Music Interview: SoulDecision faded, but still alright

By Peter Hemminger

Without his sweaters defying the boundaries of the colour spectrum, Bill Cosby might never had a Jell-O and Kodak empire. Mr. Rogers won the trust of children worldwide on the strength of his yellow and red knits, which made him look as harmless as a blind, de-clawed kitten. Kurt Cobain launched a musical revolution by donning thrift-shop sweaters, while Weezer used an unraveling one as a metaphor for public facades.

For all their cultural and historical significance, though, none of those sweaters compare with the armless, man-cleavage baring monstrosity in SoulDecision’s “Let’s Do It Right” video. Who would’ve thought one hastily sewn garment could so quickly wipe the credibility from a group of real musicians and transform them into another faceless pop entity?

“That was such a bad move on the part of the record label,” moans Trevor Guthrie, SoulDecision’s vocalist, songwriter and the wearer of what many would swear was a woman’s sweater. “I just had this bad vibe from the director; he was shooting the video super boy-band and I was like ‘dude, this is not what we’re about.’ What I was wearing was just so wrong. We were in Australia when the video got added to MuchMusic and we were like, ‘what do you mean it got added?’ We haven’t even seen it, and we’d always approve every video. Then we got back to Canada and saw it and were just like, ‘oh my God. Get this off of MuchMusic right now.’”

Poor choices by the record company were apparently the rule, not the exception, for the Vancouver band. Their first album, No One Does It Better, had them sharing stages and pop compilations with the likes of N*SYNC and Christina Aguilerra. Songs like “Faded” showed where the band wanted to go, fusing George Micheals pop with elements of funk and RB, but tracks like “Gravity” and “Let’s Do It Right” made their label, Universal Records, happy. It seems Universal did everything in its power to hide the band’s actual musicianship.

“That was the whole thing when we signed a record deal with Universal years ago,” the Vancouver-based Guthrie reflects. “They were like, ‘we like the fact that you guys are a band, we like the fact that you guys play your own instruments.’ But then once the marketing plan came together, they put us out there and it was like, ‘you’re not marketing us the way you were excited about signing us.’”

It’s been a few years since SoulDecision has been marketed at all, but the absence is intentional. The band has restructured and recorded a new album, Shady Satin Drug, on Universal’s dime, but is releasing it on Sextant Records instead, a move that’s allowing them more control than ever. With their refocused band image and a website promising near-revolutionary interaction with the band (on demand performances, unreleased tracks, and more), Guthrie hopes to put the past behind him.

“All I can say is it was five years ago, we’ve evolved,” he explains. “A lot of those songs were written ten years ago from the first album. I can’t be ashamed of the past. I mean, I still think ‘Faded’ was a great song, I still hear it on the radio and have people come up to me and say ‘hey, what a great song.’ The label put a few things on us that we probably didn’t want them to, but there’s nothing you can do about that.”

Without mega-star tour-mates and throngs of screaming teens, SoulDecision is unlikely to hit their past level of fame. Their new, more “intimate” venues will probably be beneficial for the band. At the very least, it’ll keep them levelheaded enough to avoid any major fashion faux-pas. And from the sounds of it, Guthrie won’t miss his celebrity status one bit.

“Pop stardom to me is such… what the hell is that?” asks the former pop-star. “It’s so not real. Stars are created because the media and star magazines and MTV select the people that they want to get behind, and those are the people that get the magazines and that get the spots on the award shows, and people go nuts. They totally forget about the music and the talent behind it. We were fortunate to make it there because it’s next to impossible to get accepted, but at the end of the day, I just want people to say ‘I love your band, you guys write great songs.’”