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Black Messiah  



If Baby Jesus was a silky smooth R&B singer, and I have no reason to doubt that he was (the sermon on the mount was just a badass bass solo - it gets lost in translation) then surely D'Angelo is right on time with the Christmas release of his new album Black Messiah - his first in 14 YEARS. That's correct. Where has he been? What has he been doing? This intrepid reporter has done exhaustive research to come up with a year by year breakdown of his time in the wilderness. Ultimately, the where's and why's don't matter, we're just happy to have him back. Go spread some brown sugar on your day. Mmm... tasty.

2000-2001

D'Angelo releases his second album Voodoo. It is pure sex. Partners around the world watch the Untitled video and look at their significant others with contempt and disgust followed by a rousing grudge-rut fantasizing of the Chocolate Adonis. All is well. D'Angelo tours extensively, mostly with Sisqo. Sisqo dies in early 2001 in a tragic silver hair dye accident. He is memorialized in Daytona Beach during Spring Break with a 21 thong salute and a group outbreak of Chlamydia. D'Angelo insists they never met.

2001-2002

Erratic behaviour on tour. Record company demands he go back into the studio. D' tells them greatness can't be constrained by the needs of their fiscal quarter. They drink Matcha. It's all chill. D' discovers the Harry Potter books and is neither seen nor heard from for 5 months. He's finally spotted in an Arby's in August requesting that he be addressed as Neville Shinebottom. Arby's kid is fine with it.

2002-2003

Begins demos for a collaboration with Outkast. The project is scrapped when D' realizes these aren't the Australian steakhouse franchise guys. He really wanted free steaks. Andre 3000 tries to get the project back on track, going so far as too offer a 50/50 split on his 3000 so they can each have 1500. D' decides to take a job as a prep cook at Outback Steakhouse, perfects the art of the twice-baked potato.

2003-2004

Clay Aiken is a thing. D' plays Xbox for 3 months straight, still manages to demo 97 new songs, a full didgeridoo suite, to commemorate his time at Outback. The sessions are released on home-burned CD's, hidden at the bottom of customers' desert plates. 17 separate complaints to the manager.

2004-2005

Much of the year is spent recuperating in hospital when D' works out so hard that he gains a new ab, just below his ribcage on the left. Doctors are puzzled, 17 nurses forced to take sudden maternity leave.

2005-2006

George W. Bush continues to mock all reason and democracy in America. D'Angelo gets really into bowling. Record company is freaking out. D' tells them about a premonition he had where one day no one would buy compact discs anymore and music would lose most of its cultural capital. He invests all his money in a chain of bowling centres on the Gulf Coast called "D'Angelanes". Hurricane Katrina.

2006-2007

D' goes back out on tour, playing keyboards with Kenny Chesney. No one asks why. Kenny paid on time and always had good weed.

2007-2008

D' invents the iPhone. Weird, right?

2008-2009

Banking crisis! Despite all the bailouts, D' recoups none of the losses incurred by D'Angelanes. Sues Steve Jobs for stealing his phone idea but drops the suit when Prince in turn sues him for "biting his shit". Jobs invites them all over to his place for smoothies. They hash it out and write a wicked funky jam together. Jam is lost forever because Jobs recorded on the untested MP46 format which would only play back on first gen Apple devices and only then whenever the stock split.

2009-2010

Hey, Sparklehorse just came up on shuffle! Remember Sparklehorse? Sad. I bet D'Angelo liked Sparklehorse.

2010-2011

Canada wins Olympic gold on home ice! Also, D'Angelo.

2011-2012

Back in the studio with The Roots, Rick Rubin and the ghost of Teddy Pendergrass. Pendergrass' ghost is still confined to a wheelchair, a condition which leads to him pronouncing the afterlife to be "some straight-up bullshit". All present agree. They play Paul McCartney songs all night, it's pretty sweet. Teddy kills on Let Me Roll It.

2012-2013

Chris Brown wins R&B album of the year at the Grammys. Hell no. Hell... no. D' gets back to work.

2013-2014

Sessions in earnest for what will eventually become Black Messiah. Early album title considerations include: Never Too Late, Hell No Chris Brown, Abbey Road, The Lizzy Caplan Experience, Brony, Shinebottom & Chesney's Greatest Hits, I'll Put It Out When I'm Good and Ready.

2014-2015

Yeah, it's out. It's rad. Chill out with your favourite lady or boy or ladyboy and get into it. Thanks, D'Angelo. It's been a weird year. This was a nice surprise. Baby Jesus brings the funk.



