The Trews will be taking the stage at the Hopped & Confused Festival on August 25. They have a new record in the works and Apt613 spoke with lead singer Colin MacDonald ahead of the show.
In the pantheon of Canadian rock, The Trews have a place cemented near the very top. Since the 2003 release of their debut House of Ill Fame they’ve had 17 singles reach the top ten – including three #1 hits – and are responsible for several classic and instantly recognizable riffs engrained in the rock nation’s musical psyche.
Stream the interview which aired on CHUO 89.1FM:
Colin MacDonald, lead vocalist for the band, remembers the early days of The Trews, originally named One I’d Trouser and then Trouser before settling on The Trews. He started the band with good friend, Jack Syperek, and brother John-Angus when they were in their late teens.
“We started as a cover band in high school in the late-90’s. We played around our hometown of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, doing high school dances and playing bar shows. Of course none of us were old enough to play in bars, so we had to have our parents accompany us. We didn’t become a serious band until we moved to Ontario in 2001.”
“We’re not as dramatic as other sets of brothers in this business. That could be the Canadian thing too.”
In 2002, the band won a contest in St. Catherines, Ontario, which led to their first record deal. Their 2003 debut, House of Ill Fame, launched The Trews into the national consciousness. Since then, they’ve recorded four more studio albums, five EPs, three live albums, and released the 2016 compilation Time Capsule.
Being in a band and touring for so many years means the MacDonald brothers have probably learned more about each other than most siblings do. So what has Colin learned about John-Angus?
“I think we’re starting to look more and more alike [laughs]. I think we’re probably looking moreso alike because we do spend a lot of time on the road touring, but we get along pretty good. The number one thing for us in the music, the show, and the writing, so we always put that ahead of everything else. We’re pretty functional as, like, co-workers, if you want to say that. We’re not as dramatic as other sets of brothers in this business. That could be the Canadian thing too.”
Along with bassist Jack Syperek, the band has become a tight unit over the years.
“It’s kind of like one big family, I guess. What keeps us together is the success we’ve had, and the love of playing music, playing live, and writing new songs.”
One of the challenges of being in a successful band for nearly 20 years is how to keep things new and fresh. For The Trews, Colin believes new producers and the occasional co-writer can provide an invigorating change of pace.
“We’ve worked with a different producer for every record that we’ve made. We’ve collaborated with different outside writers, not too many, just a few that help shake things up for us. We’ve worked a lot with Gordie Johnson (of Big Sugar), we’ve written with Simon Wilcox… Collaboration keeps it fresh and exploring new musical territory.”
If you’ve seen The Trews live more than once, there’s a good chance it’s been a very different experience each time. That’s because while they’re known for a hard-rocking style on the radio and catchy guitar riffs, they’ll often go on acoustic tours as well, which opens them up to different audiences and venues.
“It keeps me interested in what we’re doing, it keeps me inspired. I like going out and doing the acoustic stuff, it shines a bit of a different light on the band. We can play a lot more of our catalog acoustically, because all of our songs kind of begin on acoustic guitars, and it’s an intimate, more captivated audience in those theatres. They’re more of a listening audience. You can try a few different things that you don’t necessarily get to do at a big loud rock show, so that’s really fun for me. And then of course I like just playing loud music too, that’s always fun. I like that energy.”
For Colin, the biggest challenge a band as successful as The Trews faces, after so many years in the industry, is the struggle to stay relevant.
“Our biggest competition now is ourselves. We’ve had 17 top tens in rock radio in Canada, so every time we put out a new record we’re being measured against our past. Trying to stay exciting and current, but still holding on to what makes us us, hanging onto our roots, and making good rock and roll.”
“It’s show business, it’s supposed to be fun.”
Now, if you’ve never seen a Trews show but plan on catching them at Hopped & Confused you can rest assured, no matter if it’s acoustic or an all-out rock show, they’ll be sure to put on a proper show.
“We’ve always liked doing showy stuff. I’m a big fan of KISS and big fun 70s rock bands. We take our music very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We like to give the audience a fun show no matter what the venue. We used to throw in drum solos and guitar solos, but now that we have more and more songs in the set, and a bigger catalog, it’s getting harder to fit in that kind of stuff. But it’s show business, it’s supposed to be fun.”
The Trews take the stage August 25th at the Mill Street Brew Pub (555 Wellington St) Tickets are $35 per night and are available online. Doors at 5pm.