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Anything but ill

Juno-nominated rock-reggae group, illScarlett, to get World Ski and Snowboard Festival’s outdoor concert series started out right

Who: illScarlett

Where: Skier’s Plaza

When: Friday, April 11, 2:30-5:30 p.m.

Organizers of the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival (TWSSF) are bringing in some rising talent with an upbeat, energetic sound to help kick-start their 10-day entertainment extravaganza.

The Mississauga born-and-bred band, illScarlett, is powered by the lyrics of frontman, Alex Norman, with Swav Pior on drums, John Doherty on bass and Will Matt on guitar.

Norman called from Sunshine Village in Banff just days after the Juno Awards, where the band went head to head with Dragonette, Faber Drive, State of Shock and Wintersleep for the title of New Group of the Year.

While they didn’t walk away with the award — Wintersleep did — Norman says they were honoured to be nominated, and the experience of being up for a Juno was a target for the band this year.

“And sure enough, we made it,” said Norman.

Goals are an important part of the band’s game plan.

“I think it’s important to set goals because that’s how you get things done,” said Norman. “I mean, we don’t set crazy goals, but it starts with just getting a gig, and then getting a CD, and then getting a CD that’s actually wrapped in plastic.”

A lot of milestones in their career have been reached through the initiative and drive of the members. They actually got their first big break back in 2004 when they set up shop in the parking lot of the Warped Tour, hoping to sell some copies of their independently released album. The next thing they knew, they were being asked to perform at the nightly post-show party by Warped Tour organizer, Kevin Lymon.

“We did not expect that, but it was really cool,” recalled Norman. “It was one of those sort of magical moments when we just felt really good about ourselves and proved to everybody that we’re a real band and we can do it.”

But illScarlett isn’t all work and no play — they know how to party, too, and it sounds like they did just that at the Junos.

“It was great — it was really cool to see all our friends who we don’t see all the time because we’re always on tour and doing stuff… The Juno Awards is like a giant boozefest. I think I slept five hours in five days,” Norman said with a laugh.

It doesn’t look like the party is going to stop anytime soon.

After Banff, the boys are heading to Whistler to perform during the TWSSF. They’re opening the outdoor concert series on Friday, April 11, and are also set to take the stage for an evening performance as part of the Kokanee Freeride club series at the Garibaldi Lift Company, with their special blend of pop-infused rock reggae to get the crowd fired up for the action-packed days to follow.

“It’s a real tough week, as you can imagine, for us,” Norman said wryly. “We’re totally stoked, we have a few friends in Whistler and it’s always a good town for us, so we’re totally stoked.”

IllScarlett draws on everything from pop music to “screaming tech metal” to create their unique sound.

“There’s so much that influences us. New bands that we hear, they influence us too, and maybe bands influence us and we don’t even know it,” he said with a laugh.

But they draw their main influences from groups like Sublime, the Foo Fighters, Nirvana, Green Day, and the Offspring.

The boys met through high school, and with a few changes to the lineup, illScarlett has been together now for almost seven years. Over that time, they’ve played with some big names — touring with groups like Billy Talent, All American Rejects, and Cypress Hill, to name a few.

“Billy Talent was really cool because those guys are also from Mississauga, so there’s a cool connection we have there, and they’re such down to earth cool dudes that put on amazing rock concerts,” Norman said.

IllScarlett had a few self-released full-length CDs before they signed with Sony and released an EP.

While there are some major differences between indie labels and big names like Sony, at the end of the day, the band wanted to be working with individuals that really cared about their music.

“Major label or independent label, it’s the people who are working there, who are working on your project and who are fighting for you that really matter,” said Norman.

The deal with Sony enabled them to focus on their music, and leave managers and agents to worry about the details.

“They didn’t try and change anything,” said Norman. “I expected they would put us in tighter pants and give us cooler haircuts, but they were just like, ‘nah, do whatever you want, and keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s obviously working.’”

After their TWSSF performances, they plan to fly home to perform with Billy Talent again, in Buffalo. Then, they’ll spend a few months unwinding and working on some new material before they embark on a cross-country tour in June.

“We’re just hanging out with our friends, trying to write some new songs and just trying to reset and make some goals, make some plans and just keep building it,” said Norman.