The Boy from ET
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The Boy from ET

Band Comedy Singer/Songwriter


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"While Listening to... The Boy from ET Lives the Part"

Looking for something interesting to tease your brain as it titillates your ears? Look no further!

The basic premise is this: Henry Svec, of Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs (which Canadian readers will recognize as a fantastic band name), has released a “live” album called Lives the Part, where he tells stories and plays songs under the guise of Henry Thomas, the actor who played “Elliott” in the movie ET. It’s a tough concept to do justice with just one sentence (not to mention without my brain exploding). Thankfully, Svec himself explained the motivation behind the new persona in a recent interview with Until Monday, where he states:

“I have always wanted to create a character to perform and write songs through. Also, I’d always toyed with the idea of doing a one-person sort of fringe theatre play. I guess I just found a way to do both at once as “The Boy from ET.”

He goes on to detail just how much of the character is based on the real Henry Thomas (essentially nothing aside from the fact that he was a child actor known for having starred in ET) and furthermore that Thomas himself is not at all happy with the concept (read the entire interview here).

High concept aside, Lives the Part has Svec proving himself to be a great storyteller who can weave an interesting and entertaining yarn. Of course, this is to say nothing of his skills as a songwriter, as he’s got some charming chops as a vocalist with a knack for witty and comedic lyrics that are still touching when it counts. Take “A Stompin’ Tom Cover” for instance, which is put forth as a supposedly unrecorded Connors tune (the claim being that Thomas learned this song from Connors himself—whom is said to be Thomas’ uncle):

“I loved a girl once, but she only loved rockstars/I caught her one night getting filled by April Wine’s guitar player so hard/the whole town could hear it…”

Which ultimately culminates in the maxim: “It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you can see the stars”—a line that fits nicely as a potential Connors refrain. In fact, you feel for “Thomas” during this track, as he urges the audience to participate and is instead greeted with silence. Actually, the curious twist on this “live” album is that the audience never participates—not a clap or a holler is heard throughout, just whispers of conversation being held in spite of the “performance.”

All told, Lives the Part is definitely one of the more inventive releases I’ve gotten my ears on in a while, and it boasts some excellent songwriting from a Canadian talent. The lengthy stories mean that you might not listen from start to finish every time, but the songs themselves will keep you coming back—if your head doesn’t explode first.

Here’s a particularly charming track from Lives the Part for your own personal bewilderment (right-click, “Save Link As” to download):

The Boy from ET - In Quebec (Fuck You, Gerrard Depardieu)

- Wolves, Hawks and Kites

"Q & A with the other Peter Mansbridge: Henry Svec"

As some of you may know, my journalistic integrity took quite a beating on Wednesday night when the “Peter Mansbridge” I reported would show up at Louise Bak’s Box Salon was not the one that actually graced the stage. Having said that, what we got instead of the iconic CBC news reporter in question was equally, if not more, satisfying.

Henry Svec, who up until a recent stage name change fronted Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs, was endearing and adorable enough onstage and in person to forgive the fact that he wasn't what we expected. His bio? Heartwarming. Svec grew up on a cherry farm in Blenheim, Ontario, speaks both French and Czech, and was a varsity football linebacker at Mount Allison University until he began to act in student theatre productions, host a campus radio show, and write songs.

I got a chance to ask him a few questions to find out about “the real Peter Mansbridge”, the relationship between music and acting, and his recent name change to “The Boy from E.T.”

UM: Tell me a little bit about the band and the decision to be "Peter Mansbridge and the CBC's."

Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs came into being some time in 2004. I had been performing my songs in Sackville for a couple years. In 2004, W.L. Altman offered his services as a multi-instrumentalist. W.L. and I both hosted our own radio shows at the campus/community station - that’s how we met. I started to call the project Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs pretty much as soon as he began to help me play my songs live. I think I just went by “Henry Svec ' before then. A lot of those early PM and the CBCs songs were overtly, playfully, “identifiably Canadian” – sorts of hyper-examples of what I imagined at the time to be the kind of art that earned grant money in Canada. I forget exactly how we came up with the name, but it was too good to pass up once it became a possibility. And as strange as it usually sounds to people who’ve never heard my stuff, it suited the songs really well.

UM: You mentioned the real Peter Mansbridge was “cool with it?”

By the time we were playing our second gig in Sackville, CBC Radio in Moncton wanted to do a piece on the project. The reporter who was working with us thought it would be fun to set up an interview with myself and the real Peter Mansbridge. (Mansbridge) was reporting from the Tsunami at the time, however, and so obviously had more important things to do! But the folks at the CBC said that he laughed when they asked him. Which is great.

UM: Tell me a little bit about the recent name change and solo career.