 

Nuthin But a G Thang 

Silent G – it’s an industry name. That’s who I become this September at the Toronto International Film Festival.  My big ol’ Charlie Brown noggin will soon be filling up a movie screen on King St. in a supporting role in writer-director-musician, Kris Legstrand’s, offbeat comedy, Songs She Wrote About People She Knows.  It was a surprising opportunity for a guy who hasn’t defined himself as an actor for a very long time and Kris took a big risk casting me with scant film experience so we’ll see shortly if he’s rewarded for it. If I’m terrible, there’s always an empty bar full of no one waiting to not listen to my songs. I’m exaggerating for comedic effect…? Awkward pause.
 
How did I come to be a man named Silent G? The immediate plot line is simple: Kris and I have been acquainted since I moved to Vancouver. We had mutual friends and would run into each other in the street and eventually somewhere between Harry Nilsson and David Mamet, we became chummy. And then I guess he wanted a burly bald guy in his movie.
 
The prequel is more complicated. My creative ambitions have always kept me zigzagging. My heart pulls left and right instead of straight up by the tail of any one rocket ascending to success. I wasn’t Eddie Murphy cold-calling the SNL offices at 18, I was a thesaurus and a couple class notches away from being a dilettante.  Scratch that - I just watched the 30 For 30 about Bo Jackson so you’ll excuse me for now revising this lifetime-held self-deprecating opinion into “I was blessed with natural talents in a variety of fields”. It’s liberating to be arrogant once in a while. Bo knows what I mean. Of course what I end up doing with those talents is where the revisionism stops because the results are too easily measured by my shared accommodation and paltry cable company paychecks.
 
After high-school and several years of musical theatre, I started writing and directing plays. Fun, right? It was fun. It was also stressful and maybe more than I bargained for at that age. Directing my own scripts seemed the most efficient way of rallying a group of friends into a company of bandits/actors/comedians/whatever-we-thought-we-were. It also meant irreparably changing the dynamics of those friendships. Now I was the bossy guy telling them what to do. Sometimes they’d scoff or mock to let you know you don’t have any authority over them and in the same afternoon come to you looking for answers to extratextual questions. We were earnest and self-serious enough that these scenarios were in play instead of us just drunkenly whipping racquetballs at each other's nuts but the former was bound to take the shine off the juvenile fun of the latter. You kind of wished you had Daniel Stern to narrate Wonder Years wisdom for you but we were left to struggle through it. I think we actually did some playful if precocious work (including one script where God is revealed to be a giant squirrel and another, a modern retelling of The Telltale Heart) and we’re all still friends so it can’t have been that traumatic for anyone. I often wish we’d kept at it but those years are about claiming your own territory and soon we were spread out across the country chasing different dreams. Mine became music.
 
I started playing music, in part, because I knew I’d never be that great at it. That may sound self-defeating but I recognized there were infinite challenges involved with it, especially starting at a relatively late age. I only started playing guitar at 16. I was fantasizing about being Eddie Van Halen at 12 but discovered John Hiatt at 14 and that somehow seemed more achievable. I was always drawn in by a good yarn and being that kid who would crack the album packaging on the bus ride home to read the lyrics first, it was inevitable that I would put those first chords to work not for virtuosity’s sake but for narrative’s.
 
It would take another next two years to convince my pride that it would be okay and necessary to suck at music for a while. You have to understand that my greatest musical accomplishment to that point had been playing the recorder through my nose in elementary school – true.  Even now, when I try to assimilate new music theory, my brain rebels at the math of it.  Being a slow learner combined and a lazy practitioner means the challenges I perceived in my youth are doubled by my stubbornness. I continue to toil away, mastery hilariously elusive.
 
Film and theatre were never far from my mind. I’m a compulsive movie watcher and performance would rear its head intermittently – improvised patter during EBH shows, occasional appearances in amateur shorts. In 2009, I was thrust back onto the stage for the first time in 11 years taking over a vacated role in a two-hander in Ottawa. Like most worthy ventures, it was terrifying and rewarding. I was encouraged to see that, though rusty, the tools were still there. That year (and into 2010) was I was laid off from my day job. The subsequent “EI Sabbatical” eventually resulted in the EBH Mars, Massachussetts album and my first full-length script in God knows how long – it’s amazing what you can accomplish as a gentleman of leisure. I actually just finished a third draft. I will tame that motherfucking script.
 
I’ve kept busy is the long and short of it; chipping in my services wherever and whenever I could as a musician, actor, audio engineer, writer, private eye, philosopher king, circus clown, assassin. More than a few of those projects went sideways while others went tremendously well. The goal was always just doing them, never a merit badge.  Yes, of course, external validation of your work is what allows you to keep creeating but not everyone is going to fawn over your every artistic move, right, every musician who’s ever released a double-album?
 
