Mit City
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Mit City

Band Rock Broadway


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The best kept secret in music


"Mit City"

by Chloe Richer

For 5 years, Mit City have carefully balanced themselves on a fine line. To their left is social commentary, uniqueness and humor. To their right is what many consider to be intellectual terrorism and vandalism. They've covered ritzy Toronto areas with posters challenging peoples' values, handed out dictionaries teaching youth to swear in 9 different languages, and in a gutsy move refused to get a drummer. While many companies such as Viacom have threatened to sue and hate mail has swarmed regularly, the art-rock band has snuck by un-harmed, still adored by many.

When we decided on meeting outside the Bata Shoe Museum I expected coffee. I arrived to find the two members sitting with a box of posters and red markers for their upcoming shows at Now Lounge. We spent 3 hours in Innis Hall discussing their music, American tour and promotions while colouring in the NOW logo on 1000 posters. "There's no sense in paying for colour copies. The more money it looks like you have, the sooner someone will cover your poster over," said Mike Only, who sings and plays guitar and piano. Despite overwhelming colouring, they seemed in good spirit. "We've had to cut and fold 25,000 swearing dictionaries in the past, this is nothing," he commented as he shook his pen in hopes of ending the pink that happened after a few hundred posters.

The dictionaries were distributed with the help of what Jesse Seberras (Piano and Bass) refers to as "the greatest street team a band could ever ask for." The "informational booklets" have become legendary in the Ontario music scene, gaining far more attention than the band itself. I myself have one somewhere in the clutter of my computer desk. While interviewing members of their street team, it was clear that many of them discovered Mit City through the dictionaries, and began helping distribute them. "Pretty much everyone I know that goes to concerts has gotten one. Everyone loved them!" says Abby Bird-George, 18, a listener who helped hand dictionaries out last year.

Despite their promotional campaigns, Mit City aren't a comedy band. Their 2005 release "What's Wrong With AdLib?" is a mix of everything from ballads to upbeat, almost Broadway numbers such as "Jet Lag" and "Glencairn." The CD starts telling the story of Mike's fictional grandson (played by Jesse) visiting the hip-hop hall of fame (formerly the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), taking a more serious turn with songs such as "Bicycle Trail", which addresses the loss of activist Tooker Gomberg and Mike's workaholic tendencies. The CD's production challenges recording rules, especially its drastic volume dynamics, as few artists besides The Dresden Dolls have done. It's held together by some slightly more mainstream songs such as "Purple" and the clever "Blog", with its chorus "Come one, come all and see the Naked Pictures my ex girlfriend left. Do you really think I'd sink to that?"

.Once getting past discussing promotion with Mit City listeners, they seemed quite enthusiastic about the live show. "It's full of crowd involvement and energy," says Andrea Mazzocchi, 18, who has been to multiple Mit City concerts. "It's like for one night, you can really forget about everything else that's driving you crazy, and just have fun."

"There's no such thing as a 'regular' show for me, mostly because Mike's stage banter is always random and original and I more or less say what ever comes to mind on the fly," says Jesse about their antics on stage. "The idea behind our shows is for them to be original and unexpected. I want our listeners to come back not just to see a band play a bunch of songs, but also to be surprised and enjoy themselves."

Whether they're covering Toronto with posters baring slogans such as "When SARS is over and done with, you can all go back to being silently racist" or throwing carrots into a crowd at a concert in Bradford Ontario (whose town mascot is Gwilly the Carrot) Mit City are helping add some originality to the Toronto music scene which has become oversaturated by emo bands.

We finish colouring the posters and they thank me, then prepare wallpaper paste. Mike puts on dorky yellow rubber gloves which he's written "Sheep" on, explaining that he's allergic to latex, then they go outside into the cold, to continue walking on their fine line. - The Mike (U of T Newspaper)

"Restrictions Bug Music Fans"

Saturday, July 9, 2005

By Margo Varadi

It's a steamy summer weekend night and Toronto's Richmond St. club district is packed with lineups of scantily clad bodies waiting for entry. Hovering along the curb outside MuchMusic are small groups of teens, banned from joining the nightclub lines because of their age.

Teens love music and love to dance but, other than house parties and a few all-ages concerts scattered about town, there are few places for them to go and get their music fix.

Chauntelle Facey, 17, feels resentful about being shut out from her favourite bands. "We buy all their records and support them but we can't even get into their shows," Chauntelle says. "If it wasn't for us they'd have nothing."

Mike Only, front man of an indie band called MIT City, understands. When he was starting out, he struggled to play at his own shows because he was under age. He's now passionate about fighting against what he sees as age discrimination.

"We made it very clear to our agent that anywhere we could possibly play all ages shows, we would," Mike says. "I wouldn't restrict a show based on skin colour or religion, so it seems just as discriminating to restrict a show because of age.

"Kids should be allowed to hear music."

Mike also appreciates that the economics of entertainment relies heavily on the sale of alcohol.

"At an all-ages show, kids will buy a $1 pop. It's understandable that they (the bars) would rather get $20 worth of alcohol per person than a $1 pop."

Mike says the loss in alcohol sales and the extra security clubs require cost the performers approximately $500 to rent a venue for an all-ages show, whereas there's usually no rent for a 19-plus audience.

"I won't lie that at a lot of all-ages shows, there's a lot more moshing and people going nuts," Mike says. "At a 19-plus show, you get more people just sitting there drunk."

Robert Duncan, 16, is a fan of underground music bands like MIT City. While he's grateful that they've created a safe environment so teens like him can attend, he also respects the reasons why not all shows can be so accessible.

