hooks and just enough soul to stand out.
Maschke, Alex Denike and jazz crooner Elise LeGrow split lead vocals. Live, the chemistry between the players is evident, surprising given that they were complete strangers two years ago and have just one self-titled EP under their belts.
That chemistry is so strong that it's easy to imagine that LeGrow and Maschke could be attached romantically as well as musically.
"If people assume that, they're correct," says Maschke sheepishly. "But we try not to advertise it."
Breaking one of the cardinal rules of band life might not make the rest of the band overjoyed, but at least it gives LeGrow an excuse to put her jazz career aside to tour.
"The jazz thing will still be there for her in 10 years, but the rock band might not be."