The Trews

 

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Is there anything more daunting than taking stock? Actually hitting the pause button on our go-go-go lives long enough to size things up, to scan the rear-view before accelerating forward? Answer: no. But those brave or crazy enough to do just that often find themselves richly rewarded.

Take rock and roll vets The Trews. With the release of their career-best survey Time Capsule – and by ‘career-best,’ we mean chart-topping radio hits plus fan favourites, deep cuts and four absolutely scorching new songs – the quartet can coolly appraise their hard-earned successes before confidently blazing new trails.

Time Capsule is a snapshot of The Trews at their peak: five studio albums (two certified gold) plus multiple EPs and a live album), 16 Top 10 singles,(two certified gold) and the same unassailable creative ambition that propelled them onto the planet’s most prestigious stages as headliners and alongside legends including (but not limited to) the Rolling Stones, Robert Plant, Guns N’ Roses and Aerosmith.

All things considered, a career inventory-slash-band recalibration of Time Capsule’s sort seems entirely appropriate at this juncture.

“There’s a kind of existentialism that comes with a best-of package,” allows Trews singer/songwriter and guitarist Colin MacDonald with a chuckle. “It really is a chance to look back while pushing forward.

“Even though we’ve been around for a while, we’re still competitive. We still feel like we have something to prove. And I think that’s kept The Trews going for so long. We’re always looking in the distance and wondering how we get over there. I don’t think that’s ever going to stop.”

“We plan on doing the next record hot on the heels of this one to let people know we’re not just sitting back celebrating our illustrious career,” cracks songwriter/guitarist and producer John-Angus MacDonald.

“But this is also a new chapter, now that Gavin (drummer Gavin Maguire) is here. We’re a slightly different sounding band – inevitable with a line-up change. And these four new songs are pointing the way forward.”

Indeed, even long-time Trews fans had better steady themselves for the locomotive assault of “Beautiful & Tragic” which combines a bracing “Hey! Hey!” singalong pop chorus with a roaring melody that doesn’t so much stick in your skull as machete its way in.

“It’s a different kind of song for us,” confirms John-Angus MacDonald. “Very bright and poppy but it’s got a great energy.”

Similarly, pile-driving anthem “Lotta Work/Little Love” – also new and planned as a Time Capsule focus track along with “Beautiful & Tragic” – clomps relentlessly forward as if the 80s never happened, soldering retro-sounding organ against a molten guitar riff.

“That riff was written for the last record but never found a home,” Colin MacDonald says. “John-Angus and I went to Noble Street Studios one day with Gavin Brown (co-producer of their previous album, The Trews) and we just started playing around and suddenly, it came together. It’s a real banger of a rock song.”

These two new songs, along with “Chinese Kites” and “Sing Your Heart Out” (originally released on 2009’s Friends & Total Strangers acoustic EP and rendered in full studio form here for the first time) signal a band still very much in pursuit of the almighty rock ‘n’ roll gem.

“’Beautiful & Tragic’ I co-wrote with Serena Ryder,” explains Colin MacDonald. Keeners will note the “Stompa” singer guested on one track, “In the Morning,” on 2014’s before-mentioned self-titled album, also included on Time Capsule.

Colin MacDonald continues: “We were joking one afternoon about a band with really heavy grooves but insanely catchy melodies. Serena just started singing and it ended up being ‘Beautiful & Tragic.’ Then John-Angus and Jack worked on it and it became this cool, almost 70s glam throwback thing.”

While the new songs were obvious contenders for inclusion on Time Capsule, cherry-picking songs from The Trews’ wildly diverse and extensive back catalogue wasn’t nearly as obvious, although the results are no less satisfying. (Interestingly, catalogue songs are sequenced chronologically to underscore the band’s evolution).

Says John-Angus MacDonald, “I didn’t want the album to just be singles released to radio because those songs didn’t necessarily have the biggest impact on fans. Also, if we just stuck with the rock singles, the whole album would be very one-dimensional. The band has more range than that.

“‘Highway of Heroes’ (a single-only release from 2010) didn’t enter the top 10 but it means a lot to people. ‘The Power of Positive Drinking’ (from 2012’s …Thank You and I’m Sorry EP) has become a live staple despite not performing so well on the charts.” Both are included on Time Capsule.

“‘Ishmael & Maggie’ (from 2005’s Den of Thieves) wasn’t even released as a single but it’s one of our most popular songs. So I took a best-of approach, bearing in mind the songs that seemed to resonate most during the last 12 years of touring.”

All agree the addition of Gavin Maguire – recommended by long-time Trews touring keyboardist Jeff Heisholt – has boosted the band sonically and personally. “He’s really professional and picks stuff up really quickly,” says bassist Jack Syperek, a Trews co-founder along with the MacDonald brothers. “With Gavin, we’ve found a whole new way of playing the old songs. They’ve taken on new life.”

Asked which songs from The Trews arsenal continue to be a revelation, John-Angus MacDonald doesn’t miss a beat. “‘Tired of Waiting’ (from 2003’s House of Ill Fame) we’ve rearranged and played in so many different ways over the years. It’s a real workhorse. Likewise with ‘So She’s Leaving’ (also from 2005’s Den of Thieves). A lot of our stuff has legs live.”

Adds Colin MacDonald, “We feel really lucky to be able to do this. We’re making music, we’re travelling artists, and it’s fun. We’re really getting off on the music. And you can tell.”

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