The British Columbians, named Canada’s Best Undiscovered Band by music industry insiders in 2009, is continuing to fly under most people’s radar.
But achieving cult status with some diehard fans is preferable to gaining commercial success by bowing to somebody else’s rules, say the Vancouver-based band members, who perform on Thursday at The Hideout south of Red Deer.
“It would be nice if we got played more on commercial radio,” said singer/guitarist Girard Knox. “But when we make a song, we’ve got to follow it right to the end.
“We don’t want to make a conscious decision to cut it down to three minutes just to make it playable to a radio audience.”
As a result of the indie group’s five-minute opuses that don’t stick to a particular genre, switching between hard rock, country, folk and blues, The British Columbians are mostly played on college radio stations and the non-commercial CKUA Radio.
Knox figures, “We’d rather find people who want to listen to our band and the music we make, as opposed to making music — and there’s no offence intended — that’s just intended to be consumed.”
The group’s second CD, Made For Darker Things, has produced two tracks that received a fair amount of airplay on alternative radio — Feel No Better and Fine Mess.
Knox, a Calgary native, said the 2011 release didn’t start out as a concept album. But by the time he had finished writing most of the songs, there was an underlying darkness evident.
Evil in the Trees came out of an attempt to draw on old-time gospel and country influences. Artists like the Louvin Brothers and Blind Willie Johnson had often written about heaven and hell, said Knox, “and I wanted to tap into that . . . American gothic thing. I was fascinated with those gospel themes.”
The Munitionette is a song he wrote about a First World War widow who has to get a job at a munitions factory to eke out a living for herself and her child, while Heart on the Wrong Side started as a jam session between the band’s drummer/vocalist Dave Moran and Knox.
The resulting music “wasn’t super articulated” until lyrics finally emerged about a year later, said Moran. “Things happened, then those lyrics began to tell the story.”
The part true/part fictional tune is about somebody reflecting on a romantic relationship that’s over. “He’s looking back with regret — and some appreciation — because there was a love there,” said Knox. “It’s like you can put your heart into it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to come to fruition.”
The British Columbians — also made up of keyboardist/guitarist Owen Connell and bassist Joseph-Lubinsky-Mast — bring various musical influences to the table. But where the tastes of all four band members converge is on epic ’70s rock, such as music produced by Led Zeppelin and The Band.
“It’s funny, but that stuff gets into your DNA,” said Knox, who recalled that a few times the group came up with a great piece of music until somebody realized that “while it’s awesome, we can’t do that because it’s a Led Zeppelin song, like The Crunge or something.”
Although young males make up a lot of the band’s audience, Moran believes it’s as hard to typify its listeners as it is to summarize the group’s sound.
“Sometimes we’ll hear from a 50-year-old woman, who’ll tell us she’s totally struck by a certain song. She might have a hard time listening to the rest of the album, ’cause it’s loud, but that one song changed her life.”
For more information about the show, call 403-348-5319.