ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 12, 2000
By Steve Newton
Treble Charger’s current record-company bio states that for its latest CD, Wide Awake Bored, the Toronto power-pop quartet was “united with a singular vision: to follow in the footsteps of the old masters of the true rock song—bands like Cheap Trick, Steve Miller, Todd Rundgren”.
But when Treble Charger guitarist-vocalist Bill Priddle hooks up with the Straight on the line from Hogtown, and I explain that those were three of my faves in the ’70s too, he points out one glaring error. It turns out that the person who wrote the bio for BMG Music Canada must have been more of a Todd Rundgren fan than the band itself.
“I don’t know where they got the Todd Rundgren thing,” says Priddle. “I don’t think any of us are real Todd Rundgren fans. Cheap Trick and Steve Miller, definitely. But we did have a mandate to make a rock record, to have more up-tempo songs, and that partly grew out of the fact that we had so many mid-tempo and slow songs on our other album that it was hard to put a set together. It seemed like before this album a lot of our fast songs weren’t our best songs, but I think we changed that around.”
With robust tunes like “American Psycho”, “Business”, and “Wear Me Down”, Treble Charger should have no problem filling its quota of upbeat selections this time around. Tunes like that also give Priddle the opportunity to indulge in one of his favourite pastimes: ’70s lead-guitar wanking.
“Yep, there’s a bit of that goin’ on,” he admits. “Our producer and I had a lot of fun with that. We had that one song, ‘Favourite Worst Enemy’, where we decided to do it Boston-style and switch the sound in the middle of the solo, where it’s like the sort of bitey sound, then the sort of Slash sound.”
The producer of Wide Awake Bored, the quartet’s worthy follow-up to its ’97 debut, Maybe It’s Me, was Matt Hyde, best-known for his work with Porno for Pyros. Following a North American tour with the Foo Fighters, Treble Charger holed up with Hyde at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California, and the band was soon impressed with the latter’s “many and varied” talents.
“He won me over very early on,” Priddle reports, “when we were doing preproduction on the song ‘I Don’t Know’, and he said, ‘Oh, why don’t you put a modulation at the end?’ A key change. And I said, ‘Well, will that work out of these chords?’ and he said, ‘Oh yeah, it’ll work.’ And then I went through the chords, and it did work, so I was like, ‘Oh, you know your stuff.’
“Compared to the last album,” Priddle adds, “which Lou Giordano did, Matt was a little more stringent about songwriting. He said, ‘I’m gonna bust you guys on the lyrics; all the songs have to make sense.’ So he kept at us about lyrics, and he just had a knack of listening for what no one else heard. I mean, we did a lotta demos and sent them out to a lot of producers, and Matt was the only guy that bit, because he had the vision to see what he could do with it. He came in and said, ‘This isn’t a chorus, this is a bridge. This is the chorus,’ and switched the arrangements around.”
With an America-wide release set for March on Nettwerk Records—the band is also handled by the management arm of the Vancouver-based label—it might not be long before Treble Charger is big in the States. But in the meantime, Lower Mainland fans can see Priddle, guitarist-vocalist Greig Nori, bassist Rosie Martin, and drummer Trevor MacGregor in action when they come out west to take part in a contest-winners-only promotional gig sponsored by XFM. Paying customers can check them out at Garfinkle’s in Whistler on Friday (October 13), the Starfish Room on Monday (October 16), and China Beach in Langley on Tuesday (October 17).
“We’ve always done really well in Ontario,” notes Priddle, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, “but struggled a bit to sell records in the West, so it’s good for us to be able to spend more time out there. It’s almost like a bit of a residency. And then we’ll come back in December on a full Canadian tour and maybe play the Commodore.”