Interview with Weather Underground

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

  • Clockwise from bottom left: Chris Genier, Chris Payne, Mark Dorsey and Corey McCann

    Clockwise from bottom left: Chris Genier, Chris Payne, Mark Dorsey and Corey McCann

Written by Adam A. Donaldson

“Always room for one more,” that’s the philosophy in Guelph when it comes to fostering a new music group no matter the genre. Enter: the Weather Underground, they hail from Barrie originally, but in just a few months they’d paved a trial of shows all around the Golden Horseshoe, playing with name bands like Idle Sons and Black Maria along the way. They’ve even released their first full-length CD called Ontario The Chemical, an album chalk full of the garage band grunge rock sound.

Sure their successful as an indie band, but they still have to get their school assignments in on time, a professor won’t take “jamming” as an excuse for missing a deadline. That’s right, three of the four members of the band, lead singer Mark Dorsey, drummer Chris Payne and guitarist Chris Genier are University of Guelph students and they love it so much that the fourth member of the band, bassist Corey McCann will join them on campus in the fall. Closing in on the end of term and feeling fine about a big show at the Albion this Friday with the Marble Index, The Weather Underground talked about indie success, building an audience and unwinding after exams.

Adam A. Donaldson: Your band has a very political name but you say on your website that you’re not a political band. So what’s the origin of the name?

Mark Dorsey: Well, there’s a really good documentary about them that we’d seen. Actually on the album, there are two clips from the movie that we got permission from the directors to use. The story just really appeals to us and it’s a tragic story. I mean, they’re not people to emulate, they did a lot of things wrong, but it’s an interesting story and just the name itself is pretty cool.

AAD: When did everybody start playing music?

Chris Genier: I guess I started playing guitar in grade 10 or 11, just sort of and on with Mark, I played my Dad’s acoustic guitar at my house. I didn’t really get into too much until we had a band called the Worms back in Barrie and we just sort of messed around in this garage band.

Corey McCann: I started playing drums just listening to old Black Sabbath stuff and I slowly worked my way over to other instruments including the bass. And I started out about the same time Chris started around grade 10 or 11. Then I started playing the bass about two or three years ago, which is what I now play in this band.

Chris Payne: I’ve only ever played the drums, started playing around grade 8, took some lessons and just kind of went from there.

AAD: And how did this band, in its current incarnation come together?

CG: These two (Chris P and Mark) were playing shows for a while and I’d drive down to play with them; I think we actually played more on stage then practicing. And then you guys played the Bovine in Toronto and I played one song with you and decided to move to Guelph and attend school.

MD: And after that we stepped it up a lot because we were in the same city.

CP: It wasn’t till maybe six months ago that Corey came along.

AAD: (To Cory) And you’re still in Barrie?

CM: Yeah, but I’m coming to school here in September.

MD: Guelph is a really great place to be a band in; it’s close to Toronto and London, we can get to St. Catherine’s and Hamilton, we can go down to the States (like we want to do this summer) for a little tour.

AAD: I was going to ask about that, because you guys are all over, and not just Guelph or Barrie, so how did you grow beyond the immediate area so fast?

CM: D-I-Y ethic man.

MD: It’s important to build up relationships with certain clubs, so you can get called back to the same place. The good thing about being in Barrie and Guelph is that we have those two centres to draw from. We have a lot of people that come with us and go together in a big caravan to do down and see our Toronto and Hamilton shows.

CM: We have a pretty good following as a travelling band, which is good for us.

MD: We don’t want to over extend ourselves either, so were trying to build up certain areas and keep going back to the same places.

AAD: You mentioned D-I-Y, that guerrilla promotion approach, is the social networking thing on MySpace and Facebook helping out with that?

CP: MySpace, for sure; it’s good for getting crowds out to our shows.

CM: And it’s quick access to thousands of people.

CG: Yeah, and you get to hook up with other bands too.

MD: People can message us and we can message them back. It’s good for us to gage how many plays were getting and what people think.

CM: It’s the only way some people find out about certain shows. You can’t get a flyer in their hand but you can at least get them looking at MySpace.

AAD: This CD is really professionally done, I mean it looks like something you’d go in and get off the shelf at HMV, so how did it come together on the production side?

CP: We recorded it at Mastermind Studios in Hamilton. Mark knew an artist from Barrie that painted the cover and the back there. Then we got them manufactured at Indie Pool based out of Toronto and they offer good rates to indie bands.

MD: The big thing with this album was presentation and the paintings are they were done by this guy in Barrie that we used to hang out with. He did a really good job too, we wanted something that really stands out and not just the black cover with our name on it or something like that and his paintings are incredible. I actually bought the cover one off of him because I love it so much.

AAD: Most of you guys are in school, so how do you balance doing school and work with the demands of being a touring band?

CM: My attitude is any job out there, there’s always going to be another one and until you’re sittin’ pretty in a big house, the music is always going to come first. It just brings a bigger smile to my face then waking up in the morning and going to work.

CP: I think it’s pretty easy actually. It’s just a matter of balancing your time.

MD: School and music are a good combination because you can have a lot of flexibility in school. And it’s an opportunity since we’re all in the school and we’re in the same area, it’s just a good connection to have as a band. It’s a good way to meet other people and it’s also a good way to build a fan base.

CG: And music is a great relief from a sh**ty day at school. To just come home and jam for two hours is the best.

AAD: What’s your ambition with the band? Do you guys see yourselves being together until the 20th anniversary tour?

CG: I’d love to push another CD out soon. Some of the stuff we’ve being coming up with lately, especially since Corey’s been part of the band, has changed us; we’re really pushing ourselves to be so much better.

CM: We don’t really have a five year plan right now. We’re just playing shows and having fun, doing what we can. Everything is just cool for us because we don’ really have that high an expectation. We just want to play the music.

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