New Works Magazine: Music In Halifax 1985
"None of us gets as
an audience as we want."
Tim Brennan of the Lone Stars, 1985
Around the House, a young new music band, plays almost all original
material. Their songs, electronic and danceable, are similar to
some of the hit music being played on Top 40 radio, but bass player
and songwriter Jim Parker insists the band is playing what they
want to play, not just what gets them into clubs. "If we
were playing to get into clubs, we'd play covers," Parker
has done well in the city. The band won a place on the Q104 Homegrown
album and finished second place in the semifinals of CBC's Rock
Wars contest. Steps has played several clubs in Halifax and "Just
about every university in the Maritimes". This summer, Steps
Around the House played the Natal Day weekend Concert on the Hill
with Toronto's New Regime, and played four weeks at the Odeon.
think a band needs $80,000 in lighting and sound equipment and
ten years experience playing covers before it can
'be a band,'" Parker says. "A lot of people seem to
get stalled on the Maritimes club circuit."
says the four weeks at the Odeon were great for the band. They
made some money and got to work on their music in front of an
audience. He says the band improved enormously in those weeks.
But while waiting for the video screen to roll up, the band talked
about where they'd rather be.
done everything we can do here. There's really no place left for
us to play," Parker says.
stagnating. We need new surroundings. Everyone in the band is
getting really restless. It's so extreme a couple of the guys
are saying they don't want to be here when the first flakes of
says he used to think Halifax was the only city where bar managers
prefer cover bands to original acts. He says he no longer expects
Toronto to be different. But at least there will be a greater
number of bars and universities to play. And the national recording
and promoting industry, including the band's management company,
does most of its business in Ontario.
Hiltz, vocalist and songwriter for the Realists, played in Toronto
for a year and wasn't that impressed with the opportunities. "It's
not like you go to Toronto and suddenly you've made it."
Hiltz says Toronto is full of bands talking about London, England.
however, does think Halifax is too small to support a new music
scene. "Ten years from now it might be a good idea to have
a new music scene around here, but for now we're going to keep
struggling, and that's what it is, a struggle."
Mike Brennan of the Lone Stars, 1985
says Steps Around the House and the Realists are, so far as he
knows, the only pop bands in town that can play a gig with all
original material. "They're doing a hell of a lot better
than us," he says. The Realists play an unfashionable style
of rock, influenced by underground bands of the late Sixties and
early Seventies such as Lou Reed's Velvet Underground. Hiltz describes
his band as "relatively progressive."
don't have much of a following. "Our audience is mostly 15
year olds, it seems."
think to myself, I've been playing in this band ... in versions
of this band ... for six years. Maybe in 15 years I'll get some
doesn't make it easy for himself. The band isn't interested in
most bars in town. To play at Secretary's or the Misty Moon would
be "Just asking to be kicked around by the audience,"
also isn't interested in playing in any place where his concert
will be broken into half hour or forty-five minute sets. "To
open for a new music band that has a record contract and is known
nationally, that would be a good concert for us," Hiltz says.
The Realists opened for Jane Siberry last year at Dalhousie and
for the Spoons this month.
can afford to play only the gigs it thinks will be of artistic
benefit, Hiltz says. "It's not my livelihood. It's a purely
creative function for me. I don't need to play three times a week
to pay the rent."
who has a degree In filmmaking, works full-time for an advertising
company. One Realist is taking his masters in physics; another
wants to be a mathematician. "Everyone in the band has other
things going," Hiltz says. "One thing you learn quick
around here, you better have something good to fall back on if
you think you're a musician."
of the Lone Stars, the Water Street Blues Band, and many other
popular Halifax bar bands are only part-time musicians.
Hilfiker, vocalist with blues band Theo and the Classifieds, has
lived in Halifax since 1975. Hilfiker worked full-time for three
of those years as a solo act, playing music he didn't like playing.
Herefers tohis solo act as "a commercial venture" and
says it's an experience he won't repeat.
guys can play it and make it sound sincere. I'm not one of those
guys. Eventually I just had to say 'Can that shit', put the band
together and see what would happen."
and the Classifieds have played at the Middle Deck and other bars
in town, but Hilfiker says they haven't had enough work to brag
about. Each of the five members either works in other bands or
relies on other sources of income. "The thing I want most
of all is to be a full time musician," Hilfiker says.
think a lot of the realty good players are getting the shaft because
they're dedicated to playing something other than Top 40,"
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