So long, farewell and amen

By Kate Foote

Breakups are often messy. Pink Floyd ended in a bitter feud between David Gilmour and Roger Waters. The Eagles swore they would reunite “when hell freezes over.” In many cases, years of tension finally boil over into bitter separation.

On the other hand, some breakups are downright simple. The split is an amicable decision agreed upon by the parties involved. Such is the case with Choke, who have decided to call it quits after 13 years together.

“Life catches up with you, you know?” says singer and bassist Clay Shea. “You’ve got to pay rent and bills and those things and it was just no longer feasible to put the kind of time into it that we had been. There’s a little bit of sadness because this tour is so good and we can’t do it anymore, but at the same time it wasn’t like a heated argument and then the band broke up. It was a calculated thing. Even though it seems a little sad that it’s the last time we’re going to be out, I think we all just feel good about the way it’s come about.”

The members of Choke aren’t the only ones sad about the band’s demise. Over the last decade, Choke has amassed a fervent fan following. However, this wasn’t the result of major-label publicity.

“Some other bands that were touring at the same time as us now have major-label money thrown at them and pretty much everything you could ask for and still, we’re on par,” says Shea. “They have the same kind of draw we’ve had just from slugging it out, word of mouth and hard work. Without the machine throwing a lot of money at you, it feels pretty good to accomplish what we have accomplished.”

The band’s grassroots approach to touring also resulted in some nerve-wracking experiences. The band’s North American tours saw them journey throughout the vast continent. Needless to say, traversing it in a crowded van can be a little stressful.

“Touring Canada in the winter is insane. There were a few times that I didn’t know if we were getting where we were going,” laughs Shea. “There were also some really long American tours that we refer to as ‘poverty tours.’ They were a tougher time for us and we were definitely on the losing end of money and just kind of going day-to-day. At the time, it seemed like a tough time but looking back, it’s all fond memories.”

Choke’s lengthy career has garnered them not only fond memories, but also close relationships with other Canadian bands. A few days off in Edmonton, for example, resulted in the illustrious “Choneen,’ a super-band comprised of Choke and Moneen. According to Shea, these tours with close friends were the best the band has seen.

“We probably played over 100 shows with Moneen when we were a band and since they were such good friends of ours, they were really fun to play with,” says Shea. “At the same time, it was really exciting when we got to go out and do support for AFI and some bands that went on to be absolutely enormous. But you know, when I look back now, it was always when we were out with some friends that was the most fun.”

For their farewell tour, Choke is accompanied by Ghosts of Modern Man, another band of close friends. The tour will bring closure to mourning fans and one last adventure for the foursome.

“We just came to the realization that we should probably just call it a day and go on a final tour to celebrate our last 13 years and have some closure to it all,” says Shea. “We decided we’d make the move and do [one last tour] instead of just fizzling out.”

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