Canadian Musician - November/December 2021 - Page 35

“ We were telling people when we first started out that , first of all , we weren ’ t going to put out any music . And then we say , ‘ We ’ ll put out three albums , and then we ’ re gonna break up ,’” Jones recounts . “ But that was about as much of a mission statement as we came up with ; we just played it by ear . And it ’ s been 25 years of pretty much playing it by ear and going with the flow , until of course , the pandemic stopped it all . But even then , when the pandemic stopped things , it ’ s a matter of figuring out how to keep going . And that ’ s it .”
Elaborating on the idea of breaking up after three albums , Jones describes the “ fiveyear plan ” from back in the day : “ You know , put out a record , then tour ; record , tour ; record , tour ; then you break up . I mean , this is going back to 25 years ago , so we were younger , and we were just brash brats trying to get a rise or a reaction from someone who had listened to us … But for the most part , if you would have asked me back then if I ’ d like to have done this for 25 more years , I would have quietly told you , ‘ Yeah , I don ’ t want to stop .’ So we ’ ve been lucky enough to keep going .”
CM : Is the way the band exists now , including the music you ’ re making and [ stature ] you have now , does it match expectations ? Did you have expectations back then ?
Jones : It ’ s actually exceeded them because we came from garage punk . And back in the ‘ 90s , none of those bands [ in Canada ] were doing anything on the scale that we ended up getting to . We wanted to tour ; I wanted to tour America , all the American clubs . Play with all the bands that I have the records of , and just drive around in a van and discover America . And that was it . Europe wasn ’ t even a thought , or international touring whatsoever . It was just that all our favourite bands came from the American garage punk scene . That ’ s where we wanted to be ; we wanted to hook up with them .
The biggest thing we wanted was to be on Touch and Go Records , and we almost got on it . That was the biggest goal ; that was like winning 10 Grammys to me . And then , of course , that never happened , and that was the turning point for our band becoming a rock band and not continuing on as a garage punk band … When we were not taken in by Touch and Go , I realized the whole thing was a façade , and it ’ s all a big pose , and I became more open to the idea of expanding our sound and not just being confined to the small window of what garage punk sounded like and the aesthetics of it .
And that ’ s when we changed ; I really point to that as the pivotal moment for us not staying an underground garage punk band that only a few people heard about — to try and go for the records and go for radio .
CM : It ’ s surprising when you ’ re talking about those origins and how modest your goals and expectations were , as the impression now is that you ’ re somebody that welcomes success , welcomes commercial success , and strives for it .
Jones : I think that ’ s [ because ] I ’ m a product of Toronto , and I think there ’ s few reasons why Toronto bands , however great they are , just never break out . And I think part of it is just [ having ] small goals … That was about as big as it got to me , because that was my world . My world was Touch and Go Records , so of course that would be the ultimate [ goal ].
But then when the rejection happened , as a reaction to it , we went for the [ rock stuff ] and then I realized , “ Wow , this is a whole other world .” Like , radio bands , and that through radio you can actually get a huge audience from just one song , and that changed the way we saw it . And the one thing I say when I look back is , you can call us whatever you want ; “ we sold out ” or whatever , but for me , I got to experience a lot more sides of music and the music industry than if I had just stayed in my little corner of indie rock and garage punk .
And I ’ d rather experience all kinds of stuff that would be deemed as selling out or uncool by “ the cools ,” and then you grow up and realize that those supposed cools have zero idea what they ’ re talking about ; then you just go with what will allow you to keep looking at yourself in the mirror … But yeah , everything we ’ ve done , I can ’ t think of one thing where I would say , “ That was terrible for us to do .” Obviously , there ’ s things we ’ ve done where I would just kind of cringe a little more than I normally would , but at least I don ’ t regret them to the point where I want to disappear . Everything is , “ I ’ m able to look at myself in the mirror .”
Though the pandemic meant drastically changing up the process of making a record , the trio of Jones , John ‘ JC ’ Calabrese ( bass ), and Rich Knox ( drums ) created a body of work that not only rocks just as hard as anything they ’ ve done before , but also exudes an unexpected poignancy , as well , with songs like the driving , claustrophobic lead single “ I Want Out ” ( first released back in March of this year ) and the brooding anthem “ Ship of Lies .”
While “ I Want Out ” is pretty on the nose , it finds a clever way to address the anxieties of pandemic-induced isolation . The song retains the band ’ s classic romance and charm , all over a tune that drives hard and doesn ’ t actually need the pandemic to carry its narrative weight even though it ’ s cathartic as hell when viewed through that lens — or any other paradigm that might include an overwhelming need to get away from where you are .
“ Ship of Lies ,” however , is a bit more “ vague ,” as Jones describes it , despite having a pointedness to its lyrics that is rarer in their catalogue . “ There wasn ’ t really a particular issue that was brought up for that song , but anybody who hears it can probably project their own ,” which itself leaves more up to interpretation than devoted listeners might be used to . I personally found it fun to go down that road . That said , Jones makes the point that , while lyrics are more often than not a vessel for the melody , ultimately , he has to believe in what he ’ s singing .
“ I don ’ t really care what Sammy Hagar sings , let ’ s put it that way . But if I ’ m sing it , it ’ s got to mean something to me . So , when we get tagged with , like , ‘ All your songs are about sex and women ’ and so on , I can tell you who it ’ s about , I can tell you when it was ; there ’ s specific references in every song , and it means something to me . So , [ with Power Trio ,] the only thing going on