Ian Blurton says a major label wouldn’t have let Change of Heart make the sprawling Smile


By Steve Newton

You’ve got to give Change of Heart a lot of credit for hanging in despite adversity. While piles of former college-radio faves from Seattle are lining up to sign lucrative major-label deals, the independent Toronto quartet is satisfied doing things its own way—and has been for more than 10 years.

“We’ve talked to people who work for major labels,” says singer/guitarist Ian Blurton, “but it’s not like we’re actively going out and looking for a major-label deal. I mean, a major label wouldn’t have let us do Smile [the band’s most recent release, a sprawling 74-minute CD], and—even though we’re getting some bad reviews on the length of it—we feel as a band that it was something we had to do. I guess we all really believe in the independent music thing, and we like that freedom.”

For Smile, Blurton and his mates—bassist Rob Taylor, keyboardist Bernard Maiezza, and current Blue Rodeo drummer Glenn Milchem—spent three days recording live, direct to tape, with long-time producer Michael Phillip-Wojewedo at the controls. The result mixes punky rock, moody pop, garage-band metal, and even light jazz into a 21-track alternative epic.

Blurton says the group had good reason to cram as much music as possible onto one CD.

“In ’91, after [drummer] Ron Duffy left, we had most of that year off and we had written a lot of songs,” he notes. “We wanted to just clear out the closet, so to speak, and start over again. And we had been joking around, saying we were gonna do a double album for quite a while. It just seemed like the stupidest thing to do at the time, so we did it.”

It was far from a stupid thing to the dedicated cult of college-radio fans who’ve been following the group since its first indie release, 1982’s Subliminal Jive. Many of those long-time fans will, no doubt, invade the Cruel Elephant on Saturday (November 14), when Change of Heart performs on a bill with Trash Can School and the Jack O Nuts. It’s that particular crowd—and the radio programmers who feed it—that Blurton feels most indebted to these days. And he’s not concerned about the band being cast as an eternal college-radio act.

“If there’s no outlets that are giving you what you need in terms of promotion as a band, and college radio’s doing it for free without even knowing you, I’m not gonna complain. That’s a beautiful thing, that you can be mildly successful with no promo, because there are people out there who are looking for new music. I mean, if it was up to commercial FM radio, most bands in this country would starve, anyway.”

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