April 6, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 98  

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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Planet Smashers get their faces smashed

By Mel Wong
Gazette Staff

Gazette File Photo
MUSIC 1, ENGINEERING, 0. Frontman Matt Collyer opted for making sweet ska sounds rather than study the sweet subject of engineering. Can you blame him?

You can take a boy out of Toronto, but can you ever take Toronto out of a boy?

“I still go to Habs games and cheer for the Leafs,” declares Matt Collyer, vocalist and guitarist for the Montreal-based ska band Planet Smashers.
Collyer originally moved to Montreal to study engineering at McGill University. He was working on his PhD when he dropped out of school to focus his energy on the Planet Smashers, which is rounded out by saxophonist Lonestar, trombonist Andrew Latoni, bassist Dave Cooper and drummer Scott Russell.

The band’s roots began in 1994 in front of a MMMuffin store. “I had just bought a new guitar,” Collyer says. “And I didn’t know how to play it at all. And I saw [our original drummer and now bass player] Dave there holding his drumsticks, so I was trying to be all cool. Turns out he didn’t even have a real drum set at the time. He had one of those electric ones!”

The band had a long way to go, so the duo brought in three other musician friends (all of whom have since been replaced) and got to work.
“It’s hard to play ska music and get away with it,” Collyer explains. “It takes a lot of practice to sound good. We were horrible when we first started out. We were the worst band ever! But it was fun. Free beer!”

It should come as no surprise then, that no label was willing to pick them up. “At the time, there was no independent record label in Canada that put out ska, and the majors wouldn’t touch it. So we started our own record label Stomp so that we could say our album wasn’t just self-released, ” he says. “We said, ‘We’re signed to Stomp’. Nobody needed to know it was our own label.”

Today, Stomp is one of Canada’s premier ska labels and owner of Union Records, a punk rock spin-off label that emerged in 2000.

The Planet Smashers have also gotten their act together, and have since released five full-length records, won the Montreal Independent Music Award for Best Ska Band, taken national college radio charts by storm, played on three Warped Tours, and headlined countless North American tours, four European tours and a Japanese tour.

The band is currently on the second leg of its Ska’s Dead, and You’re Next tour, promoting their latest album, Mighty. On this record, they make a conscious move away from the “darker, bitchier” sound of their previous release, Fabricated. “The band was in a weird state back then,” Collyer explains. “There were two guys who didn’t really want to be there, so the other three of us wrote the record, and we kind of half-assed it.

“With Mighty, we were going for summertime on the beach, drinking a beer while watching a beautiful sunset go down. We wanted something happier and more enjoyable. It’s a really positive record,” he adds.

“I’m really happy with my life now. Every time I look around, we seem to be doing a bit better,” Collyer says. “It’s been a gradual thing, but I’m really happy being able to do what I want to do. Probably the best thing about my life is that I don’t have any regrets about anything I’ve done.”
So with this much success under their belts already, can the Planet Smashers really ask for more?

“I want a dental plan!” Collyer says. “The microphone’s always getting smashed in my face. It can get a little nuts during our shows. They’re not trying to hurt you, but pushed the wrong way, and you get smacked into a microphone! We all have chips in our teeth because of that.”

The Planet Smashers play Call the Office on Tuesday, Apr. 20 with Catch 22, Mustard Plug and Big D and the Kids Table.

 

 

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