Stupid fun

Justin Brake
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One-time Rheostatic Dave Bidini brings his new band to St. John's

"You can't deny the fact that rock 'n' roll is just stupid fun, really." These words, imparted by Dave Bidini, come as a surprise.

A novelist, playwright, National Post columnist, filmmaker and world traveller, Bidini attributes his professional success to 27 years of recording and touring with the Rheostatics, a rock band he co-founded in 1980 with three other hopeful kids from Etobicoke, Ont.

Photo illustration by The Telegram

"You can't deny the fact that rock 'n' roll is just stupid fun, really." These words, imparted by Dave Bidini, come as a surprise.

A novelist, playwright, National Post columnist, filmmaker and world traveller, Bidini attributes his professional success to 27 years of recording and touring with the Rheostatics, a rock band he co-founded in 1980 with three other hopeful kids from Etobicoke, Ont.

It was, in fact, rock 'n' roll that got Bidini out of the suburbs and into Toronto's new wave music scene. The rest is history.

He is resolute in relating the Rheostatics' legacy, as one of Canada's most iconic indie bands, to his new solo project.

"Here I am, 46, and it doesn't feel that strange or exotic to me because as a band and as players (the Rheostatics) always felt sort of old. We never bought into the rock 'n' roll youth really, even though we might have been part of it at one time. We started to do our thing and our sound started to come together in '85. We were really slowing things down where a lot of other people were speeding it up, and we were writing longer kind of folk epics, that sort of thing. So in a way we kind of inhabited an older kind of sensibility, I suppose."

That sensibility, he says, seeps into other projects, including his new musical venture, BidiniBand, which will make its Newfoundland debut tonight at The Ship Pub in St. John's.

"As you continue to play you want to capture that feeling of being on stage with a band where the heart starts to race a little harder and ... you start to point the song toward a place it really shouldn't go just because you're really excited," he explains. "Even with the new band, it's about trying things that serve that sense of adventure that's shared by the band and the audience."

Like the Rheostatics' "art-rock" or "prog-rock," as it's been labelled by music critics, BidiniBand's sensibility is both quirky and serious.

"The Land is Wild," released last year, is their first effort.

The presence of Rheostatics alumnus Don Kerr, who holds dual duty as drummer and producer, coalesces with Bidini's unique songwriting mannerisms in shaping an inevitable byproduct of their former band.

Bidini admits the album contains "more songs about dead hockey players, cannibalism and lesbian school teachers" and is flattered by the Rheostatics comparisons.

"Maybe my songs have a certain kind of approach, an attack," he says. "But I think it's more about the way the music is put together, more about the way music feels when you listen to it. It feels like it's perhaps coming from a committed place, a feeling like it's sort of adventurous and moving. I guess in that way it represents a lot of what we've cultivated, and how can it not? I mean, you spend 27 years working on this thing ... and in the early days of working on this new band we weren't necessarily consciously trying to get away from it."

Interestingly, Kerr and Bidini are joined by longtime Rheostatics fans Paul Linklater and Doug Friesen.

"They would write to the band when they were living out in the Prairies in the early 1990s," Bidini explains. "They were fans of the band, so they cut their teeth and grew up listening to 'Melville' and 'Whale Music' and all those records. So when they came to the band and we started playing together, I didn't have to re-learn any ways of communicating. They totally knew, which is great."

Not surprisingly then, "The Land is Wild" falls into the experimental Canadian art-rock category the Rheostatics fashioned years ago, if any classification is justified at all.

And contrary to his earlier comments on rock 'n' roll, Bidini admits it's a part of everything he does.

"Just as I start to come out of doing some TV writing or newspaper writing, I'll probably start into a new book, and in between working on this book I'll have eight shows," he explains. "So you get out into this big swirl of rock 'n' roll and then you come back and you're still soaking from it and that sweat gets splattered on the page."

BidiniBand is joined by the Pathological Lovers tonight at The Ship Pub. Showtime is 10:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.mightypop.ca.

Organizations: National Post, The Ship Pub

Geographic location: St. John's, Etobicoke, Toronto Canada Newfoundland

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