Vancouver blues-rock party band the Fins just wants chicks, coke, Cadillacs–and money


By Steve Newton

“Occasionally you get booked into a room that’s just the pits,” points out Dave Chisholm of the Fins, a local blues-rock outfit that’s currently paying dues and honing licks on steady road trips to the interior of B.C. and Yukon Territories. In a spare room above Archie’s Pub–where the band was tearing things up all last week–Chisholm recalled a particularly forgettable gig that occurred during the group’s latest tour.

“We played one room in Invermere where the locals seemed to hate everybody that’s not from there. And not only that, but the guys would leave their wives at home when they come out to drink. So you’ve got 60, 80 guys, and what we’re doing is we’re interrupting their conversation. You know, were destroying the last 20 minutes of the hockey game or something–it’s real wild!

“But as long as people are dancing it’s cool. Once people are drunk, then we just crank up the beat and it’s no problem.”

The Fins had it cranked up at Archie’s last week, and it was no problem. The draft beer was flowing madly and so were the people to the dance floor. As you’re reading this the band–comprised of Chisholm, guitarist Matt Steffich, bassist Bruce Morrison, keyboardist George Capone, and newly-recruited drummer Trevor Cutler–is trying to achieve the same results way up in Whitehorse.

But if the Fins have their way, soon they’ll be able to make ends meet without having to play such out-of-the-way venues. Their main objective at the moment is to break into the “A” club circuit, says Dave.

“Every week in the [Georgia] Straight we see new bands saying, ‘We can’t play the top 40 bars because we’ve chosen to play really groovy material.’ I just want to go against that and say, ‘As soon as we’re good enough, we will be playing the Top 40 bars.’ With us, it’s not like ‘We can play Top 40 for sure, but we don’t because we have artistic integrity.’ We have no integrity at all. We’re after money–we want a lot of chicks, we want coke and we want Cadillacs.

“We’ve chosen to play the material we do because it’s what we can play–we can’t play the other stuff. Inevitably a band plays what they can play, and I think that’s all there is to it. We have been getting better, but we still have to get a little bit more image and a little more polish. We have a real loose boogie feel.”

The Fins play old blues standards and new tunes by the likes of Downchild and Powder Blues, but all-out rockers are prevalent as well. According to Chisholm, the gritty and uninhibited sound peculiar to the Rolling Stones is near and dear to the Fin members’ hearts.

“Sometimes you can give up a little bit of sloppiness. Lose a little and gain a little. And not to say that I condone mistakes, but a little grit in there is okay. You know the Stones’ approach is cool–they have the budget to take out every scratch and mistake but they leave it in.

“So the Stones, ZZ Top, Thorogood–they’re big these days because they’re bar bands, whether they’re playing for a million people or whatever. And people love it. People love the fact that Jagger sings out of tune, that Richards looks like he may die at any given second. I see that spontaneity as being important.”

Because the Fins have such an unpolished sound, the fact that Chisholm has studied classical music on the flute for ten years comes as quite a surprise. As does the news that all five members read music. But in actuality, four of the five took music-theory courses at Capilano College.

The Fins have opened for blues giants Willie Dixon and John Lee Hooker at the Commodore Ballroom, and have played around town at such bars as the American Hotel, Darby D. Dawes, and the Railway Club. Chisholm relates what the band tries to put across in a live setting.

“We like to play as much rock as we can get away with, but we sort of want a blues/rock feel. Yet, vicious–do you know what I mean? With an edge. Some of the blues acts around town are very sedate and they play the same material for three years. I like breaking in and playing “Bitch” by the Stones, or a heavy blues tune like [Downchild’s] “Almost”, and then let them have it again with a real rocker.

“A lot of these bands that play original tunes have maybe 18 originals–that’s it! Now we play five sets a night here, that’s 50 songs a night. It makes you a better player. And not only that, if somebody comes up and asks for “Wipe Out”, play “Wipe Out”!

So the premise of the Fins is to give the people what they want–as long as it’s lowdown, rough-edged dance music. Like the Sonny Terry/Brownie McGhee song says, they’re just white boys lost in the blues. And in case you haven’t already caught on, humour is a big part of the Fins’ live performance. As a frontman, Chisholm is a cross between John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. He’s a real Blues Brother.

“I love to walk around the bar,” he admits. “I’ve got a bullhorn and I do a Steve McGarrett [of Hawaii Five-0] thing like ‘Everybody, you’re gonna dance. We’ve got you surrounded. There’s no hope of escape. I want you to move slowly towards the dance floor’. And a couple of times in Williams Lake there’s been some passed-out drunk and I’ll come up with my tenor [saxophone] and just BLAAHHH! The guy will wake up and the whole room will just break up.

“And our classic joke is, “There’s a new band around town with five guys that are all Bob Seger impersonators. They’re called A Flock of Segers.”

Leave a Reply