February 17, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 76  

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Side projects “healthy” for BNB

By Anna Coutts
Gazette Writer

Friendly, talkative and completely down-to-earth: these are not terms one would normally attach to members of a rock ’n’ roll band.

But singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Filipowitsch of the Burt Neilson Band fits this description perfectly. Defying the stuck-up rocker image, Filipowitsch opened up and explained why being kind and open-minded is what makes the Burt Neilson Band work.

Having toured Canada over 13 times, as well as performed in the United States on numerous occasions, BNB has learned that to be successful and get along with each other, they have to be able to give each other space to be individuals.

“When a band spends as much time touring as we have, it’s important to realize the value of making friends on the road,” Filipowitsch says, adding this is why he feels it is “healthy and important” that each member also works on side projects as outlets for the music they can’t or won’t use in BNB.

It is this respect for each other’s individuality that has kept the band together for over seven years. “We may have side projects, but we all put Burt Neilson first above all else.” As well, all the members are careful not to fight over who writes what on their albums, allowing each to bring their individuality to the band’s sound. This collaborative attitude makes their past albums full of different musical styles, varying from retro rock to funk.

According to Filipowitsch, the new album is a lot different from the band’s past projects. “We have always been a little all over the place with our music,” he explains. “But for this album we went in to the studio knowing what we wanted to do, having a little bit more of a focus and more of a theme than we have had in the past.”

Yet while their album may have become more focused, their live shows are a completely different story. Having spent a lot of time performing on the road, the Burt Neilson Band has found a way to keep the live shows interesting by making them unpredictable.

“It’s always very improvisational,” Filipowitsch says. “We like to take chances and switch things up by constantly making transitions so that our live shows never sound exactly like our albums do.”

It is in large part through these entertaining live performances that the Burt Neilson Band has built up a large fan base in a variety of places across Canada.

“Right now we get huge drawings of people on the East Coast, but generally, everywhere we go we have a good amount of people out at our shows. We haven’t been to the West Coast lately, but in the past we have had a great reaction out there,” Filipowitsch says.

He claims their widespread popularity is due to the fact they started off playing in Thunder Bay back when they first became a band. “There were so many people up there who were from all different parts of Canada — from Victoria to Saskatchewan, etc. All these people would see us in Thunder Bay, and then go back home and tell their friends about us. I really think this is why so many people already know who we are when we come play in their town. It’s great — it’s really helped make touring enjoyable.”

The Burt Neilson Band’s latest CD By the Door is out now.



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