Those of us who were fans of MuchMusic and Canadian rock radio airwaves back in the mid-eighties will most likely remember a band called The Pursuit of Happiness. Their music offered a refreshing indie rock and pop fusion laced with lyrics that represented a kind of twisted and geeky teenage angst. With brazen rock guitar tones, solos that were front and center, and great female harmonies alongside frontman Moe Berg’s power grunge lead vocals, they were songs that spoke to a generation of confused and hormone ravaged late adolescents trying to come to grips with the early stages of adulthood.
The success of their first hit, “I’m An Adult Now” (1986), catapulted the band into popularity from their Queen Street Toronto beginnings, to the rest of Canada, and eventually across the globe. Founding member and lead singer/guitarist/songwriter Moe Berg talks about the early days of the band:
“It was a new time and a good time to be an independent band. There were a lot of things open to you as an artist – like MuchMusic, radio airplay, etc. We had a pretty good thing going, but it wasn’t so crazy. At that point, we got ourselves a manager, then eventually offers from record labels. It all started happening very organically for us – the success didn’t really go to our heads. From that point, “I’m An Adult Now” was released worldwide so we began touring all over the world. It was a very exciting time.”
After their fifth and final studio album to date, The Wonderful World of the Pursuit of Happiness (1996), the band members spun off to explore other artistic avenues. Moe Berg became a soloist, wrote a book of short stories (Green Room – 2000), is a member of Canadian supergroup Transcanada Highwaymen, and started producing music, which is what he does most of the time.
Currently, a deluxe double-vinyl and CD reissue of their first album Love Junk (1988) is in the works with Universal Music Canada. Being contacted by a few festivals to do shows over this summer has given them an opportunity to drum up some support for the record.
“We never really broke up as a band, we always left the door open. We decided back then to take a little break to explore what each of us wanted to do in their lives. Kris Abbott (guitar/backing vocals) has a project with her partner, called Kris + Dee who will also be doing a show at Westfest (on Saturday June 9, 3:30-4:20pm). Periodically every 2-3 years, we run into various opportunities to play some shows together. We always look forward to it. I think at this point when people come out to see us, they like to have the experience of seeing us as though they were seeing us back in the day. And so I think they like to hear the songs they remember, the ones that were on the radio…that’s really where we’re at for the moment. We’re just trying to entertain the fans and play the songs we know they’re going to enjoy.”
Fans can also check out Artoffact Records TPOH 2017 release from the archives of CBC Radio’s “Brave New Waves” session, which consists of songs and interview footage recorded in their Montreal studios in 1990. Also last year, Universal Music Canada launched a TPOH greatest hits CD as part of their Icon series.
The Pursuit of Happiness headlines Westfest on Saturday June 9 from 8:30-10pm. Westfest celebrates their 15th Anniversary from Friday June 8 to Sunday June 10 at Tom Brown Arena and Park, located at 141 Bayview Road. Westfest is a free and inclusive music/arts festival. For more information, please visit www.westfest.ca