© Tara Bradbury/The Telegram
The Trews (from left) Jack Syperek, John-Angus MacDonald, Sean Dalton and Colin MacDonald, kick of Newfoundland tour dates Wednesday night at Club One in St. John’s. — Submitted photo
They came together in Nova Scotia and found success in Ontario, but it will be something of a homecoming when The Trews return to the island for a string of shows in St. John’s, Clarenville, Marystown and Lewisporte.
It’s been almost a decade since the Toronto-based rock quartet burst onto the Canadian music scene with the radio hit “Not Ready To Go,” and if any two words best characterize their career since then, they are “consistent” and “momentum.”
Brothers Colin and John-Angus MacDonald spent seven years of their youth in St. John’s, but it was after their move to Antigonish during high school that the two formed the band One I’d Trouser,’ The Trews’ earliest incarnation.
“There’s a lot of things going on when you’re 15 and starting a band,” recalls John-Angus, the band’s guitarist. “You don’t really look ahead to when you’re going to be 30. It’s more just about having a good time, and I guess you’re trying to get attention for yourself in a weird way.”
In the late 90s, when both brothers were finished high school, they hit the road with bandmates Rose Murphy and Ramsey Clark and toured to British Columbia and back.
“We got a taste for the road,” says MacDonald. “When we got back we decided we wanted to be somewhere where we could tour more consistently.
“We ended up crashing on a floor in Buffalo, New York, with a guy who agreed to manage us,” he continues. “We stayed with him for two or three weeks and were looking for a place to live, and it landed us in Niagara Falls, which is kind of strange in hindsight, but made sense at the time — just pay the rent, play music all the time.”
The band’s high energy performances earned them weekly gigs at bars in Niagara, Hamilton and Toronto, where they steadily built up a Southern Ontario fan base.
A rock radio contest win in 2002 ignited the flame and within months the band was working on a debut album with Canadian producer Gordie Johnson.
“House of Ill Fame,” released in 2003, and a cross-country tour introduced the rest of Canada to The Trews’ trademark melodic riffs and their amiable harmonic craftsmanship.
The departure of Murphy and Clark saw the band welcome Jack Syperek on bass and the MacDonald brothers’ cousin, and St. John’s native, Sean Dalton on drums.
With the hand of acclaimed producer Jack Douglas, the band’s 2005 recording “Den of Thieves” spawned another number one hit, “Yearning,” and other enthusiastically received singles.
“We kind of had this feeling that the sky was the limit,” MacDonald recalls. “Especially with a producer like Jack, we felt like we could do anything, and that energy translated on to the record and into the spirit of what we were doing.”
The band members found themselves in the spotlight again, opening for acts like The Rolling Stones and Robert Plant, and eventually penetrating the American market with an extensive U.S. tour.
Though 2008’s “No Time For Later” was both lyrically and musically darker, the band continued to build on the steady foundation it had created with its past albums and the momentum continued.
“I think a lot of the lyrics are reflected in observing America and getting to know it for the first time,” MacDonald explains.
A felt sense of unease, however, prompted The Trews to release a live record before going into the studio again.
“(We) toured the acoustic record twice and it sort of breathed new life into the band and into the songs,” MacDonald explains. “And we noticed that certain songs we never even thought to play in our electric set connected amazingly well with the audience, so it gave us the confidence to explore that side of the band a little more.”
After the second leg of that tour the band got in touch with Gord Sinclair of The Tragically Hip, who offered up the Hip’s Bathhouse Recording Studio as a sanctuary.
The result, 2011’s “Hope and Ruin” (co-produced by Sinclair and MacDonald), features some of the band’s most “quiet and intimate” moments, and “some of the heaviest, rockin’ stuff we’ve ever done,” says MacDonald.
“We’re always pushing ourselves and, at the end of the day, you’re chasing the best song. And that’s sort of a really abstract concept but, you know, you’re always listening, always taking stuff in and always growing as a person and as a player ... but when it comes time to make a record you’re chasing the best bits, the most memorable stuff.”
The Trews’ Newfoundland tour will kick off Wednesday at Club One in St. John’s and continue on to Clarenville Aug. 4, Marystown Aug. 5, and Lewisporte Aug. 6.
For more information visit www.thetrewsmusic.com.