In the summer of 1993, Thomas Trio and the Red Albino were on the verge of making it big. With two records under their belt, a licensing deal with MCA Records and a couple of videos on rotation on MuchMusic, the St. John’s-based rock/ska band had fans across the country.
And then, just like that, they quit.
It wasn’t because of a falling out or artistic differences; it was just that life was leading the four members down different paths.
“It just sort of took its toll on us, I guess,” drummer Louis Thomas explained. “Jody, Lil and Danny all had very young kids at the time. We just got to a point where it felt like it was struggling, and that was really it. It was just like, ‘This is just getting tough, and no one really put up resistance or said no, let’s keep going.’ We weren’t in a position like maybe other groups are in that we could replace someone — that is the band, and that will always be the band. It was one of those things where it was disappointing, but at the same time I think we were all generally OK with it.”
And that was that.
The band had started out in 1989 with brothers Louis (drums), Lil (guitar) and Danny (bass) Thomas, calling themselves the Thomas Trio. Singer Jody Richardson was added shortly thereafter, and the group’s name was changed. They released two records — 1989’s “Jam it In Ya” and a self-titled album in 1992 — and brought home a number of provincial, regional and national awards.
Though the guys did reunite in 1997 for a benefit concert, not much has been heard from the band since, although all the members have stayed connected to the music industry. Jody is known for his band the Pathological Lovers and composes scores for film; while the Thomas brothers all live in Halifax. Louis manages artists such as Great Big Sea, Hey Rosetta!, Wintersleep and Matt Mays through his company Sonic Entertainment Group. Danny is in production management, and Lil runs the audio department for a secondary school and plays in a soul/funk band called the Mellotones. Louis and Lil co-own Halifax’s Sonic Temple recording studio.
They’ve never gotten together for a reunion show, until now: Thomas Trio and the Red Albino will play five gigs in St. John’s over the next week.
Jody approached Louis with the idea, and it didn’t take any arm-twisting for the brothers to come on board. A playlist of the band’s old songs was loaded onto their iPhones and they spent a few months listening to them before Louis, Danny and Lil started getting together to work them out. Jody first went up to jam last May.
“The first time Jody showed up, it was great hearing him sing the songs,” Louis said. “Just to hear his voice was great. There are definitely a few rusty parts, but there are lots of times when we’re like, ‘OK, this is sounding exactly like we remembered it.’ It was good, it’s fun.”
Anyone who ever went to a Thomas Trio and the Red Albino show in the late ’80s or early ’90s knows they can be hardcore, in the most fun sense of the word. Jody, barefoot and hyper, seemed to explode energy over the crowd, who then took it on. It’s no surprise that, left alone for the past 20 years, some of the band’s tunes might seem a little intense to the guys now.
“There were a few that we like, ‘What did we do this for?’ or ‘Why did we actually think this was a good idea at the time?’,” Louis said, laughing. “But it’s not like we’re going to change it now.”
That’s exactly what Thomas Trio and the Red Albino fans want to hear, and Louis said the guys are hoping to pick up right where they left off.
“We’ve learned some new covers and stuff that I think everyone will like. We want the shows to be fun, at the end of the day,” he said. “None of us want people to come in and go, ‘Oh God, look at those old farts up there trying to struggle through a set. We want to deliver it the way people remember it; that was our goal when we said if we’re going this, we want to do it right.”
Thomas Trio and the Red Albino will play at The Ship tonight and Tuesday night, and the Delta hotel Thursday and Friday nights. Tickets for some shows sold out within hours of going on sale last spring, and as a result, a new batch of tickets was recently released. They’re available online at www.sonicconcerts.com.
The band will also headline the George Street Festival Tuesday night. Tickets for that show are available online at www.georgestreetlive.ca.
When asked if the rekindled group might lead to the recording of a new record, Louis was doubtful.
“No, I don’t think anyone has the time,” he said, adding it hadn’t been discussed. “This was really about coming back to where the band started and doing some shows, quite frankly.”