Four years ago, five guys by the names 
of Paul Jago, Tim McDonald, Jud Ruhl, Brian
Ward and Eric Howden released “A Soap
Bubble and Inertia”, the debut Gandharvas 
album. It was an experimental venture --
trippy alterna-jazz songs with morose --and
sometimes disturbing -- lyrics. They followed
it up with “Kicking in the Water”, another
out there attempt which did slightly poorer in
comparison. It was written from the “gut” 
according to the band, and was perhaps a
little too personal for their fans. This year,
the Gandharvas bring us their most
palattable recording yet with “Sold For A
Smile” -- a more intense sounding and
poppier release. Bassist Eric Howden was
replaced with Beau Cook (ex-Smoother). Its
leadoff single, “Downtime,” was a 
chart-topper, and was a perfect introduction
into the band’s new diabolic underworld.
Well, maybe not diabolic, but certainly a bit 
angrier.
	I met with the band at a restaurant in 
the heart of Toronto. They had just returned 
from a short publicity set at MuchMusic. “It
was awesome!” says drummer Tim
McDonald. “We played one song, and we had
the Electric Circus dancers goin’. It was just
wild.” In fact, my interview with them was en
route to their interview at the local modern
rock radio station just down the street. "I 
don't think we've ever had this many 
interviews, man!" says Tim. "Yeah," adds 
vocalist Paul Jago. "It hasn't been this busy 
before." The band's popularity isn't 
new-found, though. They've had hits in the 
past ("First Day of Spring", "Coffee Song", 
and "Drool" to name a few), but never to this 
extent. 
       It seems as though they're off to a fresh  
start with the new material. With the addition 
of Laurence Currie as producer (who worked 
with Sloan on "One Chord To Another") and of 
course Beau Cook, the high-spirited new 
bassist, the band has a very new attitude. "I 
don't know," starts Beau on his departure 
from his former band Smoother. "They kind 
of... like, it went really well for the first while 
when I joined, and then they kind of made it 
impossible for me to stay. It was really tough, 
so I quit, and luckily enough I got with these 
guys [Gandharvas] quick enough."
       So with a positive attitude towards each 
other and a brand new mindframe, the 
Gandharvas are ready to take over your soul. 
The themes covered on the record can 
probably hit home with just about anyone if 
examined carefully. Says Paul, "Well, I've 
been living below the poverty line all my life. 
That's pretty much what Downtime's about. 
Each of the songs sort of has their own 
persona and idea." "Yeah," Tim chimes in. "A 
lot of the way he writes is from a third person 
sort of view and there's always strong 
imagery. I mean, there's no theme to the 
whole record or anything. We don't make 
concept albums." But Paul insists that there 
are themes to individual songs. "There's 
poverty, commerce, commercialism, 
advertising... there's a lot of conflict. There 
was a lot of energy." Tim agrees, and adds, "I 
mean, Paul could write a song, and he'll mean 
one thing, and I'll get something totally 
different. We all kinda get off on that -- the 
irony of the whole thing. You can go to all 
these different people, and they'll all perceive 
something different from the lyrics." "I like 
that," says Paul with a mouthful of coleslaw. 
"I think every song should have a good 
conflict in it. And that's something that just 
always was with us."
       And even though you can take the lyrics 
at face value, you should know that the 
album's closing track, "Diaboloney," is 
entirely tongue-in-cheek. "That was a song we 
had written, like played at rehearsals."
says Paul. "It's a very tongue-in-cheek song. 
Our producer, Laurence, is like, a pretty 
hardcore guy, he likes that stuff." Tim adds, 
"When he heard that, he came up to us and 
said 'Man, that guitar riff ROCKS!' A lot of 
people like that song, though, so it's cool!"
Paul laughs and tosses in, "Yeah, a lot of 
people do. And I think our next album -- I 
wouldn't be surprised -- if it sounded more 
like that song." Sarcastic? I guess we'll 
have to wait and see.
       It was Laurence Currie's influence that 
helped put that song on the record, and 
seeing as how the band's sound has 
evolved so much since he came in, I asked 
if he had any major involvement in the way 
the record sounds. "Yeah, definitely." 
assures Tim. "When we went out there, we 
rented a rehearsal space, and we had this 
place in Halifax, like, downtown Halifax, and 
we put in like 12 fourteen hour days, and 
he'd say stuff like 'This is what I like about 
this song; this is what I don't like' and it 
was a little more raw style. Like, 'fuck the 
bridge!' y'know?" "Yeah," adds Paul. "Fuck 
the bridge -- exactly! Just blow up all the 
bridges, man."
