Volume 90, Issue 99

Thursday, April 03, 1997

The Great One


Commanding the waters of the world

Gazette file photo
IN THE GREEN FOREST, THE GREEN FOREST... Admiral returns to nature before embarking on a few select shows that the band will be playing around Ontario with The Poumons.

By Jonathan Hale
Gazette Staff

The indie rock scene in both Canada and the United States is one of great diversity, marked not by any specific style but instead by different men and women who often push the limits of the tedious, everyday fodder that fills commercial radio's airwaves. Not surprisingly, there are still labels given to certain bands based on their sound or style, such as slowcore, hardcore, experimental and pop. Yes, that's right, pop music seems to find itself in almost any format of music, often only separated by the influences involved.

Toronto's Admiral has grown over the past couple of years – creating a sound that seems rather unique when compared to other area bands – in finding the styles of The Beach Boys, The Beatles and The Byrds much more appealing than say Slint or Sonic Youth. This does not mean that the band does not enjoy or respect such acts, it's just that the talents of these artists are not reflective in the music.

In 1996, Admiral planted its seeds in the music world with two very mature and intriguing EPs, both reflecting a growing pop ability yet being performed from very different angles and using different instrumentation. This idea works quite well on the EPs, though, as lead singer/guitarist Chris Robinson notes, it is a format that may only remain on the CD.

"The people who played strings on the first one were from the conservatory," he explains of the orchestrated players on the debut, titled EP. "I think they enjoyed it, but I don't think they are gung ho on the idea of walking into a smokey bar and bringing their stuff out."

The same goes for the trumpet player on the most recent release, titled Now Playing, who is a Salvation Army musician. Robinson clarifies that such instruments were actually considered during the songwriting process and not thought up after the songs were finished.

"In the past it's been like, 'Let's have this orchestrated section or let's have a Hammond,' before the song is even done," he says. "We think of it more in terms of what a song would sound like if it had a cello in it, as opposed to doing a song then saying, 'What instrument could we slap on to show how clever we are?'"

This sometimes orchestrated pop style was pigeonholed by Torontonians early on, as people began referring to Admiral as the Canadian Brit pop band, a label that is rather weakly linked at most. The band does create music that seems similar to the European style, but is not restricted to this genre alone.

"Being called a Brit pop band is just utterly ridiculous. To me, it's just not a really intelligent way of talking about the music," Robinson states. "I know the tendency is to find some way to classify something, because we don't have the tongue-in-cheek indie-punk derived sound that tends to be the status quo amongst a lot of bands [in Toronto]. We always think of our sound as a lot more classically derived than some bands here."

Robinson does admit one of the band's means of promotion was opening for such acts as Britain's Shed Seven and others, which may have also helped in labeling the band's style.

"We're in a situation where we're trying to promote our group and when we get offered the chance to play in front of 400 people, you're not going to say no," Robinson explains.

But regardless of what the people of Toronto are saying– though the band is quite successful in its hometown – Admiral actually found some success overseas with EP.

"We made an effort to send it out to what we perceived were places that other bands might not be sending it to, like out of the country," Robinson notes. "We actually have kind of a strong fanzine following in France and Germany. It was actually played on college radio in France and we were charting really high."

The latest release has also garnered a bit of attention, debuting on the national charts a couple of weeks ago at number 18. So while Admiral may not be enduring the indie-pop scene for the rest of its career, a move towards the much wider-ranging commercial scene will only improve, challenge and outshine what is already there.

To Contact The Entertainment Department: gazent@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997