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The Trews story of rock

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Photo: David Bastedo

Photo: David Bastedo

Just one day after winning 2014 Rock Recording of the Year at the ECMAs for “thank you, and I’m sorry,” Colin MacDonald, lead singer and guitarist of The Trews, is grateful. “We didn’t expect to win but we were certainly happy to hear our named called,” he says.

The win comes as the band—with John-Angus MacDonald on guitar and background vocals, Jack Syperek on bass and background vocals, and Sean Dalton on drums and background vocals—is just weeks before the release of their fifth studio album, The Trews. Its debut single, “What’s Fair is Fair,” is already at the top of the Canadian charts.

“We’re off to a great start … it’s been in the can since December, so we’ve been sitting on it for awhile and we’re eager to get it out into the world,” MacDonald says. “It’s the best Trews record, as every new one is. It’s a concise, big pop rock album.”

While MacDonald says the album is a mix of something new and a bit of what they’ve learned over the past decade, what makes it unique, too, is how it was funded. The Trews, who’ve always had a great relationship with their fans, reached out to them for this album. It was funded by the PledgeMusic Fan Funding campaign, which MacDonald calls “the ultimate fan club experience.” Fans pay to get access to the band and those funds helped the band make the record. On four songs, fans helped with the backup vocals making the album sound “like a live Trews show,” according to MacDonald.

“There have always been patrons of the arts, right, so I think it’s going back to a way older model,” MacDonald says. “No more big label putting up the money. We went right to the people that cared. As a result, it made us work hard because we wanted it to be a really great record for the people who matter, the people who support us.”

Growing up in Antigonish, MacDonald says no one in the band imagined how things would all turn out since the release of their debut album, House of Ill Fame, in 2003. To date, there’s been two gold albums in Canada, 14 top-10 singles, more than 1,000 shows, including playing with the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Plant and KISS, and an upcoming U.S. tour.

“It’s been insane,” MacDonald says. “We’ve been able to play with most of our heroes…some of that stuff is like, ‘Did it really happen? Or is that just a dream?’ I am certainly grateful for it there are are a lot of memories to tell the grandchildren someday.”

But he says their roots have kept them grounded through it all: “The East Coast has a strong tradition of music and songwriting. It’s definitely kept our priorities straight. It’s never been a star culture down here. It’s about talent and good bands and good writers and we carry that with us.”

And MacDonald has his eye on other East Coast talent, too, including Mo Kenney, The Town Heroes and Tom Fun Orchestra. His advice to them: “Just keep being yourselves. You’re awesome. Keep playing; the cream rises.”

So where does MacDonald see the band in another 10 years? “Hopefully, still making records; older and wiser and still making music,” he says. “We are certainly grateful for the decade we had and we hope to continue…Ten years in the music industry feels like 100 years. You got to roll with the punches and embrace change and never let your guard down.”

The Trews will play the Marquee Ballroom in Halifax on Friday, May 23 with special guest Molly Thomason.

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