       Perhaps it was the aforementioned 
bridge's destruction that lead to the less 
abstract sound on Sold For A Smile. 
"Well," Paul pauses. " I think it's a lot more 
refined. There's more clarity in the 
songwriting. We didn't clutter it up with too 
many stupid noises, y'know?" But Tim 
admits it wasn't fully conscious. "It's not 
like we're going [in his best Casey Casem 
voice] 'We got the hits!' or anything. It's 
totally more focused." Slightly more specific, 
Paul says, "You don't have to be stoned to 
listen to us anymore."  Tim agrees. "Oh, I 
hear that all the time. Stuff like 'I didn't like 
your album until I got really high one time. 
Then I got it.'"
	The band is overjoyed that they’re 
applying to a wider audience, but insist that 
it wasn’t a conscious change in direction. "On 
this record we really just tried to please 
ourselves." recurs Tim. "There's so 
much stuff that we have done that's just been 
put on the back burner or scrapped 'cause 
we're not happy with it. And now that we have 
somewhat of a fanbase across the country, it 
may seem that way. I don't think there's 
anything we've ever done that we haven't said 
'Are we happy with it?' before we asked if the 
fans would be. So in that respect, it was sort 
of our own opinions."
       So I guess this would be the all-time 
most successful Gandharvas project ever? A 
waitress steps in, knocks over the tape 
recorder and asks "You want another drink?" 
Paul kindly answers "Uh, no thanks I'm okay," 
while Tim asks "Oh, could we get some water, 
though? Wait -- what was the question?" After 
the reiteration of my initial query, Tim explains 
that people didn't quite "get it" with Kicking 
in The Water, which is evident, as the only 
two singles shot for the record were dropped 
in a short period of time. "It just rode out 
quickly."
       Despite the band's rougher beginnings, 
they still look back upon that time fondly. 
Says Paul, "We've been playing in bands 
since we were eighteen or so, and we won a 
local battle of the bands at Call the Office 
(London, Ontario), and they gave us free 
studio time and all that, and we were just 
using it. And it was Alex Davidson from the 
Morganfields who really loved us, and brought 
our tape to the attention of our manager Ross 
from Watch Records." Tim remembers those 
days himself. "When we started, there was a 
wild energy to it -- like, we were a rock band, 
and almost to the point where we were taking 
ourselves way too seriously. It shouldn't be so
much the rock, but more the fun of it." 
       Somewhere within the conversation 
here, the conversation takes a switch to the 
days of Droog, the Gandharvas' prior 
incarnation. The seriousness that Droog 
took themselves was a little too much for 
Tim and Paul, so they called it quits, and 
reformed under the Gandharvas moniker. 
"Right then we had all of these upsets of 
energy," starts Paul. "I mean, we had so 
much energy, like, we couldn't write a song, 
and that's when we were called Droog. So 
we realized that, and ditched it and did the 
Gandharvas. And at the beginning, it was 
really confusing -- we had to learn how to 
write a song beginning to end, y'know?"
       It's that kind of self-taught magic that 
has produced the sound and concept that 
we know as the Gandharvas. They continue 
to follow the natural forces of evolution and, 
as Paul sings so honestly in "Hammer In A 
Shell," -- "So we gonna trespass on all we 
dunno/gonna go where we can go" 
Truthfully, at this point, it looks as if they 
can go quite far. They just signed a U.S. 
deal with MCA Records for world-wide 
distribution of Sold For A Smile and have 
big plans for an impending tour of Eastern 
Canada and beyond.
      When the time comes to wrap up, I just 
ask if anyone wanted to get anything off 
their chest that they didn't bring up during 
the interview. "Man, I think I need 
something on my chest," says Paul. "Oh 
yeah?" asks Tim accusingly. "You need 
something on your chest? Do you? How 
'bout a mustard pack, huh? A mustard 
pack." Tim gets a blank stare back from his 
bandmates when that same waitress trots 
by again and gives me Tim's steak entrée. 
From our laughter, she guesses that it 
wasn't mine and slids it over to Tim. Paul 
sinks his head in his hands and murmurs 
"I'm just waiting for my entrée."¤


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