Volume 93, Issue 82

Tuesday, March 7, 2000


Simon & Milo offer Prozzak to hopeless romantics

Trio's huge success shows no sign of fading

Pop duo winning on all fronts

Robert Palmer fails at original Rhythm And Blues attempt

Pop duo winning on all fronts

©Photo by Margaret Maladruccolo
DESPITE CONSTANT WARNINGS, LUKE AND ROB MADE IGNORING "WET PAINT" SIGNS A HABIT. Winnipeg pop duo McMaster & James take the stage tonight at Centennial Hall.

By Tara Dermastja
Gazette Staff

If there's one thing McMaster & James want, it's to put a smile on people's faces. And with the recent release of their self-titled debut album, this up-and-coming duo seem to be doing just that.

Luke McMaster, 24, and Rob James, 22, already have everyone from teenage girls to old pop critics singing along with their first single, "Love Wins Everytime." This catchy song has been climbing the charts and the group is psyched. "People come up to me and say 'I heard the song, I was having a super bad day and I felt so much better,' which I think is really cool," McMaster raves.

But, as most bands can attest to, the rise to the top isn't always a quick one. Together since 1997, when they hooked up in Winnipeg, Alberta through producer Glen Willows, the two spent a lot of time touring local high schools more as a cover band, electing to leave original writing to the side. Now, times have changed and small clubs have evolved into large arenas. However, opening for big names such as *NSync, Monica and Christina Aguilera hasn't taken the group away from choosing to do smaller gigs as well.

McMaster is quick to discuss the kick he gets from playing for teens. "We just finished playing a Québec high school tour, so that's still something that's important to us," he notes. It was at a high school concert about a year-and-a-half ago that McMaster and James caught the eye of ViK.recordings vice-president Keith Porteous. With this big break under their belts, the two signed on and opportunities opened up everywhere.

A Kellogg's cereal endorsement put their images on 1.2 million boxes of Corn Pops cereal, as well as a national television campaign. "Love Wins Everytime" appeared on the Planet Pop 2000 hit compilation album, and the release of the single's video has MuchMusic taking notice, as it currently sits high on their weekly countdown.

So how did this soul/pop group get to where they are today? "There's so many bands coming out of Winnipeg, like the Watchmen, the Crash Test Dummies and you get in your head that 'We can do this!' It's all about convincing people," McMaster states, adding he's hoping to eventually tour with U2 or sit down and groove with Stevie Wonder.

Fortunately, that might someday happen, as the duo seem to have their harmony and songwriting abilities intact and inspiration can come from anywhere. "If you're in a relationship and something happens – my girlfriend moved to Europe and she was gone for six months – I was able to totally draw from that," McMaster recalls. The end product of this inspiration is a song called "I Understand," his favourite track on the album. Other matters of the heart created many more songs on the album, such as "It Must Be Love" and "Never Gave Up."

In terms of dividing their workload, while McMaster sticks more to the lyrics and snowboarding, James handles the groove aspect and a game of basketball when not on the road. But united, these two Canadians seemed to have merged an ear-catching style which won't be forgotten anytime soon. Unlike many bands experiencing the fame bug, McMaster and James have no immediate signs of snobbish attitudes or indifference. "I think we're pretty down-to-earth," McMaster casually mentions.

And he's right. As more songs emerge from their album and more people start taking notice, it's likely this duo will win every time.

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