Musical education on the road 

Collective knows which direction they’re heading

WHO : Pocket Dwellers

WHERE : Garfinkel’s

WHEN : Friday, Nov. 2

"If you’re going to get a record deal get a hell of a record deal, because you want a record company that’s committed to investing in your band as a career, and not just a one-hit wonder."

So says Moore, also known as DJ S-Luv with the seven-piece collective, the Pocket Dwellers.

Song Corporation, the label with whom the Pocket Dwellers signed their last deal, folded in January.

Moore, speaking from the Athabasca Hotel in Jasper, shed some light on how the band is finding a formula for success on the college circuit nation-wide.

"To create music we perform it live, where we get a better feel for the structure of the song. We really fine-tune onstage," he says.

Live, it seems, is the way to go for a stream of music that combines more than one influence, including hip hop (turntables), jazz (horns) and rock (guitars).

The lineup features Marco Raposo on drums, who uses organic beats on a drum kit; horn player Dennis Pasley on saxophone is influenced by jazz; Christian McKibbin on guitar, Gord Shields on base, Nigel Willams as MC, and the hip-hop focussed Moore. His mixer of choice: a Festex 07-pro in combination with Technic 1200’s turntables, the industry standard.

Manager Chris Gayle stepped in two years after the band first began performing in 1996, and continues to lead the group on their current North American tour.

Their next stop after Whistler: the Trasheteria in Guelph, Ont.

"We first played the (college) circuits because commercial radio is just not helping you out, whereas we get airplay on campus radio stations," says Moore.

And the audience is more into it.

"Kids there have an opportunity to hear music they wouldn’t normally hear, although we go three times to a venue before people really get to like us."

"I imagine wings on our minds/and things we can’t find

I’m always hearing whispers/ that it’s all intertwined."

  • Shine, The Pocket Dwellers

Since establishing themselves in 1996, the band has built a fan base across North America by playing numerous festivals and colleges. They are both self-taught and jazz trained, creating a sound they believe is more unconventional than most.

And they seem to relish in being a collective and being diverse at the same time. Each member of the band wrote on their second album, Digitally Organic , but they fine tune live.

They have opened for an impressive lineup of acts, including Maceo Parker, ska bandsters The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Treble Charger, N'Dea Davenport and jazz artist Charlie Hunter.

Festival performances have included Edgefest and North by Northeast; and jazz performances from west to east, including the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, the du Maurier Atlantic Festival, and the Dawson City Music Festival. As part of their east to west coast tour the band recently played Halifax’s Marquee Club to a sold out audience.

The formula works. Live at the University of Toronto is where producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda found them early in 2000. Wojewoda, whose successes include pop quartet The Rheostatics and Kraft Dinner wonderboys the Barenaked Ladies, contributed to Organic. The bed tracks were completed at Phase One studios in Toronto, with mixing and finishing done at Reaction Studios.

A video of their single Shine was produced by Sun Dog Films, as was a clean visual design at their self-named Web site, www.pocketdwellers.com. Their Web site not only includes the usual biography with sound clips, but also community and musical links, including www.breakbeats.co.uk, and www.mosesmayes.com. Or log on, lean back, and listen to a live performance from Lee’s Palace in Toronto.

As for heading south of the border… "We want to make it known that yes, we’re a Canadian band. It’d be great to hook up with a funk band, say in Saskatoon," Moore quickly adds.

But the US is a tempting market, where towns are three – not 13 – hours apart.

"After a few tours no one wants to be stuck in a van shoulder to shoulder for that amount of time," he says.

Now in the fifth year of their musical odyssey of "making it," the band’s direction remains as open as the Sea to Sky highway. Five years has convinced them this is where they want to be.

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