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Getting Better 

Hamilton band The Reason let a little melody in on its second record, Things Couldn’t Be Better, to much acclaim. Laura Trethewey rings them up.

Angst-filled lyrics and an adolescent following too-often compel listeners to pigeonhole bands with the overused and under-defined emo label. Hamilton-based rock band, The Reason has both requirements in spades. But rather than burst into tears when asked if he considers his band emo, frontperson Adam White answers the question soberly. "I still haven't figured it out," he says in a phone interview. "To me, the word means music with emotion and all music has emotion."

The Reason does tend to bend a youthful ear, which explains the many community centres, halls and theatres on its upcoming east coast tour with Brampton-based The Junction. In Halifax, however, the band straddles the generation gap by playing at the mature Attic and the all-ages Pavilion on June 9. The music "is for anyone, but there is definitely a core group of people who like it," says White. "We're all 25 or 26 and I hope people our age can listen to it too."

In March, The Reason released its sophomore album, Things Couldn't Be Better, and is touring Canada relentlessly with the new material. Coupled with the upbeat melodies, woven into the band's anguished tone is a consistent message.

"We decided that we needed a theme for the album, a general goal," says White. "We had an idea in mind that we wanted to get off our chest: A lot of our musical peers have given up, but we're happy with what we're doing."

Light green, blue and grey watercolours make a seemingly mellow palette for The Reason's album cover, but this optimistic message is latent in the artwork too. The cover, depicting birds attached to a string, represents the band's restricted outlook prior to recording. Conversely, on the inside pocket, a free-flying, independent bird shows the band's unloaded burden. The song "This is Where We Go it Alone" "could be a break-up song, but to us it's saying "This is our musical path now,'" White says. "There are a lot of people who won't be into our stuff now, but we're going to say goodbye early."

White admits the band's first full-length recording, Ravenna, was more a miscellaneous collection. With its punk departures and momentary descents into metal, Ravenna has a callow tone that hints at the keyboard melodies on Things Couldn't Be Better. "We had a fear of being too poppy or mainstream," White explains. "This time around we realized that it was something we had in us."

Local band Gamma Gamma Rays, which is on the Pavilion bill, identifies with this blend of pop melodies and aggressive rock. "We can complement the Reason show because of a similarity with their use of keyboards, synth and upbeat melodies," says singer-bassist Mark Grundy.

Finally accepting this lighter, melodic direction has helped The Reason mature into a cohesive-sounding rock band. It also attracted fans outside of the unhappy suburban kid demographic. "This is the first album that our parents legitimately like. They got their friends into it too," White says. "My dad calls me every couple of weeks to tell me he has a new favourite song."

Appealing to older listeners came as the band members grew up themselves. During a Christmas holiday before The Reason began work on its second album, the band returned home to discover their high school friends now had houses and families. "We realized that this band is our career and the album is our university degree," says White. "Everyone can relate to the record. It's about wanting to do something really bad but, no matter what it is, to make it your life."

Despite the often negative connotations of the emo genre—overwrought lyrics, metal spike bracelets and dramatic cries for attention—other aspects, such as intimate, confessional lyrics, are still powerful. When constructing Things Couldn't Be Better, The Reason never lost sight of this important feature. "Every song is about us venting and realizing we're happy," White says. "Every song is saying I'm glad we went through this because you realize how much you love what you're doing."

The Reason w/The Junction, Shelter with Thieves, She’s No Angel, Gamma Gamma Rays, June 9 at the Pavilion, 5816 Cogswell, 7pm, $12 and w/The Junction and Shelter with Thieves, at the Attic, 1741 Grafton, 11pm, $6.

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