ROCK PLAZA CENTRAL CD launch with SUNPARLOUR PLAYERS, PURPLE HILL and the ANDY LLOYD at the Tranzac (292 Brunswick), Friday (September 8), 8:30 pm (over by midnight). $10. 416-923-8137. Rating: NNNNN
Rock Plaza Central main man Chris Eaton's idea of a fun interview happens when the band gets together is to make them explain where he's coming from with the robotic horse concept.
By that he means the robotic horse concept on the robotic-horse-related concept album Are We Not Horses, which the band is launching Friday at the Tranzac.
So we're sitting at the Victory Café doing just that. The plan sounded like it'd be about a five out of 10 on my fun scale, but it actually does turn out to be entertaining (plus there's bourbon).
"The horses were built by humans to help them in the conflict against the angels," says Scott Maynard, mildly English-accented bassist and pianist. "It's an ongoing saga."
There were also horse-related songs on 2003's The World Was Hell To Us.
"The horses at a certain point gained an awareness of what they were doing and go through periods of regret and remorse about it, and there are various love stories that happen as well," Eaton interjects.
"There were a number of songs on the last album that had an (angel-related) Armageddon feel to them, and a story started forming out of these songs.
"Angels come down to earth and try to befriend us, but they're just pretending to be our friends, and then they start a war and try to kill everybody... loosely.
"Then I started writing songs about robotic horses who kill all the angels, then regret it and kind of wonder if they fought on the wrong side," says Eaton. "So it's an album about regret and figuring out who you are and finding a place where you can belong. Like the Chrysalids."
The music on Are We Not Horses is what you might call folk prog (if there isn't one already, we need to coin a term for it, like "frog" or "polk," only better), not just because it's a concept album, but because it blends folk's jangly rusticity with prog's orchestral sweep, kind of like David Gilmour meets Bob Dylan.
Throw an indie-rock stewpot messiness into the mix and it becomes the sort of record that could only be made in Canada.
"I think," adds Don Murray (mandolin, trumpet, vocals), "there's a broader theme: you befriend someone who builds you up to something you're not and kind of uses you, and then you realize that it was all a facade."
"It's been a confusing few years," adds Rob Carson (trombone, guitar, banjo). "Chris started writing songs about horses, and he knew there was a story that he'd never told us.
"Scott's version of the story is mainly stuff that Chris has said. He gives us bits, and it's kind of there on the record and you can see it. I don't know the story, and that's sort of the exciting thing."
At the release party they hope to have people draw their renditions of what they think these robotic horses might look like, says Eaton.
"Then we're going to pin them on the wall. I'm really excited about the way people will interpret it visually, and I have this dream of having an art show."
"I like the horses," says Maynard. "I think they're really cool, but I have to say that at first I was like, 'What the fuck are you talking about?'"