Hope and Ruin. Album title inspired by song title, song inspired by life…” – John-Angus, guitarist of The Trews
By definition, “trews” are trousers, more specifically, of the Scottish Highlanders. But for Canadians, The Trews are a chart-topping, award-winning, certified gold, alternative-rock quartet. And now they’re coming for us.
Natives of Antigonish County, Nova Scotia, vocalist Colin MacDonald, guitarist John-Angus MacDonald, bassist Jack Syperek, and drummer Sean Dalton, are The Trews.
Evolving from their high school garage band, the One I’d Trouser, brothers Colin and John-Angus MacDonald are cousins of Dalton, and childhood friends of Syperek. The One I’d Trouser’s renamed in 2001, thus transforming into The Trews. And eleven years later, they’re still The Trews.
“We stay together ‘cause we’re all family. We’re stuck with each other!”, says John-Angus.
With seducing riffs, mingled with infectious hooks, the band credits being influenced by who they consider the best of the rock and roll genre. John-Angus explains, “you take something away from every record you make and everyone that you work with.”
And the best of the best, is exactly who’ve they’ve been honored to collaborate with. In 2003, the producer of their first album, House of Ill Fame, was Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson. From House of Ill Fame, The Trews blasted to number one in Canadian rock radio with their single, “Not Ready to Go.” In 2004, the band was nominated for a Juno Award, for New Group of The Year, and “Not Ready to Go” was nominated for Single of the Year the following year.
But even with Juno Award nominations, number one hits, and House of Ill Fame executing certified gold (Canada), John-Angus says, “it’s cool, but awards are far from the be all and end all. Maybe it raises your expectations a bit, for everything else you put out, but, at the end of the day, we’re the same people whose main objective is to make good music together.”
With exclusive focus on their fans, the band’s second album, Den of Thieves promptly followed in 2005. Working with Jack Douglas, of John Lennon, Aerosmith, and Cheap Trick fame, “Yearning”, was their second single to secure number one status. In 2006, the album attained certified gold and was unleashed to the US under RED Ink Records/Sony BMG.
No Time for Later, The Trews third album, dropped in Canada in 2008, and then the US in 2009, under Merovingian Music. Under the direction of producer Gus Van Go (The Stills) and co-producer Werner F of Brooklyn, the first single, “Hold Me in Your Arms” won Best Hard Rock/Metal Song at the 8th Annual Independent Music Awards in the US, and certified Canadian gold in 2010. No Time for Later also received two 2009 Juno Awards nominations for Album of the Year and Group of the Year.
The Trews were not only delivering consistent electric studio albums, but raw live albums, as well. In 2009, the band released Acoustic – Friends & Total Strangers, their second live album, recorded in two days and produced with no edits.
“We set up two shows at the Glen Gould Theater in Toronto, which also happens to be a recording studio,” says John-Angus. “We figured we’d record them and see what we got. Turns out night two was pretty great so we released it.”
The 23-song DVD, also called Acoustic – Friends & Total Strangers. features night two at the theatre in full, with additional band interviews.
“We decided to release it because we pared the show down for the CD, and wanted to release the full show in a long form,” says John-Angus. “The DVD worked well for that.”
But who would associate winners of the Best Hard Rock/Metal genre, with acoustic music?
“The [first] live cut was an electric live EP,” says John-Angus. “The acoustic idea sprung out of the fact that we have a pretty unique acoustic side, and we wanted to showcase it.”
John-Angus also highlighted their live, acoustic version of “Can’t Stop Laughing” as his favorite song of their intense catalog. “We changed up the feel for the acoustic version, and I think it works better for the tune,” he says.
After three EPs (one being a holiday special), three studio albums, and two live albums, The Trews released a single, “Highway to Heroes”, made only available on iTunes (in Canada).
“The song is a tribute to the Canadian soldiers serving overseas,” says John-Angus. “We decided to donate the proceeds to the Canadian Hero Fund, who provide financial assistance to the families of fallen soldiers.”
Having toured the UK a couple of times since their latest album, Hope & Ruin, produced by Tragically Hip’s Gord Sinclair, dropped in 2011, The Trews are back in the states. They played a bunch of tour dates in May, followed by a summer mini-tour.
“We decided to divide it up region by region. We toured the Southeast for a few weeks, then came home. Then we did the Midwest, then the Northeast,” says John-Angus. “We just found it a little more manageable that way.”
Dominating the Grape Room on Wednesday, July 25th, the band is anxious to bulk up their fan base in the states.
“We have bigger crowds up in Canada, but in general, rock fans are rock fans the whole world over. [We’re] looking to build a fan base that we can play to for many years to come,” says John-Angus, also mentioning, “I like the Philly cheesesteaks. Cliché, I know.”
Besides uniting with big names in the studio, The Trews have an even longer list of famed tour-mates, having opened for The Rolling Stones, Guns ‘n Roses, Ace Frehley, KISS, and more.
“I’d love to play with AC/DC,” says John-Angus. “Hopefully they get out and tour again.”
Until then, the band is still raging.
“We’re going to pick off some festival dates in Canada, as well as a few club dates in the states,” says John-Angus. “After that it’ll be time to start writing again for a new record.”
The Trews are unstoppable.
By Julianne Cassidy