Even recently, when I asked Kris, “Are you happy with the movie you made?” He said yes but the question would be if anyone else liked it. Much depends on that: selling the movie, getting investment for future projects, building name recognition - I get it. However, since reactions to your output are beyond your control, there’s no more you can do than satisfy your own requirements for good work and keep challenging your abilities. See above, re: hilariously elusive. He didn’t need to be told, only reminded. Awaiting judgment on your obsessively attended-to project is a nerve-wracking time. Still, the conversation ended in agreement: if people don’t get it, fuck ‘em.
 
I’d like to think that this attitude is part of why Kris cast me in the first place. He knew I’d be game. And I was and everyone was patient and generous and fun and I hope it’s only the first of more opportunities I’ll have to be involved with movie making. The work of independent film can be laborious (a busy film set is a little like Doozers building down in Fraggle Rock) but everyone there, pitching in for little or no money, is a believer in the power of the medium. Which the Fraggles will then eat as a snack…? I may have lost my metaphorical way.
 
It’s all one thing: the music, the writing, the acting, the act of showing-up. It’s a way of life; one I have yet been willing to trade for other, more conventional models. There’s nothing wrong with those, I’m just not wired that way. I’m glad there will be evidence of that life via Songs She Wrote...  For its part, EBH is repped by Paul on drums for a scene and Brendan’s loaned Rickenbacker bass guitar. Our studio gear, accessories and décor make a variety of appearances in the film. There’s certainly a bit of G in me and me in he. Mostly pathos. And the restless spirit of the characters Carol, Dave and G are not so dissimilar to those of any of their creators, from Grip to Editor and everyone in between. The characters got to make a record. We got to make a movie. The reasons are academic. We just wanted to make it. So, go see it why dontcha?
 
 https://www.facebook.com/songsshewrote
 
** I’ll send updates from Toronto somewhere between the festival and a pilgrimage to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Stay tuned. **
 
 
 
 
 
 

Robin Williams 



Celebrity as a force in our world is no stronger or stranger than when a celebrity dies. Everyone has a reaction ranging from “who?” to “that person changed my life”, critical appraisals to snarky cheap shots on Twitter and they all add up to a surprisingly unfiltered composite of how that person made a mark on our world. It’s a little like taking a portrait, tearing it up into a thousand, tiny pieces and gluing it back together again. Somewhere, in the jagged seams of the mismatched and mangled pieces of that photograph is a legacy. 

Robin Williams taught me how to be funny. He wasn’t the only one, but he was an early one and ineffable… though I will try to do him justice. I don’t say that I’m funny boastfully but I do so tribally – I claim it like a family tartan. Funny has a higher currency to me than most things in my life. Funny is magical, difficult and terrifying, requiring a lot of work and study and repeated doses of failure. A good laugh is the best feeling in the world. Getting a laugh is a close second. I’m not a comedian by trade but I have the deepest respect for it in all of its professional guises: writing, stand-up, sketch, improv, acting, clowning, musical parody… aw, hell, even mime, why not? (Robin understood the perils of mime.) Funny is a gateway to a lot of living, notably sex and a social life, so I am ever thankful that I can manage, on occasion, to share a laugh with people.
 
Robin Williams arrived to most of us as an alien. I was barely past diapers when Mork and Mindy hit the airwaves but I relished every viewing because it always felt like a surprise. That was Robin’s greatest gift early on: his unpredictability. People knew that every time he was on TV something was going to happen –  a detonation of ridiculousness and irreverence and there was nothing else like him in the world at the time. There may never be again. It’s hilarious to me that Hollywood producers somehow shoe-horned him into Happy Days. Given the context of the show, it makes less than zero sense but audiences didn’t care because Richie was dopey and the Fonze was cool but this guy, this guy, was a live action Looney Tune.
 
Mork and Mindy was mostly terrible show in retrospect but it was there to provide a playground for the ebullient talents of its star. I wonder if Pam Dawber was enchanted like the viewing public or frustrated by having the most thankless role on television. Either way, she rode shotgun with Williams for years where the plots were as surreal as having Jonathan Winters, born from a giant egg, as their son or Mork channeling Mindy’s dead relatives while possessed in a haunted house. America was eating up pure nonsense in the 80’s, I guess. How else do you explain the rise of Conservatism? The Regulars were too busy Nanoo-nanoo-ing to see what was happening!! Mork may have been the alien but Reagan was the invader.
 
