TORONTO — Toronto’s Born Ruffians earned a breakthrough group of the year nomination at this year’s Juno Awards, after more than a decade of making a name for themselves internationally for their energetic, jangly guitar pop.
So just after nominations were announced Tuesday, the band’s elated principal members couldn’t help but poke fun at the distinction.
“We’ve been a band since high school, almost 11 years — it’s been a long time. So breaking through after that long is less of a ‘breakthrough’ and more like softly pawing at the wall,” joked bassist Mitch Derosier.
“Like timid cats trying to get in,” chimed in frontman Luke Lalonde.
“We’re coming! Here we come!” added Derosier.
Nevertheless, the quartet was pleased to find itself amidst a slate of Juno nominees largely ruled by heavyweights.
Montreal’s Arcade Fire, whose expansive fourth album Reflektor topped charts upon its October release, led the way with six nominations only two years after claiming a leading four Juno trophies, including album and group of the year.
The consensus at Tuesday’s news conference seemed to be that the ambitious rockers were the ones to beat.
“We’ll be honoured to lose to the Arcade Fire,” laughed Wes Marskell of Toronto’s the Darcys, whose intricate record Warring is nominated alongside Reflektor for alternative album of the year.
But other front-runners have also been here before.
Michael Buble — an 11-time winner and last year’s host — earned five nominations including album, single and artist of the year, while five nods also went to Serena Ryder, a four-time winner who nevertheless has to be considered one of the year’s only newcomers to the top categories.
The other act to finally crack the Junos’ upper echelon was Calgary-reared outfit Tegan and Sara. The Quin twins scooped up four nominations for their slick Heartthrob, a clever pop reinvention that finally propelled the duo near the top of the charts.
Other four-time nominees this year included Celine Dion (a 20-time winner), Hedley (now 25-time nominees) and Drake, now a 20-time nominee who wrested an album of the year nomination for Nothing Was the Same but whose platinum singles Started From the Bottom and Hold On, We’re Going Home were excluded from recognition.
Oddly, Ryder’s album — Harmony — won last year for adult alternative album of the year and is now nominated for album of the year. Similarly, Classified and David Myles’ Inner Ninja won rap recording of the year at last year’s show — and the duo actually performed the jaunty tune — and now it’s nominated for single of the year.
Such double-dips are possible because there’s always a small overlap between eligibility periods, explained the Juno Awards’ manager of awards and special events Laura Bryan.
This year’s nominees had to release music between Sept. 1, 2012 and Nov. 13, 2013, the same months as the previous year — so any artist who released music during the overlap was allowed to submit again to any category in which they hadn’t already received a nomination.
Blurred Lines crooner Robin Thicke — a longtime L.A. resident who pulled in three Juno nominations because he possesses Canadian citizenship by virtue of his actor father, Alan — was announced as a performer at the show, as were Ryder, Tegan and Sara and City and Colour.
The host has yet to be announced.
This year’s nominations were declared at a packed press conference in downtown Toronto, with many of this year’s award contenders in attendance — they were invited under semi-mysterious circumstances, with most allowing only cautious optimism that the invitation was a precursor to a nomination.
“I thought they were just being like: ‘Hey, come on out,”’ said Halifax-raised electronic album of the year nominee Ryan Hemsworth, a rising star whose remixes of artists including Mikky Ekko, A$AP Rocky and Grimes have won international acclaim.
“I don’t know too much about the inner workings of the Junos — it could have been an evil little twist . . . But I’m very happy they nominated me.”
After the announcement, the award hopefuls were whisked through a gauntlet of media — typically after sending a flurry of texts to proud loved ones.
“I told my mother,” said Welland, Ont., country singer Daniel Romano, vying for roots & traditional album of the year: solo. “She asked who else was in the category and I haven’t written back yet.
“‘Well, who are you up against?’ Chill out, ma. It’s fine. One step at a time.”