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Discovering new galaxies

In search of a label, sunlikestar garners following WHO: sunlikestar (with Monochrome and SuperJaded) WHAT: Alternative Concert Series WHERE: The Boot WHEN: Sunday, Oct.

In search of a label, sunlikestar garners following

WHO: sunlikestar (with Monochrome and SuperJaded)

WHAT: Alternative Concert Series

WHERE: The Boot

WHEN: Sunday, Oct. 21

It’s a story that’s becoming more and more familiar: promising Canadian bands seeking success south of the border.

Vancouver vets, Nickelback, who were featured on Whistler stages not too long ago, are perhaps the best example of what awaits Canuck bands eyeing up the US market. Nickelback has skyrocketed up international music charts this summer, selling over one million copies of their latest CD, Silver Side UP , since focusing its efforts on American audiences.

The Vancouver rock group, Goya, (featured in last week’s Pique ) has almost completely forgone the Canadian market in favour of striking out in the States.

"I know a lot of bands don’t think about starting that way, but think about it: there’s almost as many people in California as in Canada," said Goya drummer, Cam Belter. "You just think about the American money and go holy cow! You can go down there and just make really big in one state."

Belter brings up the very valid point of quick accessibility to large numbers of people. It’s much more difficult for a band to tour in Canada due to the kilometres between major cities.

"And Vancouver venues aren’t what they used to be. Actually there just aren’t as many places to play," adds Belter.

That sentiment is echoed by many on the Vancouver music scene, including Sunday’s headlining band at The Boot, sunlikestar. These relative newcomers have started a little northern spark, earning a spot on CFOX radio’s coveted Vancouver Seeds 2001 compilation disk. Two bands from the same CD, Default and ShoCore, have gone on to sign with major labels and while sunlikestar is still independent, American management, some Toronto buzz and a strong independent debut CD could lead to that elusive record contract.

"Canada’s sort of a weird country. It’s fairly reactionary. I think the labels are reactionary too," theorizes sunlikestar lead singer, Jonathan Hetherington. "A lot of bands that are doing really well are the ones that signed American record deals. Canada could sign these bands first, but they don’t take the chance."

Sunlikestar is hoping a label will follow their decision to go with the California-based Triune Music Group (of Hanson fame). Their debut CD, Inverse , is over a year old now and the group is itching to lay down new material. A record contract at this time would be welcome, rather than scraping together the cash for another independent release.

And although it has taken some time, sunlikestar is starting to see some results from Inverse , a solid effort with a little help from the experienced Phil Western (Nine Inch Nails) and Mike Plotnikoff (INXS, Cranberries).

"Phil has a really good ‘jive factor’. We bounced a lot of ideas off him in the process of the album. Mike has worked with too many names to list. Our whole goal of making that record was to do it properly. We didn’t want to look back on it as a whole bunch of time spent without a great outcome. We wanted it to be something to be proud of and that could compete in the record label market," says Hetherington.

Their modern rock, crossed with a hint of electronica, scored the second highest sales in the independent section of HMV’s flagship store on Robson Street, received generous airplay on Vancouver stations and, more notably, has been featured on MuchMusic and embraced by Toronto fans.

"I think CFOX is the coolest station in Canada. We take care of all our own radio play and approaching stations as an independent band in Canada is a tough thing to do. CFOX has beaten that ‘reactionary’ title I was talking about by taking a risk with their Seeds CDs. I don’t think they knew what they had when they started that project. It has really helped a few bands explode.

"XFM as well is doing a good job, as well as stations in Victoria. Western radio is really cool right now. And have been very cool to us," explains Hetherington.

"But the weird thing is, radio is good for exposing bands but there’s no where to play live. But, I have to say, in Toronto there’s dozens of places. I think everyone’s hoping that people who fund or open venues in Vancouver will take some inspiration from Toronto and from the new scene that’s being created between the bands and the radio stations."

Sunlikestar found their way into medium rotation on MuchMusic with their first video for Day Survive, not an easy feat for an independent band. But Much and its viewers took to the futuristic look and sound of Day Survive and the band speculates that exposure may have triggered the underground following, as the song has yet to be put into regular rotation on Toronto radio.

"The video has been playing now for about three months and we’ve been getting calls and fan mail from as far away as Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. And I just found out that we’ve just been nominated for a CASBY (Canadian Artists Selected By You, an award popular in the ’80s and recently resurrected by Toronto’s Edge102FM and indie music-types) for Best New Band. So that’s crazy. It was a cool surprise. We really weren’t aware that we had a following out there."

In fact, sunlikestar has only played a solitary show in TO, a gig during Canadian Music Week that garnered positive attention, including a favourable review on a little Web site called – "this four-piece heavy rock band… with a mesmerizing front man was a surprise find." Perhaps a foreshadowing of where their talents will be rewarded.