"Authorities or parents don't trust teens because of all the bad stories out there of teens doing drugs or abusing alcohol," Robert says. "Even though there are responsible kids, rules need to be enforced for those teens that could get hurt because they don't have good judgment."

There have always been teens who accept no boundaries, kids who use fake IDs to get in to 19-plus venues. Mary-Anne, 16, who wishes to use her first name only, is one of these teens.

"It sucks that you have to lower your standards to borrow somebody's fake ID to have a good time," she says. "No matter what parents say or how much we get caught, we will always find another way to do the things we want to do."

The irony is that it's this rebellious attitude that is both the cause and effect of these unyielding restrictions. "Limiting our access just makes us want those things more," says Rob Morrison, 15. "It was like on the Trailer Park Boys where someone said, 'Things are more fun when they're illegal.'"

The flip side is that a lot of the thrill in breaking rules is fuelled by the frustration of feeling patronized and powerless.

"Adults will always have more authority because they think they have a higher intelligence level, but it's not necessarily true," says Vanessa Rano, 18.

Speaking of maturity, on telling Rob and Joey that I would need to call their parents for permission to quote them for this article, they were none too pleased.

"Even just being interviewed means you need to call our parents?" Rob says.

"We should at least have freedom of speech!" Joey exclaims.

Chauntelle has come to recognize that freedom can be a double- edged sword and that sometimes age segregation can be a good thing, especially when it comes to partying.

"Certain clubs should be restricted," she says. "I don't want to be in a club and see a 30-year-old man. My mom doesn't want to go to a club and see me." - The Toronto Star

"Mit takes over the city"

by Lindsay Gibb

I can’t remember the last time I had as much fun wandering Toronto after dark. A friend and I were at Yonge and Eglinton when we came across a bunch of flyers that were taking over the neighbourhood. They caught my eye because they covered everything in site: newspaper boxes, garbage cans, bus shelters and the front of a store for lease.

Each flyer stated something different; some political, others more pop cultural, such as the ever prominent, “I feel embarrassed for Christina Aguilera.” Seeking them out, I felt like a kid collecting ALF cards again. With every few steps I stopped to see if I had struck gold with a new one or if I had hit a double.

The additional allure of these little sheets was the mystery of what they were advertising. Each one read “MIT City” at the bottom but only after finding their website did I discover that this was the name of a band trying to promote itself. One member, Mike Only, says their flyers definitely drew attention to the group.

“Our first impression was some people would be annoyed but they would just roll their eyes and walk on,” he says. Unfortunately this proved to be a bit naïve.After the flyers were up they heard from an angry store owner wanting to see them charged with vandalism; an agitated OMG Media wanting to take them to court; and media outlets who wrote unflattering articles about how the band wasted the taxpayers’ time and money. - Spacing Magazine


What's Wrong With Adlib? - 2005
In Loving Memory Of Those We've Exploited - 2003
The Boston Cream Party - 2001


Feeling a bit camera shy


Two members, three instruments, about a dozen or so switcheroos, an audience clapping and drumming on the tables, a lecture on escalator safety, an improvised song about the previous act, a debate about if dogs can be heros or just save the day, a mellow song ending with a loud piano smash, a loud song suddenly cutting into something mellow for the chorus, a costume change into a Britney Spears shirt, a conversation about how the government of Ontario is praying on our vulnerabilities, a poem entitled "Osama Bin Laden lives next door", a contest to win a Jingle Cats cassette, and an encore sung while inhaling helium balloons. And that in one poorly written run on sentence (which is really more of a list) is a Mit City show.

Their songs are unique, subtly Broadway-inspired, lyrically-driven rock ballads that tell personalized stories, from falling in love with a lesbian, to the recent suicide of an Ontario activist, to an explanation of how the lead singer developed epilepsy.
Although to most Mit City listeners, the band is remembered for their live performance, if the average person has heard of them, it is probably through one of their controversial promotions: in 2003 they covered mid-town Toronto with over 10,000 photocopied posters containing 60 different captions including "Wearing Hello Kitty merchandise doesn't make you look cultured, it makes you look silly," and "When SARS is over and done with, people can all go back to being silently racist." By the time the toner cartridges ran dry, Mit City had landed a couple of segments on Toronto's 680 News and had narrowly averted some potential vandalism law suits with Viacom & OMG Media. Or maybe it was the summer of 2004, when Mit City (with the aid of an enthusiastic street team) created a little educational booklet- a "swearing dictionary"- and handed out over 25,000 all over Ontario. Perhaps you were one of the lucky people stopped on the streets of Ontario by the band and their street team, to take the “Mit City Challenge”, a parody of the Pepsi Taste Challenge, where strangers were given a taste of Pepsi, then were played 30 seconds of Mit City to see what they liked more.

Mit City entered the studio on Halloween 2004 to record with Jeremy Darby (Lou Reed, Barenaked Ladies, Billy Talent.) The result 8 months later was “What’s Wrong With Adlib?” a 13-song CD that, beyond all else, challenges the standards of recording with far more volume dynamics than most other CDs to date.

After a sold out CD release party at Clinton’s Tavern in Toronto, Mit City embarked on a 30-show American tour. The Band left with 2 tour staff and all their instruments crammed into an Impala, with the hope that they might possibly break even. As word about their live performance and college radio play began to circulate around the 25 States on their tour, Mit City found themselves playing for enough people each night to be able to upgrade their rental car to an SUV. Life is good.