Volume 93, Issue 20

October 1, 1999


Stars built to be broken

54-40 maintain longitude

Tovey wears many selves

DDT produce infectious sound

54-40 maintain longitude

Gazette file photo
WHEN'S THIS BUS FULL OF GROUPIES COMING BY? Vancouver rockers 54-40 evolve their way to the Wave this Saturday for Homecoming celebrations.

By Sara Martel
Gazette Staff

There's something to be said for longevity. Especially in music today, where people generally ask how long it will take for a band to disappear rather than ask how long they will last. With this in mind, something certainly can be said for 54-40.

With nearly 20 years of music under their proverbial belt, someone has obviously whispered the secret of success into the ear of this Canadian band.

Although the quartet has been making music since 1981, their sound is anything but stale. Instead, 54-40 has been praised among critics and fans for their consistent ability to re-invent themselves. "We don't see this as some kind of business venture where you keep capitalizing on your previous success by dishing out more of the same," bass player Brad Merrit explains.

"We're more interested in expanding our horizons. I think that's key to your longevity – to keeping your interests up. Staying interested in what you're doing is the secret to sticking around. If I can venture a guess why certain bands don't last, it's that reason – they just sort of lose the energy to create."

With a 12 album discography, it's fair to say the band has yet to run into this problem. Although 54-40's roots are firmly planted in punk rock, they have since been musically reborn with almost every effort.

Throughout their 19 years of recording, the Vancouver collective have dabbled in everything from polished rock songs to personal acoustic tracks to raw, bluesy classic rock jams. Although the group's perpetual re-creation keeps them popular among their devout fans, the process is not contrived.

"It is conscious only in so far as we recognize where we want to go," Merrit says. "It just seems our interests sort of lie in a completely different area than what we have just done. Which I think is part of the human condition, certainly the artist's anyway."

The release of Since When has seen the band turn to a more radio-friendly pop sound. However, Merrit maintains this new stylistic approach was not a commercial move. "It's no conscious decision to move in that direction because we think it will provide bigger pay cheques or something," he laughs. "As you go on, you figure out how it works and that writing a catchy, melodic song is a craft – sometimes that's where we're at, that's what we want to do. It's something you work out. But there are other sides of the band we like to present as well, which are the furthest thing from that."

As for now, the group has the opportunity to showcase all of their eclectic talents with Heavy Mellow, a live two disc CD recorded at Vogue Theatre in Vancouver.

After touring around Ontario and upper New York state with this newest release, they will be heading back to Vancouver to start their next album. Merrit says this effort will again be different from the rest, mainly because they'll be recording it in their own studio.

"We're going take our time and try to use the studio as an instrument and be more free to create while we're there. We'll have the luxury of time, rather than having to get together with the producer within a six-week window," he says excitedly. "So where that leads, we don't exactly know, but we definitely know it will be different than anything we've done before."

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Copyright The Gazette 1999