Rock and road stories from We Were Lovers

By in Culture

Arts Writer

For me, most bands didn’t exist until MuchMusic, MTV or the local commercial radio station told me they did.

This, of course, was nonsense. All of these bands, like most artists, work their asses off for years in what is commonly referred to as “the underground,” playing shows for small audiences in pubs, community halls, church basements and on university campuses.

Eventually a few of these bands, the hard working, talented and sometimes lucky ones, reach a point where popular media outlets decide they are hip and they become mainstream music. Once this has been achieved, what you inevitably begin to hear from many of the hard-core fans, the ones who were there from the beginning, was that when these bands were playing the underground, those were the glory days, those were the days when these bands were truly cool.

Recently I went on to the Amigos MySpace page to check out some upcoming shows. One of these bands immediately intrigued me. That band was We Were Lovers and they hail from right here in Saskatoon.

Lucky for me, I wouldn’t have to wait until Sept. 5 to see We Were Lovers at Amigos because they were playing a free show down at the Farmers’ Market at the River Landing on Aug. 29.

I will always remember that show. It was hotter than hell with a bluebird sky overhead. I stood there taking in the gorgeous vocals of Elsa Gebremichael, the lead singer of We Were Lovers and of the now defunct Chimpan A to Chimpan Z. Her mesmerizing percussions, backed by the incredible rhythms, beats and melodies of the band created a crazy atmosphere.

Even though I had heard We Were Lovers for the first time only three days prior, I felt that the stars were aligning for the Saskatoon quintet right there before me. I wanted to, as Dallas Green once said, “dance, like no one (is) watching.”

Sometimes music produces a high unmatched by any drug, and for me this was one of those moments.

In coversation with the band, some hilarious tour stories surfaced.

After playing a recent show, the band resigned to their chambers in the dingiest of basements. Jordan Kurtz decided this would be the perfect opportunity to wash his hair for the first time in 2009 (no, really ladies, he is quite stylish). As he looked down into the soapy residue he swore he saw what looked like a rat. It couldn’t be; he wasn’t in Swift Current!

Quickly rinsing the shampoo from his hair, Jordan looked down only to see that his eyes were not deceiving him; it was indeed a rat. Its rotting corpse indicated it had been dead for quite some time. Obviously, this wasn’t a place where one expected to hear a knocking at the door followed by the usual “housekeeping!”Â  Miraculously, they managed to escape without contracting any of the communicable diseases that must have clung to every inch of the place.

We Were Lovers’s eastern Canadian tour also took them to “La Belle Provence” where they felt l’amour. In contrast to the love they were being shown, however, their visit to a local diner also brought them into the heart of the bilingual conflict.

At approximately 3 a.m. after a kick-ass performance in Montreal they found themselves right in the middle of a brawl between the French and the English.

It all began when an English-speaking Canadian set fire to his poutine — a crime in Quebec, I believe. However, he didn’t feel the flames were vicious enough and proceeded to throw this flaming delicacy into the garbage between We Were Lovers and some French-Canadian patrons. Apparently “les habitants” didn’t take kindly to such behaviour by these “squareheads.”

Gebremichael did what most people in the 21st century would do: she began videotaping this madness with her video camera. Kurtz, Lucky and Lamothe moved to a table with a more comfortable view while Wiebe, well, he did what anyone who has ever sat down to a “real” poutine for their first time would do. He kept eating while the integrity of our bilingual foundation threatened to crumble around him. They escaped unscathed and with some priceless footage too.

Has it been worth the physical and financial toll that a tour like this can take? I didn’t ask them. But their numerous accomplishments indicates to me that despite the rotting vermin, the disease infested accommodations and the sacrilegious defilement of fine Francophone cuisine (almost leading to the annihilation of our nation’s proud but fragile bilingual heritage) it certainly has been.

We Were Lovers’s single “Birds of a Feather” was included on a compilation CD of the prestigious American independent music magazine CMJ; they appeared on “Take 5,” a regular feature on a Toronto-based independent radio station; they were invited to the SXSW music festival in Austin, Texas; and they are performing two sets at the upcoming Western Canadian Music Awards in Brandon, Man.

Considering the accomplishments the band has amassed, it is hard to believe that their present lineup has only been playing together for nine months.

Along the road to success there are always bumps. In We Were Lovers’s case this bump occurred in April 2008 after the release of their EP The Breakup. With no irony intended, the six-piece group disbanded.

Rather than give up, Lamothe and Gebermichael decided to carry on with a drum machine until they could find the pieces that would be necessary if they were to revive their musical creation. Through struggle, perseverance and a passion for their cause, this was made possible. By January 2009 Lucky, Kurtz and Wiebe had joined the band. We Were Lovers is becoming stronger as talented individuals combine their unique skills and share with each other their experiences and wisdom.

After three weeks on the road, We Were Lovers have returned and are again displaying their incredible talents for hometown crowds. On Sept. 5, We Were Lovers opened up for B.C.’s Immaculate Machine at Amigos. The show was outstanding. Within seconds of the first few notes of “Dangerous Darlings,” the hometown crowd took to their feet. This is an instinctual reaction to We Were Lovers, you will find. Your body just refuses to sit still.

In addition to their EP The Breakup, We Were Lovers will soon be gracing us with their first full length album.

Their next tour starts Sept. 23 in Regina, at The Club. It is a tour that will take them to New York with several Canadian and American stops along the way, including one at the notorious Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto.

If you missed the performance at Amigos or the Sept. 8 show at the “Commerce BBQ,” do not fret. We Were Lovers are coming to a campus near you. On Sept. 11 they are one of the bands the USSU has invited to entertain students for Welcome Week.  You wanted a scene!? Well, you got one. I assure you: you will want to be there. It will be one of those moments in your life that you will remember vividly. It will be a moment you look back on and say, “I saw them when they were still ”˜cool.’ ”