Run Chico Run deported into Calgary

By Peter Hemminger

Some bands hit the big time from the very beginning. Some lucky suckers have record execs wander into their first basement rehearsal, waving million-dollar cheques under sweat-soaked noses with promises of the world. Some bands get signed without playing a single show, based only a hastily recorded demo tape.

Sometimes, though, a group has to slog through cross-country tours, cut their line-up in half and self-release their own increasingly complex albums to a handful of dedicated fans in Canada’s various municipalities. Every so often, that group gets a break, getting signed to a label with the ability to promote the band and get people to listen. And once every few years, that band is just so plain good, once people start listening, all they can do is wonder why they didn’t hear any of this years before.

Run Chico Run fall into that latter group. For the last seven years, the Chicos have struggled to get their name out there. Despite a number of solid tours, the media refused to pay much attention. Originally a quartet, they’re now the more aerodynamic duo of Matt Skillings and Tom Shields. And a new deal with Salteens-run Boompa Records seems to be making all the difference.

“It’s kind of weird to call people up and hype your own band,” explains Shields. “Like, ‘we’re really good, give us an interview!’ There were a few little packages that we sent out to people at local papers, and just got no response back for a month. Then two days before the deadlines they call back and say ‘Sorry we didn’t reply to you. We just got an e-mail from Boompa and it sounds really neat.’”

“Neat” is as good a description as any for the Chicos’ sound. In their seven years together, Shields and Skillings have developed a unique style both eerily atmospheric and booty-shakingly accessible, most often at the same time. Invariably, people hearing it for the first time wonder where the blend comes from.

“I think it’s just evolved,” Shields states. “Our first two albums are a lot more definable, even if they’re not necessarily straight ahead power-pop stuff. There’s a bit of weirdness, but in general, it’s pretty straight up. I think it’s evolved to this point because now that it’s just the two of us, there are no arrangement rules. We pretty much do whatever we want, and then try to play it live. There’s no rules imposed on us, so we don’t have to follow any.”

Shields and Skillings will have ample opportunity to show off Shashbo (a record the band describes as “sweeter than owning a giant SUV that runs on blood”), heading out on yet another cross-country trek. Thanks to Boompa’s promotional efforts, they’ve managed to cut back on the number of shows, but hopefully not the quality–bring in some larger crowds and win over new fans.

“I’m really looking forward to the shows in Montreal and Toronto,” Skillings anticipates. “I think they’re going to be very well promoted, and there’s going to be some publicity. Usually when we go to those cities, it’s been good, but we usually just end up playing to thirty or forty ex-west coast folks. Like play with our friends’ band, and get a bunch of friends out. This time we’re playing Boompa nights in both cities, and hopefully that’ll bring out some new faces.”

Not to be left out, the Calgary shows promise to be a treat. Watching the Chicos in their multi-instrumental glory is always entertaining and the strength of Shashbo’s songwriting should prove to be the highlight of Boompa’s upcoming label showcase during the Western Canadian Music Awards.

They may not be the lucky suckers in that fabled basement all musicians dream of, but the Chicos have worked hard long enough to get where they are. It’s about time they got some recognition and be heard.

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