Prize Fighter
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Prize Fighter

Band Rock Pop


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December 27, 2007

They may be the local music scene's best-kept secret at the moment, but with a finely honed, radio-friendly sound, K-W rockers Prize Fighter probably won't be for long. The quintet's most recent release, the Come Hell Or High Water EP, has been championed by 91.5 The Beat all year, and singer-guitarist Zubin Thakker says the band is ready to take things to the next level now that its members have all completed their post-secondary educations.

"We've actually been a band since 2001, but we only became Prize Fighter about a year ago," Thakker says. "Being in school was also a big reason why we've sort of been under the radar until now, but we're all ready to make the band a permanent thing. This EP took a long time to make for various reasons too, but the attention it's been getting has made us even more proud because it was basically recorded in my basement and at our friend Sean Riley's place in Cambridge."

The punchy sheen of songs like Hold On Tight and Fire & Snow certainly don't sound like usual home recordings, and Thakker makes no apologies for wanting to write hits. He admits this philosophy has set Prize Fighter apart from other independent Canadian bands, but the rabid fan base they have built up in their hometown is proof that it's working.

"We don't take the view that trying to appeal to radio makes us any better or worse than bands that don't, but that's the kind of music that truly gets all of us," Thakker says. "We love the radio, and I think Top 40 is a beautiful thing. It has its downsides of course, but most of what gets played is by some of the world's best songwriters.

"I've always been drawn to how some songs are able to connect with so many people, and that's what I continually strive to do with what I write."

Although Prize Fighter's approach has allowed them to share stages with the likes of Hedley, The Trews, and Kalan Porter, Thakker says that they are willing to be patient until the right record deal comes along.

"We're starting to get more and more interest from the industry, but it's an interesting game to play. Mainly we're just trying to stay focused on new material and playing shows."

He adds, "In the end, you can't count on anything to happen because this business is so fickle. Right now we're able to manage ourselves, book our own shows and record at home. But if something were to come along, we'd gladly embrace it because you can only go so far on your own."

As the band prepares its next recording, Thakker is hoping to get more airplay from Union Station, the EP's most stripped down track that reveals a different side of Prize Fighter.

"That's my favourite track and it was the last one we recorded. Everything was pretty much done, and this song turned out to be one of those late-night acoustic guitar things that happen once in a while," he said.

"I think it shows the essence of what we are, in contrast to the other tracks that we worked really hard on. Ideally, I'd like our next record to be that way too, where we have the luxury of being able to take as much time as we'd like in the studio."


By Shawn Bell - Staff Reporter

Zubin Thakkar, guitarist for Prize Fighter, earns the crowd’s adoring stares at Bomber.
Who says that live music on campus is dead? No one told Prize Fighter. Perhaps the Polar Jam people would be wise to look to these guys for direction. If you bring out the girls, the boys will come too.

Early February 2, as DJ Intelligentsia and the Bomber’s $6.99 pitchers got the crowd warmed up, the bar reached capacity and in the SLC the line stretched out down the stairs past Tim Horton’s. It was then I knew something was up.

"We never could have expected this," guitarist and backup-vocalist George Carothers said of the crowd, as two members of Knock Knock Ginger, with acoustic guitars, took to the stage under those nice blue lights to take over from the DJ. “There’s something about a live performance that cannot be replicated in the studio. There’s an energy and a difference that comes with a live show. It’s just you and the crowd; you connect and everyone has a good time.”

"I think," he added, “tonight is going to be a mind-blowing, crowd-blowing show.”

This was the CD release party, and a party it was indeed. The only person not there was the Warner rep, who was snowed-in in Toronto.

The disc, Come Hell or High Water, is an independent creation that took eight months to produce and looks, and sounds, very polished.

"While we recorded we put away our indy records, and listened only to the radio." Singer-songwriter-guitarist Zubin Thakar said, “We’ve got our sights set on getting on the radio.”

Knock Knock Ginger finished, the lights fell low and a buzz started through the crowd. When I looked back, the five guys of Prize Fighter were silhouetted on stage, instruments in hand. Thakkar, with his Fender Telecaster, front and centre; Carothers to his left, beside a rack of guitars and behind the second microphone. Justin Currie on bass, in the middle of the stage; Darren Thomas, on keyboards and tambourine, over on the far right; and Mike Snyder in back on drums.

"When we first got to stage," Thakkar said, “it was like, holy shit. We thought it would be a typical Bomber show, with people 12 feet from the stage. Totally not. So we got up there, and said ok, we’ve got to turn it on. We brought it, because they brought it too.”

The lights flashed on, the guitars took off, the drums crashed and the crowd surged forward. The band, wearing black suits with white belts and white ties, ripped through their opener, sweat rolling down faces. The crowd, dancing and sweating right along with them, was drunker by the end of the song and everyone was smiling. Girls, girls, girls. They pushed towards the stage, shaking their hips with eyes rapt on the band. Thakkar had them all in hand, soaking in his every word.

When they finished the introduction and the band took a breath, Thakkar turned to thank the crowd for coming. A wonderful aspect of this Bomber show — the band and the audience were right there, two feet apart. Cheers and applause and whistling from the girls greeted his words.

