A softer side of The Trews 

East Coast rockers strip down their sound with new acoustic album


Who : The Trews

When: Saturday, Nov. 28, 9 p.m.

Where : GLC

Cost: $20 in advance at GLC, Billabong, Katmandu & Clubzone.com/ciaconcerts

Fans of The Trews should check their expectations at the door on Saturday night, as the East Coast band has something totally different up their sleeves on this latest tour.

Vocalist Colin MacDonald, guitarist John-Angus MacDonald, bassist Jack Syperek and drummer Sean Dalton have been on the road for almost three weeks now, promoting their latest album, Friends & Total Strangers .

Early Tuesday morning, John-Angus was recovering from their show in Campbell River the night before and trying to prepare for their next gig that evening in Nanaimo. Even after sipping from a cup of coffee accidentally seasoned with two tablespoons of salt, the guitarist was positive about their new tour.

"We've been pleasantly surprised with how well things have gone. It's a bit of an experiment to do this acoustic thing all across the country - we've never toured it before - and we're really shocked with how great the audiences have been and how willing to suspend their imaginations they are."

They've become known to fans as a hard rock band, with their loud, in-your-face bar rock hits like Poor Ol' Broken Hearted Me and So She's Leaving. So, at first glance the Friends & Total Strangers album may seem like a bit of a departure for the group. But it isn't, really. It's just a simpler approach, stripping down their edgier sound and ditching the electric guitars and drum kit for some acoustic guitars and a djembe.

The album was actually inspired by a one-off acoustic set the band did at the Canadian embassy in Tokyo in 2008 that was surprisingly well-received by the audience.

"We decided we would do acoustic as opposed to electric - for a lot of reasons it just made more sense... and we had this amazing reaction."

Almost all of their tunes start out acoustic, as the band work out the harmonies.

"It's always been an approach that we've loved and wasn't that much of a stretch for us, because a lot of our songs came from that realm of acoustic guitar and hand drums and singing, you know? We just weren't sure how people would react to it. They're used to all the wattage and energy of an electric show."

But they needn't worry - the fans have been showing this acoustic incarnation of the band some serious love, packing the house at shows.

Anyone who's caught The Trews' live show before knows that they've always managed to sneak a few acoustic numbers in, but these intimate, all-acoustic shows are definitely new territory for the group.

The calmer format also gives listeners a chance to really hear the band's lyrics, which are surprisingly meaningful for the genre, touching on everything from gun control to love and heartbreak.

"We've found that the best, most lasting songs that we've written have come from the heart. So if you really feel something and you write about it, those tend to be the best songs, and I think that it just comes down to it meaning something to you," he reflected.

It's also given the band the chance to both re-envision some of their well-known songs like The Pearl and Montebello Park and feature some of their previously unreleased material that was left off of past albums. And, of course, they also wrote some brand new material for the project.

"That was sort of the thinking behind the name Friends & Total Strangers ," John-Angus explained.

They recorded the album over two nights of concerts at the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto and emerged with an album that is free of overdubs and post-production fixes. They released The Trews Acoustic - Friends and Total Strangers back in October, which has seen the band on a 27-date national tour, including a show here in Whistler this weekend.

But the warm reception they've met on this tour doesn't mean that the band is abandoning their hard rocking sound permanently.

"I'm loving this tour, but I'm really missing my electric guitar so I think when I get home, I'm going to want to turn the amps up and break out the Les Pauls and see what happens!"



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