For me the real magic of Robin Williams came courtesy of home video. In the mid-80’s there was a video store up the street from my house which was so fancypants it had VHS one side of the store and Beta on the other. The Beta ghetto had limited selection and much of my early movie education was determined by scarcity. Krull and The Last Dragon aside, I was always drawn to stand-up concert movies. They had a mystique about them, these lone hunters prowling an empty stage, delivering extended and unfiltered insights about an R-rated adulthood only ever hinted at by their TV appearances.  The whitest, most sheltered preteen suburbanite suddenly had a view into a world of sex, drugs, race, class, parenthood, politics and neuroses thanks to such unlikely tour guides as Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, Stephen Wright, Richard Lewis, George Carlin and, of course, Robin. I would watch in fascination at these maestros conducted their audiences. So much of the material was completely over my head but I knew it had to be funny because the audience was in hysterics. And with Robin Williams, the words almost didn’t matter.
 
Robin’s command of a stage is unparalleled. His understanding of his own body language is precise and masterful. He knew how to play from the front row to the back of the room and from his face down to his fingertips he sold every voice, character and moment with absolute zeal and commitment. The performance that got endless replays in my VCR was A Night at the Met, from 1986. It’s on YouTube in a variety of forms: watch any given piece and just admire the dance. He moves like a ballerina, a feline, an explosion, a puppet, all within seconds of each other, his brain carrying the dizzying pace of his improvisations past the actual jokes and into every twitching muscle fiber. He’s like Batman or Buddy Rich – creating and adapting to every new moment with an endless array of tools and the expertise to make those weapons devastating.  He’ll catch you off guard, delivering a feint where you expect a hit and lay down beats so hard and heavy that, even as they overwhelm you, you have to marvel in the experience. A comic book hero and a Jazzman: I think he’d be okay with those comparisons.
 
This was all getting hardwired into my child’s sponge brain. My friends and I were watching these routines and ones that would follow from The Survivors or Good Morning Vietnam or Comic Relief and internalizing them. We were finding the rhythms and the inflections and slowly moving from repeating them to one another to make ourselves laugh to slipping them, seamlessly we hoped, into our own everyday conversations out in the wild. When they worked we mentally high-fived each other and bowed to Sensei Robin. When we got it wrong, off by just a word or pitched incorrectly by mere cents, we went back to the basement dojo and rewind the lesson.
 
I was given the gift of a stage in 1986 through my city’s remarkable children’s theatre program and I prowled that proscenium for 6 straight years. I stole liberally from the names listed above and more: Python, SCTV, SNL, Bob Newhart, Nichols & May, Albert Brooks, Mel Brooks, and Woody Allen. (Yes, I knew of all these people when I was 12. One of the local FM rock stations used to play a show on Sunday nights called The Comedy Bowl where they ran comedy albums into the hours well past my bedtime and it was far more essential listening to me than most of the music they programmed.) Every laugh I earned over the years on that stage was a precocious calibration of the dialogue and choreography I was given and the distillation, as best as I could muster/fake, from the work of geniuses. I guarantee that if any video survives from then that I can be seen, on several occasions, striking a Robin Williams pose on the stage: chest out, arms back, legs primed to dance, leap or strut into the next moment, eyes shimmering, not so surreptitiously scanning the crowd for both approval and obeisance.
 
I see that every time I watch Robin – there is equal measure of “love me” and “gotcha” in his expression. He loves to perform, he knows he’s good at it but he doesn’t always trust it. The laughter is both a triumph and a reassurance. It’s something that never changed in him over the years that I found extraordinary: He could never entirely mask the vulnerability. But then, I think that’s also why he is so beloved because, while he always wore the armor of his persona, those moments in between the jokes were where his humanity blossomed.
 
Maybe a tribute like this would be more meaningful coming from someone famous or successful but I want to express how there’s a relationship between me and this famous person that is not abstract. I’ll never get to tell him so and I’ll never, as I often daydreamed, get to be his peer or playmate but he has a real and lasting impact on my life. He’s a teacher as important to me as any I had in school. He’s an inspiration. I suspect, based on all the tributes I’ve read in the last couple of days and knowing some anecdotes from local comedians and film folk, that he might have had even more to teach offstage than on.
 
I never met him though we shared some space once when he came into the bookstore I worked at. I was impressed by his lack of pretension. He wore a backpack and a backwards Kangol hat and joked quietly with the staff. He neither turned up the volume nor avoided interaction; he was just being a real, funny person. I’d seen plenty of other lesser celebrities come through that store without even an ounce of his grace and charm. But that’s it. He walked into my world, stood a few feet away, made me smile and left. I’ll take it.
 
