Speed Control: Why go slow? 

Yukon band performs to schools by day and to rock-loving peers by night

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Graeme Peters, lead singer and guitarist with Whitehorse rockers Speed Control, is a bit hoarse after a lively performance. It's mid-morning but the band had a gig at 9 a.m. and needed to rock out so his vocal cords sound a bit strained.

They were playing in front of a dedicated rock crowd, a group of elementary schoolkids in Maple Ridge — performing music from the 1940s up to the present day.

"What we do is there are two schools where we teach the history of rock 'n roll, and in the evenings and on the weekends we play and adults get to come and have adult beverages," Peters laughs. "For the kids, it's a full production. It's got lights, smoke machines, everything! Today was just Grade 5, but we play for everyone from Kindergarten to Grade 12... Elementary kids are REALLY loud."

The band founded their Rawk Camps two-and-a-half years ago and with the help of Yamaha Canada, it has helped them earn their crust as full-time musicians on the road, something that is not so easy for a Yukon band. Peters says it costs them $1,000 just to be able to drive their van out of the territory to hit the circuit in the south of Canada.

Since rock is as natural to the average Canadian kid as hockey, it goes down well, he adds.

"We did our first two tours as a band where we did the typical rock 'n roll thing, doing evening shows and sleeping in a tent beside the van because you can't afford a hotel and you eat junk food. Nothing's fun about that, so I thought there's got to be a better way," Peters says.

And having an education degree and experience in the classroom as a teacher himself (along with Speed Control bassist and Peters' brother Jody) he put two and two together. As a teacher, Peters is well aware of how music programs have been decimated by financial cuts, and he says he is able to handle anything the kids do.

The other band member is Ian March on drums.

"I used to be in a jazz trio and we would perform a history of jazz show, and then do our evening performances in the theatres and clubs. So I thought, 'let's do a history of rock 'n rock thing and give it a go. We did it in a couple of communities and the response was insane. Two gigs ended up turning into 20 gigs for the next tour," Peters says.

"Funding for music is always the first thing to be cut and that really made me angry because the music room was where I fit in in school. I didn't fit in anywhere else."

In the last 18 months, he estimates Speed Control has done 250 school and youth shows, which last just under an hour.

"We go into these schools, no matter where they are, it's a fun thing to do and it's a good way to keep us able to afford to tour," he adds.

Unfortunately, there were no Rawk Camps at Sea to Sky schools on this visit, but — attention local PACs and teachers — Speed Control is open to invites for their next visit to the region.

Leaving behind their daytime work for Whistler at night, the band plays Merlin's on Friday, Feb. 7.

Their new album, F.A.B, along with the single "Because I can" was released last fall and Speed Control is in the process of "pushing it hard." It's available on iTunes.

"It has the feel of a live album, which I think is a good thing. Too many artists over produce their music these days and I find that kind of boring. And being able to play our music in front of my peers is icing on the cake," Peters says.

"We have bunch of new, original stuff. It's high-energy rock 'n roll and is pretty entertaining. We're a mixture of pop and in-your-face rock, Nirvana meets Foo Fighters. We're intense and we jump around a lot."

Speaking of Merlin's Bar & Grill

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