Local band hits it big at Virgin Fest

By Jon Roe

Unlike headliners the Stone Temple Pilots or the Tragically Hip, who will be moving on to more concerts in exotic locales, as much heroin as Scott Weiland’s pencil-thick body can take and brandy glasses full of brown M&Ms after Virgin Fest hits Calgary June 21–22, the Fast Romantics will likely go back to a life barely balanced between family and friends, day jobs and making music. After winning the right to open up the festival Saturday through X92.9’s Xposure contest though, that may change for guitarist Matthew Kliewer and the rest of the Calgary-based ensemble.

“We know what we want to achieve,” Kliewer says. “We want to quit our day jobs and take the music seriously. We’re all in this for life, right?”

Kliewer, vocalist Matthew Angus and bassist Jeffrey Lewis have learned a lot since their first attempt at quitting their day jobs. The trio achieved some radio success as the Mood and cracked ChartAttack’s Top-40, but didn’t tour to capitalize on the airplay. Kliewer calls it the “stupidest thing we’ve ever done.”

“We knew what we wanted to do, but we didn’t know how to get there,” he adds.

Since then, the band has dissolved and then reformed as the Fast Romantics, adding drummer Alan Reain. This time, they will organize a tour to support their full-length album, likely to be released early August and hopefully use any airplay their single gets. This kind of timing is typical for most artists, but it’s a lot easier to accomplish when backed by a label. The Fast Romantics are fully independent and self-managed and will be mailing all the copies of the CDs to the radio stations themselves, while booking their own shows.

They’ve carried over experience from their days as the Mood, but Kliewer admits the process is time-consuming and adds plenty of stress. He believes the reward will be more valuable at the end.

“We have friends that will help, but we want to keep this as independent as we can,” says Kliewer.

The dream may be quitting their day jobs, but the Fast Romantics have few places to look for inspiration in Calgary. Kliewer admits it’s hard to be a full-time musician.

“Yeah, I don’t know any,” laughs Kliewer. “Despite having lived here for 12 years and, I don’t know, I seem to know a lot of musicians here, but I don’t know anyone that’s really full-time at it.”

For the band’s upcoming Calgary shows, at Virgin Fest on Saturday and at Sled Island at the Legion on June 27, Kliewer says he’s excited. The band is feverishly preparing for the opening slot Saturday and though the band has played few live shows as the Fast Romantics, he doesn’t find kicking off Virgin Fest too intimidating.

“We’re just really focused on letting the music do the talking,” says Kliewer. “We want to sound as good as we can. It all comes down to lots of rehearsing. We really want the music to speak for ourselves.”

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