The Champion Heartache
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The Champion Heartache

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"May 16, 2007: The Champion Heartache @ The Boat"

Hosting an indie rock show that exists to expose underground musicians comes at a price – the majority of listeners won’t get it.

“I get a lot of guys that get confused, but to the three or four people out there within the core group that understand what it’s like to hear that music on a major market radio station, those are the people I do it for,” Matt Holtby said, host of The New Rock @ 9 on 94.9 The Rock FM.

Under his radio name, Matt Diamond, part of his job is promoting unseen, unheard of acts of all styles and flavours. The remarkable thing about his non-radio life is that he lives the same lifestyle as the bands he plugs into the spotlight. The folk rock band he leads, which initially began as his solo project, only recently sprouted into a quintet.

Shortly after writing a few acoustic songs with a friend, Holtby decided to expand and launch his creation into the limelight. With the company of the ax-shredding Billy Blasko (who also produces and engineers the band’s material), Craig Toutant, Brendan Lawless and John Welsh, a complete Champion Heartache was born.

They mislead their audience with the conception that they are a heartache band. In fact, they possess a greater talent than the heavily emotional, strumming wretch, and actually bring the rock like you ain’t never seen.

“(Our) stuff that’s out there on MySpace is definitely softer, acoustic versions of what were doing now and a lot has musically changed, Craig Toutant said, drummer for The Champion Heartache.

“Some of the songs have yet to be reformed and there is definitely an electric edge added to them.”

The elevating mood in their songs makes their head-bobbing, sing-along style techniques worth the sight. They make frequent shifts from fun melodies to hard breakdowns building up at just the right timing.

The five dudes that comprise The Champion Heartache haven’t set goals for touring or getting chicks or getting signed to major labels. They can’t look deep into the future because they’re too busy jamming in the now.

As far as Matt Diamond is concerned, his desire to reveal the worthier-than-the-monstrously-publicized-and-annoyingly-overplayed mainstream bands has long been relieved.

“I could quit radio right now and be 100 per cent satisfied over the fact that I’ve had all of my favourite bands played on my show,” Holtby said.

The Champion Heartache

"Mind The Gaps - Music For The Spaces In Between"

The Champion Heartache
Emergency EP

I would imagine if one were to be surrounded by the bland cacophony of Three Days Theory of a Nickelback Finger all day long that one would take refuge in a quieter sound. Not just a turn down the volume but a completely different vibe. Rather than sounds that would make one a star, one would create sounds to sit in-between the stars. I’m not saying it’s so, just saying it could be so.

The Champion Heartache, a Shwaville supergroup that corrals Matt Holtby (guitar/ vox), Billy Blasko (keyboards), Trish Robb (bass), Brendan Lawless (guitar) and Craig Toutant (percussion), play an undefinable strain of the rawk. Not indie nor screamo nor emo nor punk.

The Emergency EP has no discernible roots in the mainstream which is beginning to resemble a chain of suburban swimming pools of an unnatural hue, a culture supported by chemicals. Nor do they belong in the lakes of folk or alt-country. Perhaps this three-song recording is Softcore, an understated vitality and vibrancy that proclaims in hushed tones “I am here too.”

Perhaps in the rush to fill the void, we overlook the inherent beauty of the gap. The CH play the soundtrack for the time “between the click of the light and the start of the dream”, as the Arcade Fire calls it.

The snappy title track would fit well with auteur locals Habitat or Small Sins (that would be a cool bill actually). The Call brings to mind the LazyEye riff from Silversun Pickups while closer Enough could be a Patrick Watson B-side.

Overall the three songs serve only as a taster for this band but I would urge you to catch them live when possible.
- William McGuirk

"Soundproof Interview"

Have you ever heard someone's name and tried putting a face to it? What if you had never met the person, knew what they looked and sounded like, but still couldn't quite identify whom that person was? Such was the case behind this particular little piece.

Unfortunately, I was unable to speak with The Champion Heartache in person; however, there are other methods of communication in this day and age, so an email interview helped shape this character sketch. Even without insinuating contact, sometimes we're able to understand a person's character simply by asking a few questions.

