It's the 30th anniversary for the Juno nominated band Odds, and you can celebrate with them Friday, June 16th at Sammy Krenshaw's in Tillsonburg.
The Vancouver alternative rock band, which formed in 1987, first hit the Canadian charts in 1991, and continued to produce hits throughout the 90s. After taking a hiatus roughly from 1999-2007 - although they continued to play individually and together during that span - three of the group decided to reform in 2008, and they've been performing as a four-member band with one new addition since.
"We're writing another record," said lead vocalist and one of the founding members, Craig Northey, from Vancouver last week. "We just keep forging ahead into the future. We are on the current Stephen Page (Barenaked Ladies) release, myself and the band, so we've been playing with him. I've been playing with him as a band member a little while now, too. Lately I've also been playing with Trans-Canada Highwaymen, which is myself, Stephen Page, Moe Berg and Chris Murphy from Sloan."
During their hiatus, Northey occasionally teamed up with Odds' Doug Elliott and Pat Steward on projects. But there were also solo albums and collaborations with other artists. In the mid-2000s, Northey and Gin Blossoms' Jesse Venezuela recorded the theme song to the sitcom, Corner Gas. As a trio, Northey, Elliott, and Steward backed up Colin James and toured with Tragically Hip's Rob Baker.
"I think we just maybe we declared an open relationship - it was kind of a 60s-70s philosophical idea," Northey laughed. "Then decided to renew our vows..."
The idea to reform Odds came from Elliott and Steward.
"I think the other two guys came to me and said, 'hey we should be writing pop songs together again because we kind of miss it.' We had been doing a lot of soundtrack stuff, writing and playing with other artists. I said, 'ok, cool, we'll get together Wednesdays and we'll write some songs.'"
Word got out that they were writing, and the Barenaked Ladies invited them to perform in the Caribbean on a cruise ship.
"We said yes, of course, and thought, 'should we bring an extra person to play all the extra parts if we play old material?' The other two guys had been playing with Murray Atkinson, so we asked him to come with us and later he was in the band."
With a nod to Spinal Tap, they called themselves The New Odds on the ship, and went with that moniker for a while until they realized no one got the joke.
"Everyone thought we were a tribute band to the Odds, so went back to our name. With all of our decisions, we don't really make decisions. Somebody else does and I don't know who it is," Northey smiled. "Somebody behind a curtain says, 'hey would you like to do this' and we all say yes. Then we figure out what it is later."
Odds had a dozen singles from four albums (Neopolitan, Bedbugs, Good Weird Feeling and Nest) chart from 91-97, and were nominated for multiple Juno Awards - Best New Group (94), Best Rock Album (96), Songwriter of the Year (96 & 98), Group of the Year (96) and Best Video (97).
They released another three albums in the 2000s, and four EP's since 2009. Good Weird Feeling went platinum, and Nest gold. The sum of 30 years is a lot of good music. But Northey said the drive to write, which stayed strong during their hiatus, is still there.
"We don't force it, we don't say 'hey, we have to be on schedule to produce something for YouTube every day' or anything like that. But for sure, it's still a case where you never think you've done your best work. I'm always thinking 'we haven't made the best Odds record yet.' I never think 'that's as good as it can get.' I think once you do that, then you should definitely move on to doing something else.
"I think it's an important thing to staying together, it'll be 30 years other than that hiatus, to know that you measure what is good - and what you've done - yourself."
At the top or near the top of Canadian charts, particularly in 96 & 97, Northey said those were the times when Odds 'fit the bill.'
"Those were places in history when the song we wrote was the right one with the right people behind it. Then all of a sudden we were on the radio and that led to more on the radio in a time when the radio was where you listened to music. That was great, that was awesome, and it makes you feel, obviously, successful and you get to do it again. I think in our minds it was 'hey we get to do more of this because somebody else likes it.' But honestly, we only measure whether the material lives up to our standards internally.
"It's something new when there's no song. You get together, and then there's this thing that never existed before, nobody's heard it. It may be derivative... but that song itself is original, and that's the feeling we go for.
"We're really fans of classic pop writing, old school pop... not Disney-esque pop. We think we're doing something radically different to what we sound like, and everyone else says, 'it sounds just like an Odds record.' The last one we said 'that's great, what can we take out?' We were trying to be as minimalist as we could. We would take out elements that normally we would put in. So the next one, I don't know. We'll come up with some other catchphrase that changes things for us and makes it different."
On their last EP's, Elliott and Steward sang songs for the first time. Atkinson had his first lead vocals, and their contributions changed the band.
"It does provide a spark and gives you something new to do," said Northey.
JUNE 16 CONCERT
Doors open at Sammy's, 51 Broadway, Tillsonburg at 7 p.m. on the 16th, an all ages, licenced event.
"I'm really excited about this concert for many reasons," said Blacktop Records' Ben Andress. "We will be bringing over 200 people out to Sammy Krenshaw's to see a Juno nominated band and it's the same night as Turtlefest's first night so it'll be cool to add a rock n roll element to the festival. That's 200 people wandering the streets before and after the show checking out the sights, spending their money in Tillsonburg. It's exciting to see people travel over two or three hours just to come out to a show here. For me, this one is special because I grew up listening and loving Odds. I own all their albums on CD and still have them on rotation to this day."
Also on stage for the Friday, June 16 show are The Less Unfortunates, Chaliss and Iduna, offering a little different sound and something for everyone, said Andress.
"I'm really excited to see my friends in the band Chaliss play their new tunes. They have been working hard on some new material and its always a blast seeing them play it.
"A new band from Woodstock is also playing. It's the first time I've ever booked them or seen them play live. They are called The Less Unfortunates and they are doing some really exciting things. I've been friends with the singer Crystal for a little while now and am very intrigued in the music they are making. They just released some of their first recordings on Bandcamp and I'm excited to see how the songs will play out on stage. It'll be a great night all around.
"Iduna is also on the bill. First time in Tillsonburg as well. All the bands are a little different sound-wise so this show will have something for everyone."