Surprisingly or not, labelling New Jerseyite Ted Leo as a former hardcore or punk guy doesn't bother him as much as getting pigeonholed as indie rock. "These days what that says to me is milquetoast, white, non-confrontational, soft, boring melodicism. I feel like that's sort of one of those brushes that I really bristle under," Leo unintentionally puns. "When it comes to people talking about my history with other bands and stuff, I tend to be appreciative when people bring that up because that sort of shows that they know my history."
"I feel like people who are aware of what I was doing in the late '80s may bring a certain perspective to their listening that probably brings them a little bit closer to a similar understanding that I have of what I've been doing for the last ten years."
Understanding how the past has shaped the present is reflected on Leo's website. A series of blog posts on tedleo.com tagged "#Tyranny10" celebrated the 10th anniversary of the band's The Tyranny of Distance album. The often eloquent and hilarious posts feature past tour itineraries, stories from life on the road (including stories about Ted Leo and the Pharmacists versus Iggy Pop's road crew) and a great deal of reflection. Leo writes about the payout from a 2000 solo tour show, "Who pays someone nine dollars? You couldn't just make it an even 10?"
When asked whether there was something more to these reflections than just making jokes about the past, Leo says, "I feel like new audiences don't always have an understanding of what it takes to actually be in a band, what kind of work that has to be done to be in a band that treats it as more than just a hobby. Not everybody who plays music wants to be a rock star, sometimes they just want to live life making art. There's a labour component to that and I think it's a valuable labour component, personally. And that's a long winded way of me saying, 'Yeah, there's probably something more to me writing about getting paid nine dollars.'"
The last time Ted Leo and the Pharmacists came to Halifax was on a 2005 Canadian tour supported by a reunited North of America. They most definitely did receive more than nine dollars.
"It was kind of a perfect experience,"says Leo about the band's last performances in Halifax.
"It's great to be able to play a club show with a dressing room and a private bathroom with a proper soundcheck, but having done that, it's great to be able to go and kick it with your friends old-school punk style and drink beer at the local spot. Because every town has one of those local things, 'We're gonna go hang out at the wall' or 'the shallow bowl.' How awesome is it that it's just referred to as the shallow bowl? Everyone knows what you're talking about in Halifax."
The past performances at the Marquee and the Pavilion (home of the infamous shallow bowl) were a part of the 2005 Halifax Pop Explosion. Fortunately for performer and audience alike, it's the same group of organizational masterminds behind Sunday's Ted Leo performance at this summer's M Fest. "The way that all [the Pop Explosion shows] went off couldn't have been better," says Leo. "That's what we love to do."