I have always wanted to create a character to perform and write songs through. Also, I’d always toyed with the idea of doing a one-person sort of fringe theatre play. I guess I just found a way to do both at once as “They Boy from ET.” There are a lot of interesting possibilities in writing about a former child star who still makes films. But my “Boy from ET” isn’t based on the real person. The only thing they have in common is that they both played Eliot in ET. Mine is Canadian. He grew up on a farm in Tillsonberg. His uncle is Stompin’ Tom. He was forced to forget his Canadian accent in order to get parts in films, but in his late teens he started to become interested in replanting his Canadian roots.

UM: You mentioned that Henry Thomas, the actor who played Eliot in E.T., is "not cool with it."

Henry Thomas did find my myspace page, and asked me not to use his name or photo. He thought I was literally trying to steal his idenity and told me to stop. Unfortunately, I escalated the discussion, and we exchanged a few nasty emails. Anyways, he said that if I didn’t stop he’d “take action” against me, so I took his photo and the faux bio down. But since then I’ve spoken to some lawyers, and as long as I put somewhere on the CD that it’s a work of fiction, I’ll be fine. He can have myspace. As for the live show, however, I haven’t and won’t change a thing.

UM: I noted that in your performance, your comedic acting and dialogue with the audience seems as important as the music itself. Tell me a little bit about your acting experience and how it relates to being a musician.

I’ve been interested in acting my whole life. The summer after my first year at university, I decided to move to Vancouver and try my luck. I didn’t get any auditions, but did wind up studying the Meisner technique (a variation of “Method acting”) under Christianne Hirt. I only lasted a couple months there before running out of money (I was working the night shift as a dish washer at a lame restaurant chain), at which point I took the train back home to work on my family’s farm. That fall I stopped playing football and started auditioning for plays at school. I’ve performed in about 13 different productions since then, and in one independent film.

UM: As an actor, how do you feel theatre and music can collide in innovative performative ways? Do you think the persona you create is important to your i - Until Monday

"Love in the Country Songs"

This band comes across like a weird rural Pavement. But then there are strange jazzy touches like an amateur alt-country band covering Steely Dan. Still, despite the laptop weirdness from time to time or the encrustation of massed voices or layers of violins, etc., this is a singer/songwriter/guitar-plucker album, a shambling mutant offspring of the kind of music that the CBC has infiltrated into our nation's sonic DNA. It's the lyrical content that makes this a standout album. Every track revolves around the asymmetric relationship of city to country. Beautiful girls met during fruit-picking end up in the city, just like the fruit which the characters spend the song picking. Old farmhouses are the loci for sweet memories after loved ones move on. There are moments where the direction of movement reverses, a change of direction that becomes the subject of Back Where You Came From. Here, songwriter Henry Svec dares Canadian musicians to reject imperial Toronto's domination: "Fuck Queen Street, fuck The Horseshoe ... who needs more than one bar anyway?" Imagine Karl Marx living in Sackville, New Brunswick in the post-capitalist future-where the exploitation of country by town has ended-sitting down after a busy day that has mixed fishing, farming, and writing critiques. After flipping through his Jane Siberry and Joni Mitchell CDs, he decides to put on Mansbridge and the CBCs. The mellow melancholy tunes remind him of the sad times long gone but also remind him of how people were able to remain human in those dark ages. Fuck Queen Street indeed. (Erik Weissengruber)

- Broken Pencil


Lives the Part. (The Boy from ET). 2008, independent.

Love in the Country Songs. (Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs). 2006, independent.



From the mind and voice behind Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs comes a musical docudrama virtually without precedent. In The Boy from ET’s _Lives the Part_, Henry A. Svec takes on the role of Henry Thomas, the actor who has appeared in such films as ET, Cloak and Dagger, Legends of the Fall, and Gangs of New York. Not widely known is the fact that Henry Thomas is Canadian (from Tillsonburg, Ontario), that Stompin’ Tom is his uncle, that he is a committed Québécois Separatist, that he wrote many of Broken Social Scene’s songs, and that he has co-written poetry with French actor Gerard Depardieu. Listen to Henry tell these and other true stories as he plays the songs that record in detail an impossibly fascinating life.

Fact: in early 2007, Henry (S) received national media attention when Henry (T) threatened to sue him.

Henry Svec grew up on a cherry farm in Blenheim, ON. He studied English literature at Mount Allison University in Sackville NB, where he first went to play varsity football, but where he eventually became heavily involved in theatre and music. In 2004 he formed the band Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs, who toured the country in 2006 and whose first record, "Love in the Country Songs," was warmly received by Canadian critics. Henry has shared stages with Final Fantasy, Bill Bisset, Lederhosen Lucil, Julie Doiron, Geoff Berner, and Al Tuck. He is currently completing an MA in media, music, and popular culture. The Boy from ET blends his interests in performance art, comedy, folk rock, and pop. _Lives the Part_ came in at #11 on the national folk/roots/blues earshot charts for February!