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County starting to break out of Whistler

The Battle of the Bands, New Music West and a cross country tour – three firsts for Whistler’s favourite hometown boys, Whole Damn County.

The Battle of the Bands, New Music West and a cross country tour – three firsts for Whistler’s favourite hometown boys, Whole Damn County.

With the sheer number of shows The County has been putting on – five a week, sometimes twice a day – it’s difficult to believe that they’ve just recently begun to enjoy a little recognition outside of Whistler. Although the band receives enthusiastic e-mails from around the world from travellers who have picked up a County CD on their way through the resort, it seems industry-types are just beginning to catch on.

Whole Damn County – currently made up of original members Chad Oliver and Pete Couillard, both on vocals, guitar and the songwriter’s pen, Jason Bonnell on bass and Stevie Two-Times (2x) on drums – won Vancouver’s Battle of the Bands two weeks ago. The six week competition sponsored by C-FOX featured two bands per weekend in a play off. The finals saw the County defeat Vancouver’s The Furios. The victory meant a $2,500 cheque, and more importantly, a lot of radio exposure.

"It was a great way to get our name out there," says Oliver. "As a result of winning each week, C-FOX would announce ‘Whole Damn County’ maybe 30 or 40 times each week."

Since releasing their second CD, Mama’s Approval , last fall they’ve also noticed some small but significant royalty cheques in the mail.

"I know our song Another Saturday Night must be getting spun tons. Every time the song gets played on the radio you get 14 cents. We’ve gotten cheques for over $40. So when you do the math… (laughs). I don’t know who’s spinning it and I can’t imagine C-FOX is playing it that much."

The industry door continues to open just a little wider for Whole Damn County with their acceptance into the NewMusicWest Festival. It’s their first acceptance after three years of applications. The weekend event features 200 bands in 25 venues. It’s one of the best ways for music executives to see a large number of artists in a short period of time. And hence the obvious benefits to unsigned musicians like the County.

Co-ordinators haven’t yet confirmed a time or venue for the County for the May 10-12 festival. That makes Oliver a little nervous. The band has already booked several dates in May for their cross country tour. Potentially the most important is The Horseshoe in Toronto on May 15 Th . If the dates fall too close together, Oliver says the band will have to make the business decision to head to Toronto instead of Vancouver.

"It’s kind of a shot in the dark at the NewWest to know who’s coming to see you. But at the Horseshoe we’re playing in a showcase for The Agency, which is the next big (Canadian agency) behind Feldman Associates. There will also be five or six A&R people there as well."

The upcoming Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival will also be an opportunity for the County to impress. Representatives from Sony, A&R and prominent management agencies are rumoured to be in town. The band will also unleash material from their third CD. It has yet to be officially released but limited copies are available through the boys.

Rev is sponsoring the band during the Whistler festival, another first.

"They give us money and hopefully a lot of Rev," laughs Oliver. "We’ve been looking for something like that for a while. You just put up a banner at your shows and that little bit of money can really make a difference. The band can just afford to do things."

The attention must be a bit overwhelming for a band that, in the past, has been content to be self-managed and was just happy not to be working "a day job." In fact, Oliver says until recently the band never had particularly high aspirations for itself.

"To tell you the god’s honest truth, we only thought we could make a go of this when we put out the second record, just six or seven months ago… All of sudden we’re in a position where there’s people who are listening and thinking ‘I could make money off of this’. And if they’re willing to put their name behind it and put some capital behind it, maybe there’s something to it. When the radio started really spinning us I began to think we might actually have a shot.

"The thing about this business is you get these little bursts of adrenaline. You don’t really get that with other jobs. You might get a promotion or a raise. But you don’t have this shimmer of fame and fortune flashing before your eyes. But you do have to keep your feet on the ground. Opportunities like those are few and far between. The only thing you can do is play your songs and hopefully other people are gonna dig them too."