THE INTERVIEW: Colin MacDonald from The Trews

What can you say about The Trews? They are a solid four-piece rock band. They write good tunes. They are from Canada. They are again ‘down here’ playing shows in modest-sized venues. They warmed-up for Kiss (among others). They are lead by brothers Colin and John Angus McDoanld. They employ no gimmicks (see my review of their new CD No Time For Later). I happened to speak to one of those brothers, Colin and got to ask him all about things in Trews land.

You’re in town to play the Mercury Lounge, have you guys played NYC before?

Yes, we played the Bowery Ballroom, Nokia when we warmed up for Ace Frehley.

Thanks for the segue; tell me about warming-up for Kiss. What was that like?

It was amazing, we had a great night. We just got added to the bill, but we got to meet the guys, they seemed to like what we were doing. They are doing the Kiss Alive 35th anniversary show; I just sat there and watched it all with a big grin on my face. It’s really great that we get these opportunities to play with these legendary bands.

There’s been a few rock bands with brothers in them, Black Crowes, The Kinks, come to mind. Do you and John have the cliché’ volatile rock and roll relationship or do you guys get along better than that?

We’re pretty good. I think since we haven’t really broken out internationally, we’re not really famous; there’s not that extra pressure on us. We all really have spent a lot of time together over the years, the entire band, so we’re all close, like four bothers. Usually all that fighting is an ego thing, but when you’re working uphill, trying to make it work, that brings you together. We keep our own council basically.

This is my ‘state of the music business’ question but…what do you feel about the music business nowadays?

It’s difficult, it’s changing all the time. It hasn’t been easy to keep up honestly, with the internet and the business shrinking, all those bands out there trying to make it. But we’re just moving straight ahead, being honest with what we do, and communicating with people. It’s a tough business, but we’ve chosen to do it, no one is holding a gun to our heads. We want to keep going, tour America, we’ve already seen some towns starting to turn around. We just go out and deliver 120 percent, hope for the best, no gimmicks, best served honestly.

About No Time For Later you guys are quoted as saying you feel this is a record of ‘Two minds.’ Tell me what you mean.

We started out in the fall of ‘06 after a long tour, wanting to put out something with a heavy impact. We had opened for Guns and Roses and I guess that influenced us wanting to make a hard rock album. Then the album took longer, we started to change gears a bit, we hired a new production team, and they came in and heard some of the CCR-type stuff we were writing and they said they liked that side of us too. So we got into both worlds, well rounded, kind of eclectic…but still us with our guitar sounds, vocal harmonies. You can’t predict when you make a record where the songs are going, and if you try to control it, people will hear the manipulation. It’s all got to be organic.

Canadian band in the U.S., discuss…

It seems to me that if you are a Canadian band and you come down here and get success first in America, then you can go back up to Canada and it is easier then to enjoy success in both places. Nickleback ended up like that and now they are a huge band. For a band to have success first in Canada, like we do, then come down here and try to break America is harder. Traditionally, Canadian acts can get a ton of success at home, radio, T.V. outlets but then you come to the states and you don’t exist. But Canadian bands usually do very well in border towns, places like Buffalo, Detroit, they get Canadian radio, so for us that’s where we hope to break down that barrier for American fans. And when people latch-on here they do go out of their way to see it. American fans are very loyal.

And the state of economy, has it touched you guys ‘up there’?

Yeah, we all feel it. But you know, when times get tough people turn to entertainment, they go to movies more often, shows, looking for an escape.

In your press you mention Rockpile, among other bands who influenced you, and I really heard this in “Dark Highway” especially, but then I heard shades of Nazareth in a tune like “Hold Me in Your Arms.”

Well Rockpile was one of my most favorite bands. But I think the differences you hear in the songs come from the fact that we have always liked bands that had diversity, like Queen, they did a lot of different stuff but it always was Queen. No matter where the songs go I think we always stay in the rock and roll genre and you know it’s us.

And did you write the songs or you and your brother?

The best ones were written in jams, four of us jamming on ideas, working it over, and then coming up with good lyrics.

So what’s in the future for The Trews?

We’re releasing an acoustic album from a live acoustic club date we did (title and street date not set yet) In the fall we’re plan to begin writing, but we are out playing here in the U.S til’ 8/16. We’re getting some play on ‘Alternate Nation’ (on Sirus/XM) so we’ll probably do more acoustic and electric shows both, keep it going, revisit the cities where we seem to be doing alright

Any plans on attacking Europe?

Europe is expensive to get over to tour in. Here we can just drive down, 7-8 hours we’re here in the north east, we’re cool with that. We all live in South Ontario so eight hours we’re in New York, ten we’re in Chicago.

So you just basically keep planning and recording.

Very few people get into this to be international stars. You just got to go and do it, and it might be Madison Square Garden, it might the Mercury Lounge, either way you do your best every night to entertain whoever is there. You can’t base your entire life on making it huge, you just got to make ends meet and consider yourself fortunate that you get to do something you love and make a living at it. It’s hard to keep perspective in such a fickle business, one percent of groups are as big as Kiss. I just hope that when people see The Trews live they have a good time.

Ralph Greco Jr.

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