Over the coming days and weeks, better eulogies and analyses will pour in. More qualified people will speak to issues of mental health and addiction. There will be too much talk of loss but we will be blessed with a resurgence of interest in his canon that is vast and flawed and impressive. We will get to remember him in repeat viewings as a magical creature, a gentle healer and a furious outsider. You can pick your own film titles to match to those roles. You’ll be surprised how many fit all three.
 
I’m happiest to remember him above all as just straight up fucking hilarious.
 
That’s my tiny piece of the portrait. Affix it somewhere onto the whole. I don’t know which part it fills in. Maybe a piece of chest hair.
 

Blog in the Saddle Again! 

You have to excuse the post title but, damn, I do love terrible puns.


Well, folks, you know, every time a few weeks then months go by and I haven't written anything I always come back with the same notion that I'm going to be a more consistent blogger, this time for reals!! Well, I think I have to finally admit that it ain't gonna happen. Don't get me wrong, I love to write and I'm writing constantly: new songs, scripts (yes, I live in Vancouver and write screenplays - the only thing more cliche would be doing it in LA) and even hockey articles but the EBH-specific updates don't always come fast and furious. I tell ya what - I'll try to be more proactive if you keep trying to make us famous. Deal? Deal. And so to that end...

We're working on a new record! Yup, the experiment of fully self-sufficient recording with the Rover EP was a rousing success for us so we're going ahead with a similar process to record the new full-length. I'll offer up details as we putter along but the broad strokes are this: we've got at least 14 new songs that we've chosen, many of which have been in our set for the last couple of years. We're finally going to have cleared the musical backlog and deliver many of your favourite EBH jams to your eager ears come winter! Then by the time the next record is ready we may have totally reinvented our sound to become some unholy cross between Krafwerk and Dio. That sounds pretty cool, actually. Anyway, we're continuing down the path of leaner arrangements and tighter songs. There's a couple sprawling numbers, as always, but I think overall you'll find this will be the "rockiest" record of ours thus far with songs that tip the hat to 70's power pop, Motown and, of course, our beloved signature jangle and spank.


Also, not for nothing, we've entered ourselves into the CBC searchlight contest. I honestly don't know what we win but if it's nothing more than praise from Peter Mansbridge and the firing of Kevin O'Leary, then I'll be satisfied. Honestly, we realize our whole career has ranged between "I think I've heard of you" to "I've never heard of you" and we'd prefer that were not the case. Oh, sure, we might not ever achieve the level of having somebody vomit on us at a corporate-sponsored event at SXSW but we can dream, can't we? Share the dream, make it your own and your children's dream too. Their dream will take the shape of our perennial classic pop ear worm, Kiss Me Kate. There's even a very tenuous CBC connection to the song, didja know that? All will be revealed in due time. So head over to our CBC band page and make this Canada's new summer jam for 2014. Prove to them that timeless is indeed timeless.



Did that just make us sound like a car ad? I dunno. Someone go find Dylan and ask him.


Thanks for stopping by, friends. let's do this more often.

RS

Radio is the sound salvation! 

Okay, well, Elvis wasn't saying anything nice about radio in his song but radio is great when done by people who give a damn - like the good folks over at CITR! Be sure to join us, Tues. May 7 at 11:30 AM Pacific for some talking and playing of songs and some relationship advice and some BBQ tips and some paternaty tests... it's gonna be fun! See you...uh... hear you then! (Click on the ostrich. He likes it.)


High Flyin' Bird... 

Hey, folks, check out the new blog post on Richie Havens! If you didn't know his music, it's well worth a glance and a listen. Look under the Blog Heater tab. Have fun.

And don't forget about our show coming up, May 10! Details just above you in the Events section...

Aaaand, have you found and liked our FB page yet? There's good stuff there, not just cheap, repetitive self-promotion... uh... like this? 

(Smokebomb, Batman grappling-hook stealth exit.)


And The Winner Is... 

Hey, remember when we asked everyone to chime in on which EP cover art they liked best? Well, you guys had lots of opinions on the two finalists but the winner, just by a nose, is... the Hydrant!

Don't feel bad Doghouse lovers, it may live on in another format but I think the overall sense was that people just kind of liked the humour of the Hydrant. Since we have never thought of ourselves as the most serious band in the world, we're more than happy to acquiesce to your collective funny bone. Plus we like that it builds on our Space Douche comic book world. Can action figures and a Saturday morning cartoon be far away?

We thought it might be cool for you to be able to see the evolution of the sketvches that Barret did for us.  Have a gander below! My apologies to B Chaps if they're distorted at all in my efforts to put them all in one jpeg.

Thanks again to all who bother to write and comment. we're always thrilled that anyone bothers to pay attention. More stuff coming soon - not the least of which: The new EP!! Stay tuned, True Belivers,

Smithee



 
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