Without further adieu the band jumped back in, rocked through a handful of songs, and then slowed the pace with Scott McKnight on cello, Carother’s on acoustic, and beautiful piano solos. I can’t imagine an easier scene to pick up in.

Soon enough they turned the volume up, seamlessly moving between songs, for the remainder of the set. When it was done and the lights went down, Prize Fighter didn’t have time to get off the stage before the crowd demanded an encore. So they played one more and the crowd went off; when it was all said and done, the band wandered through the crowd, slapping hands and kissing cheeks, while the girls looked up at them dreamily, saying "You guys are awesome."

"It was an incredible evening," Thakkar said. “You couldn’t ask for anything better.

"It is great for band morale, to have that confirmation — yeah we’re on to something good. It gives us more confidence; this was our fourth show and it’s really nice to have that response early on. It gives you enough energy to keep going forward to the next level. It pushes the people in the band, pushes yourself, and pushes other people in the industry to get you good shows and help you out."

Prize Fighter all graduate from UW this April. Then they’ll be full-time musicians, busy pushing the disc.

"The plan right now," Thakkar said, “is to work over the summer, and then everyone quit their jobs as of September. Then we’ll go on tour, at least in Canada. The idea is that I have to do it. Try it out. Or else I’ll die a bitter old man.”

If the Bomber show was any indication, the girls will love them. As all sharp record label executives know, the crowds, and the money, follow the girls.

- Imprint (University of Waterloo)


1. Come Hell or High Water EP - 2007
"Hold on Tight" in heavy rotation on CKBT 91.5 The Beat.

"Hold on Tight" and "Union Station" receiving rotation on campus radio in Ontario.




New single, "Union Station", produced by Brian Moncarz (The Junction) and mixed by David Bottrill (Silverchair, Peter Gabriel).

First single, “Hold on Tight” added to heavy rotation on CKBT (Corus) 91.5 The Beat (October 2007); View on-air acoustic performance at

Featured artist at CKBT 91.5 The Beat’s BEATtoberfest event with Jully Black, George and Mariana’s Trench (October 2007).

"Hold on Tight" featured as track of the day (September 2007).

Additional information and video at



Prize Fighter comes out swinging – every time; just listen to their most recent EP, Come Hell or High Water. Packed with seven pop-rock gems, each so unique, it’s hard to believe the Southern-Ontario based quintet were able to weave the album together so seamlessly.

Born as the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Zubin Thakkar (vocals/guitar) in 2001, Prize Fighter was at first nothing more than an untitled basement recording project fuelled by an old computer and a junky guitar. But with big ideas, come big sounds and it wasn’t long before Thakkar recruited a full band to bring the songs to life. Propelled by Mike Snyder (drums), Darren Thomas (keys/synth), George Carothers (guitar) and Justin Currie (bass), Prize Fighter took self-determination to the next level, maintaining a rigorous schedule of writing, recording and playing while carrying full-time university workloads.

With two previous EPs under their belt (selling over 2000 discs collectively), and shows alongside Can-Rock staples Hedley, The Trews, Mariana's Trench, Jully Black and even Kalan Porter, the band has developed a loyal fan base in Southern Ontario. Case in point: the nearly 450 fans that turned up at Prize Fighter’s sold-out CD release party for Come Hell or High Water.

Released in early 2007, Come Hell or High Water is a seven song knockout, co-produced by the band and driven by some of the catchiest hooks heard this side of pop music. It’s immediately apparent that Thakkar and Co. have trimmed the fat from their arrangements, meticulously crafting each track into a sleek, confident, radio-ready package.

The disc’s opener, ‘Fire & Snow’, is an upbeat dance rocker whose pace is set by a buzzing synth lead and a biting acoustic guitar. The album’s anthems ‘Hold on Tight’ and ‘No Reason or Rhyme’ mix the electro-pop sensibilities of The Postal Service with the alt-rock edge of Jimmy Eat World. But don’t let the record’s slick production trick you into thinking these boys are all digital 1’s and 0’s. The stripped down, up-tempo acoustic ballad, ‘Union Station’, exposes the band at its best, showcasing four part harmonies and a wistful lyrical hook compelling enough to coax even the most apathetic twenty-somethings into singing along. Not to be overlooked are the album’s gentler touches, ‘Anne Esthetic’ and the title track, ‘Come Hell or High Water’, a play-by-play of a crumbling relationship – the type that everyone’s been in but no one knows how to leave.

Prize Fighter’s live show packs a stylish punch, complete with sampling, four part harmonies and electronic drum breakdowns. Their infectious charm flows effortlessly from the stage, breaking down the walls between performer and audience; don’t be surprised to see the entire crowd clapping in four-to-the-floor fashion, singing ‘woah ohhs’ back to the band, and shaking their money makers in perfect synchrony.

In an age where listeners download and discard, opting for variety over consistency, Prize Fighter’s mixtape approach to song writing proves that a band can keep listeners hooked by re-inventing themselves from song to song. Couple that with a live show that’s brimming with energy, precision and arena-worthy rock-outs, and you’ve got a band that’s not just a serious contender, but one hell of a sure bet.