The Premiums with PHLIPSIDE at the 360 (326 Queen West), Saturday (January 31). $5. 416-593-0840. www.thepremiums.net Rating: NNNNN
Sometimes a killer guitar riff is all it takes to know whether or not a band has what it takes. The Premiums have definitely got it goin' on. When I walk into a steamy hot Rancho Relaxo one sweltering summer night and hear Stevie Vibrolux cranking out the intro to All I Really Want on his low-slung Les Paul, it's clear that the Premiums have that special something extra.
And that's before sweat-soaked singer Chris Public - ranting about "proper rock 'n' roll" - stumbles backwards over an amp, knocking over candlelit tables and very nearly setting the place ablaze.
Without missing a beat, the tipsy Public springs back onto his feet as if the pratfall's all part of the act, and continues shouting about the Premiums being the greatest band in creation.
He makes that pronouncement like he really believes it. This isn't the sort of self-deprecating gag you'd expect from a Toronto indie band. Public and Vibrolux speak of the Premiums greatness from a place of pride, a self-assured confidence in the quality of their music and their ability to deliver it... even when blind drunk.
"That Rancho Relaxo gig was definitely the craziest show we've ever played," chuckles Public, shaking his head across the table at a Hungarian restaurant on Bloor. "I think I nearly set the place on fire, but, hey, people want a little action for their money. Who wants to see a band play standing still onstage the whole night? Not me."
"The next morning," recalls Vibrolux, "we were in a coffee shop and this dude came up to us asking, 'Aren't you guys in a band?' It turned out to be Brian Pollard, the music supervisor for Fashion Television. He said he loved our disc and wanted to use some of our songs."
The disaffected refrain "young and useless, restless and bored" from the Premiums tune Best Days Of Our Lives makes the perfect soundtrack for undernourished fashion victims strutting up and down catwalks on Fashion Television. That was just the beginning. (See sidebar this page.)
Since the FT coup, other catchy synth-tweaked riff rockers from the Premiums' fabulous self-released Recognizer! debut have been popping up with alarming regularity on popular TV shows.
Listen closely to what's playing in the background the next time you're watching Punk'd, The Osbournes, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Real World or Road Rules. That's right, the Premiums are everywhere. Somehow, they've become the go-to band for music supervisors everywhere.
"A lot of that happened because an MTV music supervisor liked our stuff and used it and then passed our disc around the office," says Public. "Right away our songs started showing up in other MTV shows."
"The exposure has been amazing," enthuses Vibrolux. "We've gotten all kinds of people coming to our shows because they've liked one of our tunes they heard on Fashion Television and seen our name in the credits at the end of the program.
"And because The Osbournes, Degrassi and Punk'd are shown in other countries, we get e-mail from people all over the world now."
Considering how difficult it can be for indie bands like the Premiums to get any exposure at all on commercial radio, cable TV seems to be shaping up to be a mutually beneficial alternative. However, the Premiums aren't exactly getting rich in the deal.
"From the perspective of the music supervisors," explains Public, "using music by indie artists for television programs makes good sense. There's usually none of the red tape you run into dealing with labels and publishing. The deal is done in one phone call. And it's also going to cost them a lot less than getting a song from a major-label artist."
"Every music supervisor wants to use your songs for free if they can," continues Vibrolux, "so thus far we haven't seen much money from the television thing. But at least we're making enough to keep us going without having to get real jobs."
Amazingly, despite the Premiums' fast-growing international profile, a load of killer material and a hugely entertaining stage show, they've had negligible interest from the Canadian majors.
Not that the Premiums are overly concerned about the lack of attention from the labels at home. They've got the powerhouse S. L. Feldman & Associates as booking agent, and they're currently in management talks with SRO Productions (who handle Rush). And between us, the Premiums just played a hush-hush showcase for the Maverick label that, according to Vibrolux, went "very, very well."
"Whenever a Canadian label A&R rep is faced with something new," smiles Public, "the first thought is usually 'Does anyone else like it?'"
"We've heard second hand about people from different labels coming to our shows and liking what they heard," adds Vibrolux, "but I think they're taking the typical wait-and-see approach. So we really haven't much direct contact.
"We've listened to all the stories about prospective bands being taken to strip clubs and treated to lavish meals and fancy umbrella drinks, so we're wondering, what about us?
"I think it's about time somebody busted out the corporate plastic. I mean, even some sandwiches would be nice."