Music Interview: The Waking Eyes wake up

By Kate Foote

There are trials and tribulations most bands need to go through–all the hours you need to clock in for jam sessions in your parents’ basement. It’s rare to be working with one of the nation’s top producers, picked up by a major label and headlining a tour sponsored by a prominent corporation five short years after inception. The Waking Eyes have overcome crippling obstacles, such as frustrating lineup changes and a tragic Winnebago fire.

It was just last August on a bare and desolate road 10 kilometers west of Medicine Hat, en route to Banff for an opening gig with Sam Roberts, when the band noticed a strange smell. All of a sudden, the hood of their Winnebago popped up and smoke filled the vehicle. They watched in shock and awe as everything, save their equipment, burned to the ground.

“It was tragic,” says singer/guitarist Matt Peters of the incident, “but we’ve moved on.” Instead of wallowing in self-pity, the band simply rented a U-Haul, loaded up and continued the tour. Such is the drive propelling The Waking Eyes headfirst into the mainstream.

Having already played opening gigs for such prominent Canadian acts as Collective Soul, Billy Talent and The Trews, The Waking Eyes are finally getting their shot as a headliner on BenQ’s Video Sound Tour. It’s a definite step towards moving up and cementing a career, and it includes commercial work. But on the topic of the cheesy BenQ advertisement already hitting the airwaves, Peters dodges the question. “Yeah, that’s uhhh… No comment. No comment on that one. I think we both know what I mean to say.” Apparently, cheesy ads are just part of the game.

But doing those ads have allowed them to headline their own tour, including a few all-ages shows on selected dates. All-ages shows are customarily a perk for bands, as the younger kids are often more enthusiastic about the performance, lacking the level of criticism attained by most people over the age of 18, “And [the kids] buy a lot of merch–so that’s always good,” adds Peters.

Although you may not be a 15 year-old with allowance burning a hole in your pocket and a flaming passion for band T-shirts, rest assured, when The Waking Eyes hit Calgary, it will make for a good time at a licensed venue.

“[At club shows] we can have two or three beers in our body and bring a couple on stage. That way you’re definitely having a good time,” maintains Peters, defending the band’s predisposition to party. When club owners offer you a free supply of beer, who wouldn’t have a good time?

But the prospect of free beer isn’t enough to propel a band. According to Peters the recipe for success is fairly simple. “I don’t know if I’m in any position to give anyone advice about anything, but if I were to give advice, I would say that a good song is a good song is a good song.”

In addition to writing “good songs,” the assistance of producer Arnold Lanni (Simple Plan, Our Lady Peace, Finger Eleven) certainly can’t hurt. “[Lanni] is one of the most musically-inspired people I’ve ever met. I’m sure he had a hand in making it sound the way it is.”

“The way it is” is radio-friendly retro rock well-received critically, as evidenced by their recent Juno nomination for New Group of the Year. “It’s pretty awesome­–I never thought that would ever happen,” enthuses Peters. “And it’s in Winnipeg, so we’re the hometown favorites. I’m sure that will go a long way,” he adds sarcastically.

Regardless of whether or not The Waking Eyes bring home a Juno, they’re still having a lot of fun doing what they’re doing. As for what to expect at their upcoming show in Calgary, “We always end the night with a big rockin’ cover­–usually a Beatles’ song, so it’ll be a good time.”

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