September 9, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 6  

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Rise of the Parkas
Western faves hits the big time

By Brian Wong
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THEY'RE NOT FROM THE UK. No, despite their Brit-style haircuts, the Parkas actually hail from our very own Forest City.

In the past year, things have really started taking off for the Parkas, the four-piece London-based pop-rock band that has built a dedicated Western following (three of the members studied at Western). Having played opening slots for Canadian indie-rock darlings The Dears and Hot Hot Heat, the band went on to sign with Winnipeg's Endearing Records and are releasing their first full-length album, Now This Is Fighting, this month.

"When Mike broke his tooth on the microphone at the Barfly in Montreal, we knew from then on there was no turning back," jokes drummer Greg Rhyno when asked to pinpoint that mythical "big break" wherein a hard-working band can finally see a life of music on the road ahead. For the Parkas, that moment would either be the 2002 Halifax Pop Explosion that led to their record deal or one drunken night in Hamilton last year.

"We were having an insane night - we were arguing, we had all these equipment failures during the show and consequently, we got drunk and angry. It was a fine performance with everyone coming out of their shell. We became a true rock "n" roll band - yelling and swearing and cursing," Greg says.

After that moment of rockdom realization, the band ended up at last October"s Halifax Pop Explosion. "We talked to Heather [Campbell] from Endearing and we had just opened up for her band Paper Moon," explains bassist Mark Rhyno, Greg"s brother. "Heather seemed to be really impressed with what we did and we formed a relationship there that lasted throughout other shows. Eventually we decided that this was a record label we really liked and Endearing wanted us to be part of their outfit so it worked out that way."

To record the band"s first disc, the Parkas turned to fellow Londoner Andy Magoffin, frontman for the acclaimed alt-country group The Two-Minute Miracles, recorder and producer for just about every hot Canadian indie band these days at his House of Miracles studio. "We listened to a bunch of albums recorded by Andy, compared them and just thought that we wanted to go for that kind of sound," says Parkas guitarist Mike Brown.

Grady Kelneck, guitarist and cousin to Mark and Greg adds the decision to work with Magoffin was in part because of his recording technique. "There was a big buzz going on about him and all the stuff we had heard that he recorded was really cool. After we got [to the studio] and saw how he recorded the bands, we thought it was pretty neat because he wasn"t laying it down track-by-track, but it was live with the instruments recorded in separate rooms."

The resulting disc captures the band"s energetic show on ten catchy tracks influenced by sixties rock (the band name checks The Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Rolling Stones), as well as current bands like Guided By Voices that are indebted to the music of the past. And although the music"s pop base is often peppered with some country elements, the band is a little bit wary of the "country" label.

"It"s almost trendy to say "country" right now because of the whole alt-country thing going on," remarks Greg. "I don"t know if our music is so much country as it is a Southern rock sound that we have. It has something to do with the way Mike and Grady harmonize and how they play guitar.

"One of our specific goals was just to make a really good record that we could be proud of. In the past we"ve all done different recordings and we were never entirely pleased with the entire product so we wanted to come up with something that made everybody happy."

The Parkas CD release show with The Two-Minute Miracles hits The Spoke this Saturday.




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