Odds, Biltmore Cabaret, Thursday, Sept. 13 at 8 p.m., as part of the Westward Music Festival (westwardfest.com)
The band had a plan: be two bands.
“There weren’t that many gigs – and we didn’t want to have jobs,” notes North Vancouver musician Craig Northey, when describing his band’s strategy for getting more stage time during a period in the 1980s when musical acts were tussling to book Vancouver’s limited number of performance slots.
For up to four times a week, a band that called itself Dawn Patrol took the stage at the city’s rowdy Roxy nightclub, blasting out proficient, and at times sardonic, covers of ’60s and ’70s rock songs.
“We started an alter-ego called Dawn Patrol,” Northey says. “The concept was pretty much a menu card that you saw on your table with songs and numbers beside them and people screamed out the numbers. It was kind of a shtick British Invasion band, so you’re doing sort-of tongue and cheek versions.”
While playing as Dawn Patrol the quartet, made up of Northey, Steven Drake, Doug Elliott and Paul Brennan, were able to dish out covers from the likes of The Beatles, Kinks and Hollies while, most importantly, working on their own musical chops.
“Behind the disguise you could get away with a lot of stuff,” Northey says. “We didn’t have much of a reverent attitude. We would do the songs fairly faithfully, but we might change some words that you didn’t notice and we were fairly snarky when it came to the audience – pretending to be characters basically.”
On the weekends, the fellas didn’t have to pretend. While they were Dawn Patrol during the week, Fridays and Saturdays were reserved for Odds.
Formed in 1987 – and named after two members of the band remarked, “What are the odds of us getting out of playing gigs like this ever again?” after a particularly dispiriting performance – the members of Odds chipped away as Dawn Patrol in order to keep the dream going.
“It gave us a chance to be together all the time playing music, earning money, and then we would spend the daytime in the basement recording our own songs. Sometimes we would open for ourselves, not in disguise, and then we used the money to travel to get noticed,” Northey explains.
Odds recorded many early demos and a lot of what would become their first album, 1991’s Neopolitan, at Crosstown Studios in North Vancouver, according to Northey, with the band’s infectious and unique brand of power pop and alt-rock immediately capturing an audience even though “Canada wasn’t looking for a band like us.”
But like many things, Odds and their “weird amalgamation” of musical influences ended up being what many people were after, even if they didn’t know it until after the songs graced their ears.
They found another performing niche, prior to the release of their debut, after getting a house gig in Los Angeles, connecting the quartet with other groups, such as the band Gin Blossoms, who would later become their contemporaries.
“We met in Los Angeles all doing these same kind of showcase gigs,” Northey says. “We all hung out and shared resources and equipment.”
They also ended up sharing talent. After the release of Neopolitan, the venerable Warren Zevon asked Odds to be the backing band for his tour at the time. Northey notes that Zevon “was a great mentor” who encouraged the band to look ahead and plan when it came to their blossoming career.
Numerous singles, albums and Juno nominations later, Odds clearly heeded the advice well, even though they now warmly poke fun at the notion of celebrating their many past milestones.
“I think it’s funny. Any band that’s our age – 31 years old – always has an anniversary,” Northey says, before admitting: “We watched all our contemporaries going on these tours where they play an album because it’s 20 years since they did that album, and then they do their other songs at the end of the show. It gives a nice thing for the fans to hang something on and you get to play some songs that you don’t usually play.”
After the band took a hiatus in 1999 (“Sometimes you just know it’s time to stop,” notes Northey), they reunited with a slightly different lineup some years later, putting out Cheerleader in 2008. The band hasn’t had a new full-length since then, instead opting to release a series of EPs and undertaking other projects, but Northey says a new album is on the horizon.
But during Odds upcoming Westward Music Festival show dates, Northey says fans can expect something of a throwback to the band’s most commercially successful album from 1995.
“Good Weird Feeling was a really great time because we were playing for bigger crowds and we were breaking through on television with MuchMusic and all those kinds of things,” he says. “We’re going to celebrate it a bit coming up in September at the Biltmore. We’re going to do it in its entirety.”
Call it the band’s 23rd anniversary celebration of Good Weird Feeling, if you want.
Good Weird Feeling (1995)
Singles: Individually Wrapped (2000)
The Essentials (2005)
Noise Trade EP (2009)
The Most Beautiful Place on Earth EP (2013)
Game Face On EP (2014)
Party Party Party EP (2014)