Blues-rocking Trews like to keep things interesting



By Steve Newton

Niagara Falls based guitar-rockers the Trews have a memorable bio making the rounds in the music press. Sure, the quartet’s Sony Music promo sheet is typical in that it comes off as a rave about the band, but the way it’s done is unique.

For example, bassist Jack Syperek is described as “a forty-foot boner squeezed into Montgomery Clift’s haircut”, and the group as a whole is labelled as “four saucer-eyed and clueless pixies”. As singer and rhythm guitarist Colin MacDonald explains from a van en route to Medicine Hat–after a gig in Lethbridge, opening for Nickelback–the Trews had gonzo Vancouver scribe Adrian Mack pen the bio.

“He’s just a really great writer, and we wanted something kind of funny and entertaining to look at,” MacDonald says of the John Ford drummer, who contributes a caustic column, Adrian Mack Is an Idiot, for local music monthly the Nerve. “Like, the last thing anybody wants to see is: ‘Colin was born on May 31, 1978, and he likes Metallica.’ ”

Any fanzine-style portrayal of the 25-year-old MacDonald would also point out that he and his mates are really into AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. In fact, it may have been the Trews’ fondness for bluesy, guitar-driven rock that led them to acquire the production services of Gordie Johnson. After meeting the Big Sugar frontman in 2001 at the Jeff Healey ­owned Healey’s Bar in Toronto, where the Trews had a weekly gig, they got him to produce, engineer, and mix their debut CD, House of Ill Fame.
By all accounts, Johnson brought his radio-friendly approach to the sessions: the disc’s first single, “Not Ready to Go”, was recently No. 1 on Canadian rock radio. Local noisemakers CFOX put the tune in heavy rotation and have booked the Trews to join the likes of the Offspring and Bif Naked at FoxFest, scheduled for the Plaza of Nations on Saturday (April 10). The quartet will also play a free first-come, first-served show at the Media Club on Monday (April 12), then take its rollicking racket to the Fraser Valley for a gig at Abbotsford’s City Limits Cabaret on Wednesday (April 14).
MacDonald, his younger lead-guitarist brother John-Angus, and Syperek formed the Trews in high school in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and drummer Sean Dalton–a cousin of the MacDonalds–moved over from Newfoundland to join them two-and-a-half years ago.

The band’s tight family ties extend beyond the human realm. There’s a shout-out in the CD’s credits to “the ambassador of love, Paul Steven Caillou”, the brothers’ beloved Labrador retriever. Sadly, he got hit by a car and killed four months before the release of House of Ill Fame. “His name was just Caillou,” MacDonald explains, “but we added the ‘Paul Steven’ for humorous effect, ’cause there’s nothing funnier than a dog with a really big name.”

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