By BRUCE DENNILL
Calagary, Canada-based band The Wisers make honest, ballsy blues-rock. Singer Chad Thomas shares some thoughts.
Operating as musicians creating original music in Canada, what are your thoughts on the way the industry is set up there? The grant system, national talent competitions with proper cash incentives and so on – there’s a big focus on supporting home-grown talent there.
Chad Thomas: We’re very fortunate to be Canadian musicians. There’s a strong community here, and a lot of support waiting for you if you combine hard work with great music. In hindsight I wish somebody had kicked my ass a long time ago and turned me on to this stuff – I’d be a lot further along as a musician. I kind of had my head up my ass in earlier years.
For all that, many of the impressive list of big Canadian acts (from Neil Young to Justin Bieber) leave the country to work in the States or elsewhere. Is that down to the relative earning power? Or put another way, are Canadians at good at supporting music as they are at making it?
I’m no music biz wizard, but I can tell you that this is a difficult country to tour, with very long treks between major markets. It’s damned expensive to travel across this beautiful country versus a place like the USA where you can drive a couple of hours to the next giant chunk of people. I think it’s just a population thing, or as you’ve said, relative earning power. I think Canadians are good at supporting our own music, thanks in part to things like CANCON [a scheme that dictates quotas for Canadian material on broadcast channels] that put a lot of Canadian content in front of us daily.
Blues-rock remains a popular genre all over the world (Jet from Australia; Primal Scream from the UK; Shadowclub from South Africa and others could use a song like The Wiser’s Get Low to get their careers up and running again). This is great from a general audience availability point of view, but it does mean you need a facet of your act to stand out so that you don’t just get lumped in with other bands with similar influences. Do you feel that’s a valid observation? If not, why and if so, what is that facet?
Valid observation. This is something we’re quite aware of as a newer band trying to establish ourselves. It does matter, and it doesn’t. Comparisons to other bands are a great thing these days with so much content out there, but it’s true you want to differentiate. To be honest, we have no clue what that facet of our act is, but we’re going to keep on moving and find our niche as we continue to develop and create and tour and build stories and all the rest.
How much does the “growing the legend” aspect of rock and roll matter to you? There are already great stories about stoned stalkers breaking into the Bathouse [the studio where The Wisers recorded their debut album] to provide you with album titles and the like. Are you the sort to go looking for experiences to enrich The Wisers’ story or is it more important to just stay focused and make sure you get the basics right?
We want to get the basics right. That said, if you get out there the stories are waiting, the world is full of strange and interesting creatures. Nothing makes a terrible gig in Kamloops more memorable than a couple of characters like the coked-out, drug-slinging, King Julian-esque [referencing a character for the film Madagascar] character named Gary and his reluctant pal glued to the bar swearing at me on repeat as I sing.
Do you have a plan or a time-frame in terms of taking The Wisers beyond Calgary? Are there specific places you’d like to tour, and for what reasons? Are there sacrifices you’re not prepared to make that might or are already put limits on how far the band can go? Families, jobs, and so on?
Yep, we do. We’re currently working out the details of this as there’s a lot to think about, and we want to be smart. We have some limits and priorities individually, but we have to deal with those one at a time, depending on the plans and opportunities. Canada and the US are the only places we currently have our sights on, as going across the ocean would require a pretty solid business case to make it anything more than a glorified band vacation.
The Wisers’ debut album It’s Safe I’m Not Here is available now.