Only 29 days remain until Choke's final show in its hometown of Edmonton. On Sunday, as the band drives from Sault St. Marie to Barrie for the last time, vocalist/bassist Clay Shea says there's only one thing he won't miss about touring: the heat inside the van. "Hot makes me grumpy!" he says, laughing.
Combining punk-influenced guitar riffs and the off-signature time beats of jazz, Choke's influences have never been from one specific genre. Although it has been two years since the release of Slow Fade or: How I Learned to Question Infinity, the songs that appear on that record will remain the last songs written by the band.
When "we were making the record I knew that in the back of all our minds that either the record would take off...if it didn't happen we kind of knew we going to get to make another record," Shea admits. "There were a lot of overtones on the record that we may not get to make another record, lyrically the songs refer to it a fair bit."
Notorious for not being the best at the business end of things, Shea says he wouldn't play any other part in the music industry besides the musician. He, along with the rest of the band, has learned his fair share.
"When I look back 10 years ago, my perspective is totally different someone who is 20 now," he says of the industry. "It's cutthroat, and it's a little bit sickening."
Technology can help make any band well-known now, but it seems that if the desired results are not immediate, that band's dedication to music will quickly fade. "There are 18-year-olds today," says Shea, "who can shred and play like nobody's business. But they aren't willing to pay the dues that need to be paid. And you never stop paying those dues."
Those words pay off in each show Choke plays. Every night there are people in the crowd whose first live show was a Choke show, and those fans have continued to show the band their support since 1994.
"With this being the last tour did drift away who are in their mid- or late-20s, who have families and real jobs, are coming out of the woodwork," Shea says. "That's really special to us."
Choke gained exposure by playing numerous supporting gigs in larger Canadian cities, but the band has always headlined its own shows in Halifax. "Halifax just found us on their own," Shea says. "Maybe that's why it's better.... This isn't me being the guy going, "We love playing in Halifax!'" he adds jokingly. Halifax is about "as far away as we can get from Edmonton and it's probably one of our best followings."
Although Choke was never given an offer it couldn't refuse, Shea doesn't say that the band didn't consider its options.
"We probably could have changed things to shoot for," he admits. "We were aware that a lot of times our music wasn't successful, going out to the masses." He doesn't seem too concerned, nor should he be. "As far as the last 13 years go, there have been no regrets whatsoever," he says. "I don't think anyone feels they missed out on anything."
That said, both vocalists/guitarists Jack Jaggard and Shaun Moncrieff (one-time physics major) dropped out of university more than a decade ago to concentrate on the band. "The fact that Shaun gave us 13 really dedicated years is amazing," Shea says in admiration.
As the band makes its final stops across Canada, touring with their friends in Ghosts of Modern Man, Shea speaks for everyone when he says the band was everything they thought it could be.
"You definitely make sacrifices, but you don't really see them as sacrifices, because in the end it's all worth it," he says. "It's the same four guys that started out when we were kids, to now—we're becoming middle-aged men!"
Choke w/Ghosts of Modern Man, The Motorleague and Kilbourne, May 12 at the Attic, 1781 Grafton, 11pm, $12 and w/ Ghosts of Modern Man, The Motorleague and Memories of Phoenix, May 13 at The Pavilion, 5861 Cogswell, 5:30pm (4pm meet and greet), $12, www.ticketpro.ca