w/Stratejackets, Hip Club Groove, Cool Blue Halo
Saturday, October 20 at The Marquee Club, 2037 Gottingen Street, 9:30pm
Remember staying up for MuchEast on Sunday nights, thumb hovering over the Record button on your VCR in case a favourite video came on? Remember buying seven inches at Sam's on Barrington or Dischord on Granville, reading threads on Sloannet on a dial-up internet connection and going to shows at the Oasis and the Double Deuce? Or, if you were under a certain age, showing up at these bars dressed in all black and carrying a vintage purse to convey maturity, hoping they weren't checking ID? (Turns out they totally were.)
If any of these were part of your experience, chances are the Super Friendz were, too. The band began with three songwriters, Charles Austin, Drew Yamada and Matt Murphy, and a series of drummers that included Dave Marsh, Lonnie James and Sloan's Chris Murphy. Their songs were collaboratively crafted pop-rock hits with lots of guitar and "whoas," their influences coming from the place where the varied tastes of four guys who love music intersect: The Kinks, Television, Pavement, The Buzzcocks, Neil Young.
Austin, a recording engineer at Echo Chamber Audio, remembers the early days. "You could sleep in and live off dishwashing tips. You paid 200 bucks in rent and had a big practice space to jam in." Yamada, now a pediatrician, says, "It just seemed like there was a good band playing almost every night. I'd go see hip-hop, metal, anything just to see a band. It felt good to be a band from Halifax."
Austin also recalls genres seemed to mix more freely. "The shows were more diverse because everything was lumped under the banner of 'alternative'...so on one bill you had Bubaiskull and Al Tuck and Hip Club Groove." It was also a time of "weird opportunities...people got signed to labels like Sub Pop and Geffen. That seems inconceivable now. I know bands now who are awesome and have it all together who release stuff on hand-dubbed cassettes and tour on a circuit of lentils and rice."
The Super Friendz' first album on Halifax indie label murderecords, Mock Up, Scale Down, earned the band a Juno nomination, made them the stars of fanzines and campus community radio stations across Canada and opened the door for laughs in the van.
"We had some good times touring, especially the long drives where a recurring joke would get tons of mileage," Austin says. "When Chris Murphy and Nardwuar bonded in Vancouver it was like the Riddler and the Penguin getting together." The Friendz' follow-up releases were Play the Game, Not Games, an EP on 10-inch vinyl, and Slide Show, a second full-length album that the band now jokes is too tricky to play live.
The group broke up in 1997, but surprised fans by getting back together, along with original drummer Dave Marsh, to record and release Love Energy on Outside Music in 2003. "We had nothing riding on Love Energy but some laughs and the opportunity to play again, and we were writing on the fly," Yamada says. The result was an album that Austin describes as less serious than Slide Show: "less proggy...faster tempos and brattier lyrics."
These days, the Super Friendz have some kids and dogs between them, are spread out geographically (Murphy lives in Toronto, Marsh tours with Joel Plaskett) and are involved in other bands and solo musical projects. So the two 2012 reunion shows, at the Halifax Pop Explosion and in Toronto, will be special events. But that doesn't mean you won't be hearing from them again. There is still, Yamada hints, "some Super Friendz unfinished business."
The Super Friendz w/Stratejackets, Hip Club Groove, Cool Blue Halo, Saturday, October 20 at The Marquee Club, 2037 Gottingen Street, 9:30pm
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