ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MAY 19, 1989
By Steve Newton
For twin brothers Garth and Gary Breit–and younger sibling Kevin–growing up in the small Ontario town of McKerrow (pop. 250) did not offer a lot of youthful diversions. Hockey and music were the two biggies, and fortunately the Breit (pronounced “bright”) brothers made a career out of the latter.
Their formidable off-ice skills can be heard on the stunning Breit Bros. debut album, and witnessed live when the band visits Vancouver for the first time at the Town Pump next Thursday (May 25).
“We weren’t really good hockey players,” explains Garth, on the line from Winnipeg last week. “I guess that doesn’t make us true Canadians. But it was music that attracted us more than hockey or anything like that.”
Coming from a family of seven kids, with a guitar-playing father and a piano-tinkering mom, the three Breit brothers spent time backing up several Canadian acts before getting their own band together.
Guitarist Kevin, 26, has recorded with the likes of Rational Youth, Boys Brigade, the Spoons, and Dalbello, while keyboardist/vocalist Gary spent three years touring and recording with Corey Hart. Drummer Garth, 29, has worked with Malcolm Burn and Sherry Kean, and it was while recording with Kean that he ran into bassist Ian DeSouza, the fourth member of the Breit Bros. band (The group’s live show is filled out by keyboardist Ron Reid.)
While movies like David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers have exposed some of the weirder aspects of twin bonding, Garth says that his relationship with Gary has not been without its own mystical moments over the years.
“Bizarre things have happened,” says Garth. “When we were three years old I broke my right collarbone, and exactly two weeks to the day Gary broke his right collarbone And not only that, but there’ve been sympathetic pains. He’d have a toothache, and I’d be in Ottawa with this pain in my jaw.”
The close bond that Garth and Gary Breit have felt at various times since birth is one that is well-suited to playing in a band. Their togetherness doesn’t hurt a bit on stage.
“Well that’s true,” says Garth, “because it has been said that we have a real consistent groove among the brothers. Now I’m not so certain it’s biological as much as in our surroundings–we grew up listening to the same thing all the time, and we were avid listeners. So it could be bit of both.”
As youngsters, the Breit brothers were heavily influenced by bands like Traffic, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Eagles, and Jefferson Airplane. Not to mention the Beatles. Nowadays, Garth is a real fan of bands like the Proclaimers, XTC (“I think their new album’s brilliant”), Thomas Dolby, and Todd Rundgren.
Because the Breit Bros have only one album’s worth of material so far, they include a few rather obscure covers in their live show, such as Tom Waits’ “Ol’ 55” (which the Eagles did on On the Border) and Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9”.
“Kevin is a really good guitar player,” says Garth proudly, “so that song is his highlight.”
Surely one of the most impressive Canadian debuts of 1988, the Breit Bros. LP sports a whole ship-load of fine tunes, from the twangy, steel-guitar driven “Slow Train” to the inspiring balladry of “You’ll Never Be Without Me”. Then there’s the classy first single, “Going Down”, “One Man’s Climate”, and the gorgeous “Magdalene, with its nifty Mel Collins sax break.
Veteran keyboardist Peter Wood and drummer Anton Fig from the David Letterman band sat in on a couple of tunes to add polish to the record, which came to fruition once producer Tom Treumuth wrangled a deal with BMG. That was the first label the group approached and the band was very pleased–and surprised–by the label’s quick decision to snap them up.
“We’d have to have a super ego problem to not be surprised,” says Garth. “It was very much a shock. We were elated for a month and a half. We’d just finished the demos, and within two weeks Tom had the tape down in New York and he was playing it for Bob Buziak, president of RCA/BMG. About a month later he came up and signed us.”
With strong major-label backing, an excellent debut album, and a cross-Canada tour, things aren’t looking bad for the three brothers from McKerrow.