Focusing on success 

exithiside takes the next step up musical ladder

By Kara-Leah Grant

Who: exithiside

Where: The Crabshack

When: Saturday, Nov. 9

When exithiside competed in this summer’s X-Fm’s Last Band Standing it was a case of almost… but not quite. The Vancouver-based band made it into the Top Ten, out of some 300 bands who entered the contest, but didn’t make it into the final three. But the band carefully listened to the comments of the judges and is using the experience to propel them forward in the quest for success in the music business.

"We were close but we were told the problem was our music wasn’t radio friendly enough. That was what it came down to," said Craig McLaren, bassist for the band. "We take pride in everything we do, so we are by no means ashamed of the music we have. But we’ve since come to realize that it is time to maybe start writing to fit the format of the radio."

The band, which also includes Ben Wootton, lead singer, Tarek Elneweihi, lead guitar, Dan Caetano, rhythm guitar and Ghoulz on drums and percussion, has already released an EP, Sucker , and their self-titled debut album, exithiside . They also have three videos in rotation on MuchMusic.

"We put together a package and applied for a grant and we’ve been lucky and got three now," said McLaren. "We felt our last video, She Goes Down, was our best but it was in meetings for about four weeks getting bounced around because of the content. It was nothing too outrageous we thought, but when it was finally approved it was only for late night viewing. It got spun a few times but we didn’t get the exposure we were hoping for."

She Goes Down’ is a catchy, ska influenced song that showcases the distinctive sound of lead singer Wootton’s voice. The chorus sticks in your head and it could have been one of those summer songs that everybody is playing and everybody is singing. But – and it is those buts that exithiside is working hard at getting past – they’ve decided that if they really want to pursue success, then they have to play the game.

"Everyone talks about selling out, but we’d never write a song we didn’t think was a good song and that we didn’t want to write," said McLaren. "We still write for ourselves and we’ve been working on a lot of new material over the summer, it’s a lot stronger than the older stuff and a lot more radio friendly. It’s not like we had to change, but more like we had to focus."

McLaren says that their first album, exithiside was mainly hard rock, but had a varied sound that made it hard to fit the band into any specific genre. The new material is punk-influenced pop and they aim to write songs that sound similar to each other, rather than all over the musical map.

"The last album was a rock album, it’s very melodic rock but quite heavy, by no means heavy metal, but hard rock. The new stuff is more pop punk," said McLaren. "That was the next step for us. We sat down and figured what type of genre do we want to conform to. Now we are focusing on making songs that have the same sort of general feel. That was a decision that we made, that it would be the best move for us to make as a band."

The band writes all their material collaboratively and says it makes for better songs.

"Usually someone will come up with an idea and give it to the band and we’ll work on it together," said McLaren. "It definitely keeps everyone on their toes and instead of having just one idea, we have five ideas and we can pick the best one."

A chance meeting with the Whole Damn County in Toronto last year led to a booking at last winter’s World Ski and Snowboard Festival and through those contacts, exithiside has hooked up a semi-regular gig at the Crabshack this winter. They are renowned for their incredibly energetic stage show, and Wootton uses all of the stage when he performs.

McLaren says the band is very excited about the opportunity to regularly play in Whistler.

"The shows went over really well this winter, everyone in Whistler likes to party," said McLaren. "We’re very excited about playing in Whistler because it’s a new market and more exposure for our music. The more people that hear us and know about us the better! Plus it will give us a chance to get in a lot of snowboarding."


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