BROTHER LOVE CANAL, playing Sunday (June 25), 8 pm, at Pride's North Stage (Church and Gloucester). 927-7433. Rating: NNNNN
When Steve Diguer, the brains behind local dance band Brother Love Canal, opens the door, he isn't what I expect.
From the sound of the techno-funk grooves he conceives, I'm imagining a smooth-operating fashion slave and party animal. Instead, I'm looking at a cross between Buddy Holly and Bill Gates.
He squints his hello, ushers me into his eight-by-10 studio on the first floor of a Cabbagetown two-storey and starts setting up for rehearsal. As he busies himself, we try to facilitate an interview.
"You tell me what you need to get set and I'll tell you what I need on my end...," I begin.
"And then we'll figure out who's the most needy," he completes the sentence with a giggle. "I'll win. I always win the neediness contest."
When we've settled in -- singers Leslea Keurvorst and Matthew Lucien have arrived -- it's obvious that Diguer's needs are simple. Give him the equipment and musicians able to translate his vision and he blisses out.
The fiercely focused Diguer sits surrounded by his toys -- he plays guitar occasionally -- punching the knobs. Then, suddenly, as Keurvorst's power vocals kick in and Lucien's soprano adds a tight harmony, Diguer's flailing his arms in full disco mode. Nerd or not, this guy is a party animal.
Never stupid And the band is looking to release the party animal in everybody else. The music, out on a three-track self-titled disc and soon-to-be-released CD, is sexy but never stupid -- disco-tech by way of the B-52s and the Pixies.
It's fun in the sense that it makes you want to dance your face off. It's smart in the sense that Diguer will arrange a dance version of Free To Be You And Me that has just the right ironic twist: "I can always tell the X-ers in the crowd -- they're mouthing the words," Diguer smiles. Or he'll sample the voices of people telling their Walkerton horror stories for background on a track called Plug.
The band covered the Joni Mitchell tune Clouds two years before the Boom Tang Boys had a hit with the same cover last year.
"I'm telling you, I know those guys were here and heard us doing it," says Keurvorst.
"Don't make it sound like they stole our idea," says a worried Diguer gesturing in my direction.
Then both she and Lucien put their hands on their hips and roll their eyes. "Well, they did," they burst out in unison, dissolving in laughter at Diguer's dorky display of modesty.
As a group, they're voluble and jocular, all three whip smart and with properly checkered backgrounds. Diguer is the techno-fetishist who played in bands while he was in high school but couldn't get committed until the technology caught up with what he heard in his head.
Lucien, a former competitive swimmer, has a psych degree and a job working with troubled kids.
And Keurvorst, who fronts her own rock band, Kuku -- "I'm the closet metalhead," she crows -- has connections to the AIDS awareness community and a history of activism with sex workers.
The secret element of their chemistry?
"We love pop music and we're all into drama," says Keurvorst.
"I want people to feel whatever will make them comfortable," says Lucien, "and the main thing is for the music to make people feel they can be whoever they are."
Huge buzz Which will be the theme of their performance Sunday (June 25) on the North Stage. It worked for them last year -- they were among the few bands that garnered huge buzz after their Pride gig.
It looks like they might be one of the acts that can beat the bad rep that music at Pride tends to get. (See sidebar below.)
"I think part of the problem bringing great live music to Pride Day has to do with the kind of music gays love," says Keurvorst. "It's usually not personality-driven, and what's left is hard to reproduce live. Dance projects often don't like to play live because they don't trust their technology."
"We do the gig to pick up on Pride energy," says Diguer. "Toronto is at its best and its sexiest on Pride Day, even with all the straight people coming. It's a night of wild abandon and it's completely positive.
"I once wrote a political song that basically said, 'I don't want to talk about marriage or families and I don't care if we're recognized by law. I just wanna fuck.'"
I'll never stereotype a guy with glasses again.