Vol. 21 No. 9 • March 5 - 11, 2015 In Our 20th Year Serving Greater Hamilton

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Or How Tin Foil Dusted off the Ashes and Started Again

by View
November 25 - December 1, 2004
Founded in 1997 by vocalist Michael Allen Zirk (aka Maz) and drummer Steven Kray, Sonic Bloom began their momentous journey through the hell and high waters so synonymous with the indie music scene. Then, on the cusp of their first EP’s release, just when it looked like all their time and energy had been worthwhile, everything fell apart when legal issues ordered a name change. From the ashes of this chaos rose the Phoenix—the Tin Foil Phoenix. Comprised of Maz on vocals, Kray on percussion, Fish on guitar, Phil Cholosky on guitar and Paul Robinson on bass, Tin Foil Phoenix, in its current incarnation, have been together since 2001. They’re a Winnipeg band that have battled the indie monster and come out the other side, scarred but not beaten, stumbling into big label success almost in spite of themselves. Admitting unabashedly that at the core of the band is a great irony, Maz tells of a time when the group’s breakthrough single, “Neopolitan,” stood for all they believed the band might ever be. After blowing their recording budget, they decided to volunteer the song for a recording class project at a local studio and then distributed it to radio stations across Canada. “‘Neopolitan’ is all about us thinking that our love for our music might well be our greatest and crowning achievement,” says Maz. “Then it turns out to be the song that gets us our record deal! How’s that for ironic?” It was only a matter of time before someone finally noticed—in this case, it was Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger who, obviously knowing talent when he hears it, was quick to sign TFP to his label, 604 Records. Then, their EP became the foundation for their first big studio album, Living in the Shadow of the Bat. “We’re at the bottom rung of a brand new ladder,” says Maz. “It’s amazing and really all that we ever wanted. We paid our dues, though. Chad even helped us produce a couple of tracks, and being in the studio with him and jamming was great. Just having been signed and then being in this new creative environment was really exciting.” While the name change did little to alter their aesthetic, Maz does admit that the band has taken a direction change of sorts, down the road of spoken word for one and the fans are eating it up. It’s all about the fans. “We tried the spoken word thing at a few shows and there was an instant connection with the audience,” says Maz, who cites Gord Downie from the Hip as a huge influence. “So we started creating some material more in that vein and it works really well.” On their debut, Living in the Shadow of the Bat, TFP showcase their diversity and experimentation on every song, each one a far cry from the last in style and substance. It’s like a soundtrack to a great movie by different artists or a CD player on random packed with killer discs. While other bands often fail in this attempt, TFP is one of the rare groups that, because of their ingenuity, seem to flourish. Due to a massive breadth of influence, TFP pulls it off and does it well. Once described in the press as “Cake Against The Machine,” a comparison Maz doesn’t mind at all, the band is happy not to be easily pigeonholed, no matter what some may say. “Sometimes we’ve been criticized as trying to be everything to everyone, but we just do the song however it sounds right. This is us. So if a song sounds gangsta, I might rap a bit. Or if it’s more rock then that’s how we’ll do it. It’s all about getting a clear message to the fans, however we can.” Maz says that the creative process is one shared by the entire band, all the options open for everyone to input their bit. “While I write most of the songs and they somehow are a representation of some issue or experience in my life, how we get the message to the fans is a definite group effort,” says Maz, whose lyrics can go from ballad–like to hip–hop in the blink of an eye, depending on the song’s need. Topically, their repertoire is as diverse as their musical stylings and this seems to help things magically mesh together, no matter how eclectic or off–the–wall they may at first appear. In a bit of lyrics from “Neopolitan,” TFP put everything into perspective: “Art is its own reward / Just ask Burt Ward / Years of living in the shadow of The Bat.” For Tin Foil Phoenix, those years have paid off and if LITSOTB is any indication, they soon will be dumbfounding traditional music critics as their own great shadow stretches across an unsuspecting country. The Phoenix has risen. V [PETER KLASSEN]
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