“Apocalyptic death clouds” and a state trooper’s drawn handgun were among the unexpected setbacks The Trews experienced while trying to break into the U.S. market.
The Ontario-based band, which performs at Red Deer’s Centrium during the opening of Westerner Days on Wednesday, was touring through Wisconsin and Illinois late last month when high winds and a dark-green sky forewarned of potential disaster.
Unsettled by news that tornadoes were touching down 6.5 km to the west, The Trews opted to pull their vehicle off the road in a torrential downpour and park in the driveway of a building.
“It was terrifying. We felt the van being pushed by the wind,” recalled lead singer Colin MacDonald, who feared it would end up on its side.
Distracted by the forces of nature, MacDonald said his band members didn’t notice when an Illinois state trooper pulled up.
The police officer approached the parked van and drew his gun on the band after hearing burglar alarms were going off in the nearby building. He asked The Trews, “How do I know you aren’t robbing the place?”
“It was, after all, the ideal time and setting” for a robbery, MacDonald archly said during a phone interview.
It wasn’t long before the trooper concluded the alarms were set off by the storm, not the musicians, and he laughingly apologized.
MacDonald, who later recounted the entire experience on the group’s website, said the officer was even kind enough to give the band’s van a boost when its battery died.
But the experience of having a gun pointed at them left band members with a unique reference point for how the U.S. differs from Canada.
On the positive side, The Trews were welcomed everywhere they played for American audiences. “Every time people see us, we win fans,” said MacDonald.
While music by the Canadian rockers is only played on alternative satellite radio stations in the U.S., The Trews will keep plugging away to achieve a measure of the success south of the border that they already enjoy in Canada.
The Juno Award-nominated band has come a long way since winning a southern Ontario radio station contest in 2002 and getting signed by Sony BMG. The Trews have put out four albums and a long list of hits, including Tired of Waiting and Not Ready to Go, which was a No. 1 single and the most played song in rock radio in 2004.
The group’s latest release, No Time for Later, produced the tunes Hold Me in Your Arms (which topped the MuchMusic charts in April), Paranoid Freak and Can’t Stop Laughing, which features a bagpiper in the video.
MacDonald, who performs with his brother, guitarist John-Angus MacDonald, their cousin, drummer Sean Dalton, and longtime friend and bassist Jack Syperek, admitted the bagpiper is a tip of the hat to home.
Originally from Antigonish, N.S., The Trews sometimes sound more metal than folk. But there’s no escaping the group’s East Coast influences, said MacDonald, who believes that traces of Irish and Scottish music can be heard on Trews songs such as Ishmael and Maggie.
“We’re not metalheads,” said MacDonald — despite the harder edge to the group’s last album.
In fact, now that The Trews have delved into hard rock, he said the next album just might be more reflective. “There are different periods in our lives where we’ve been more emotional or melodic — or more rockin’ crazy.”
Who: The Trews
When: 8:30 p.m., Wednesday
Where: Centrium in Red Deer
Tickets: $25 (including taxes and service charges, but not gate admission to Westerner Days) from Ticketmaster