Volume 90, Issue 76

Friday, February 07, 1997



The offbeat antics of Great Big Sea

Gazette file photo
SPIDERMAN TRYOUTS START AT NOON. Great Big Sea: Not just mere mortals

By Steve Hare
Gazette Staff

Newfoundland unleashed one of Canada's best-kept secrets a couple of years ago, bringing the sounds of Celtic music to new listeners in the country. Though it took a few years before becoming a household name, Great Big Sea seems to have only gone up and up – similar to its debut album title. The band has toured extensively since its formation in 1991 and only recently took a break for a little while at the end of last year to make a sophomore album.

On the phone from the fisherman's capital in St. John's, Nfld., Bob Hallett shared all the secret gossip his band was willing to let the Western student body in on.

The big news is tonight's show is the band's first official Canadian date since finishing recording its new album last December.

"Some of the new material will be played at our shows but mixed in with the old," Hallett says. "We don't want to beat people to death with it, 'Here's 12 new songs, hope you like it.'"

One feature which makes Great Big Sea a little off beat is the band has never really had a drummer – an instrumental oddity which continues on the upcoming release.

"When we first started out, we tried a couple of drummers and none of them really worked," Hallett explains. "So when we started touring, we just said 'fuck it' and three years later we still don't have one."

A new video will be shot in a month or so although a single hasn't been decided.

"It's one of those things that we all have ideas for but only with about two days to go does it all come into place," Hallett claims. "These days a video costs as much as to make an album so we have to make sure we get a good idea for it."

The band has just come back from the UK, where it performed dates in various areas such as London and Glasgow. Surprisingly, Great Big Sea has a relative legion of fans which Hallett credits to the "fairly strong reflection in roots music over there."

For the amount of touring Great Big Sea has done it's refreshing to find out the band has not lost its enthusiasm for playing live.

"Of all the million jobs I've had this is the only one at the end of the day that an audience applauds you for your efforts," Hallett says.

He also insists Great Big Sea has become more professional with its performances.

"When we first started everybody went nuts and got loaded every night and smoked our heads off and did everything we could. But those tours. . . we'd find ourselves getting only two hours sleep and coming home in a garbage bag. We're just as energetic these days but we want the tour to last more than two weeks."

Always a big question with a Canadian band is how earnestly it seeks to break through the American border.

"We don't want to spend the next two years in the States playing bar after bar for no real purpose," Hallett explains. "Our strategy in the States is to market ourselves more like a folk band than in Canada, playing more slow and instrumental stuff rather than the over-the-top approach we take in Canada."

It should be stressed this band is still humble and appreciates what it has.

"I remember all too well playing for 20 people who hated us," Hallett says. "Going in front of a crowd who loves us is a real privilege and we're extremely lucky to be a part of it."

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

Copyright The Gazette 1997