The last time The Coast spoke with Antigonish natives The Trews, it was December of 2004. They were heading home to Canada for the holidays following 10 days of demo sessions in Austin, Texas with their friend and collaborator Gordie Johnson (Grady, ex-Big Sugar), who also produced the band’s gold-selling smash, House of Ill Fame. While they would end up recording the follow-up, Den of Thieves, with producer Jack Douglas (whose credits include Aerosmith, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and John Lennon), The Trews included four of the six songs they worked on with Johnson, giving the album an infusion of southern flavour.
The band returned to the south in March to showcase at Austin’s South by Southwest festival, where they also attended a Robert Plant show. There, they met up with Plant’s son, Logan, of the Black City Bandits, with whom they’d played in England in the fall of 2004. As it turned out, this connection—along with some serious overtime on the parts of their label, agent and manager—resulted in the band’s recent Canadian tour with the legendary Led Zeppelin frontman.
“Robert Plant is a fan of the band, which blows my mind,” says guitarist and longtime Zephead John-Angus MacDonald. “It’s like a parallel universe when someone from Led Zeppelin is a fan of yours, as opposed to me being an obsessed Led Zeppelin fan. I truly believe that the hardest people to open for are the legends—the Stones, the Robert Plants, just because nobody has any interest in the opening acts. They’re just killing time. But apparently, we’ve been stepping up to the plate every night because the reaction has been amazing.”
While they’ve performed hundreds of shows across North America—and stop in Halifax on October 5—both as headliners and supporting everyone from Collective Soul, Evanescence, Nickelback and The Offspring (not to mention their August opening slot for The Rolling Stones’ not-so-secret club date in Toronto), The Trews have played to a wide range of audiences. However, there’s some discrepancy when it comes to the band’s ‘hometown’ shows.
Since the members have spent considerable lenghts of time in various locales, from the band’s birthplace (Antigonish), drummer Sean Dalton’s hometown (St. John’s), their early stomping grounds (Halifax) and their current home base (Niagara Falls/St.Catharines), it’s tough to say which area bears the rightful ownership of The Trews. Even some in Toronto have laid claim.
“We have so many hometown gigs in the course of a tour,” says John-Angus.
“We should live in every province for a year for the next 10 years,” jokes Dalton. “If we had gotten our buzz initially going from the east coast when we were still living there, we could say that we were getting a big buzz on the east coast and moved to Ontario to spread it. But, it was more like we had nothing going on on the east coast and moved to Ontario and worked our butts off and things started to happen. Then, the east coast got behind us, which was great, because it was the first place in radio to really support us. I think Sarah McLachlan has a similar kind of story, only she got way bigger.”
“But she doesn’t come back and we’ll always come back,” interjects John-Angus. “This is still a hometown, and we go to Antigonish and play and it’s a hometown show and it’s something that we’re still proud of. You can take the boys out of the Maritimes, but you can’t take the Maritimes out of the boys.”
With stops in New York and Boston en route to an engagement at this week’s Keith’s Birthday concert in Halifax, this may be the last opportunity that we’ll have to see these ‘hometown’ chart-toppers for a while.
“We can’t do the 400 shows in two years in Canada again—that would be complete overkill,” says John-Angus. “I think the plan is to keep Canada as a home base and try to do what we’ve done here in other countries around the world.”
Starting with America—and, most likely, Texas.
The Trews w/The Joel Plaskett Emergency, October 5 at Waterfront Warehouse, 1549 Lower Water, 5pm, free.