Whether it was at his friend Billy's apartment, laying out tracks through Pro-Tools or visiting the family cottage with a few other musicians, front man Matt Holtby sets the scene for how the group came together about a year and a half ago.

"It worked out so well [with the other musicians] we invited those friends [from the cottage] to be permanent members." The Champion Heartache consists of Matt Holtby on lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Brendan Lawless on lead guitar, Trish Robb plays bass and sings, Sean Maclean plays rhythm guitar and sings back up, Derek Giberson plays the keys, and Craig Toutant plays drums.

A combination of their love for music, an interactive stage performance with trippy background visuals projected on stage helps illustrate what's expected from The Champion Heartache. Another must, Holtby communicates, is dim lighting, creating a "cool vibe" throughout the venue.

Presently the band wants to focus on one thing at a time. Since each member comes from a different musical background, this strategy helps to dictate the group's direction - past and present. When a member requires time to focus on other projects then that becomes priority, Holtby mentions. "We never put limits on that. It's just a matter of our schedules. But the more music, the better."

But what do they think makes this band better than other groups out there? What separates them from the rest of the herd? "One thing that we really take pride in with this band is our sincerity," Holtby explains. "There's zero attitude, and we really act like a family. We don't worry about the whole image thing, or what other bands are doing right now. We really just love getting together to make music".

Expectations usually lead to disappointment, but you shouldn't be disappointed with The Champion Heartache's first studio album. Not only does it contain catchy lyrics and steady melodies, but it also holds a special place in the main artery of its creators.

"This first record of ours is really important to us. It took about a year and a half to finish. The sad thing about it is that I feel the void of not recording it, not having those Wednesday midnight sessions like we did for a year straight. That's sort of strange, but I feel a sense of relief looking at the album now. It'll never be done in my head, but I'm really happy how it turned out. The only trouble we had happened in the initial two months of tracking. We lost some major .WAV files when a hard drive crashed, but we recovered them. We just re-tracked the songs, and made them bigger and better. It might have been a blessing for all we know."

The group knows that this can't last forever though - especially with each member concentrating on other ventures - but at the day's end it's still about the music.

"I'd really love to be doing this for a while," he says. "but we'll see what happens. I won't be surprised if some of us make it bigger with solo careers, and that's fine with me. We've talked about doing soundtrack work too, which really appeals to me. Even if the whole live rock band thing doesn't last forever, I can see myself always tracking and recording music. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to sign a deal and play music for a living, but I think that everyone is enjoying what we're doing for the time being with no expectations."

Uncertainty looming over any band's future can affect what happens next. Being realistic in these difficult situations can allow for minimal conflicts and a smooth transition.

Holtby knows this all too well.

"I think I speak for everyone when I say we're going to keep doing this until it becomes difficult to play together. Some of us have kids, some are getting married, and some of us may aspire to do something else later on, but right now everybody seems to be making this a priority. This band couldn't function without its core members. I wouldn't continue under The Champion Heartache name without them. I'd have to do something else, with new and different songs. It just wouldn't be the same.

"I'm not sure what I'd be doing if it weren't for music," he continues. "I'm a radio DJ too, so it's in my everyday life. It's my companion and it's a vehicle to say some things that I wouldn't be able to otherwise say. It's just a part of my life when nothing else seems to fill the gaps. Some love watching movies. I'd rather listen to a record front to back."

Regardless of the name, the image and anything anyone else might be doing, the affection held towards music speaks volumes about this band. And, in the end, it's what The Champion Heartache is all about. - Soundproof Magazine

"I Heart Music Album Review"

I think I'm in the perfect mood right now to appreciate The Champion Heartache's debut full-length. They specialize in subdued, melancholic rock with a touch of alt-country, and that goes along perfectly on a brisk fall day on which I'm feeling a little under the weather (no thanks to you, Cold-FX!). Frontman Matt Holtby has a pleasantly scratchy voice, and on songs like "Dirty Mind" and "Emergency" he uses it to quietly perfect effect. Things occasionally get a little louder, but as "Porch Light" demonstrates, it's still an understated kind of loud. I'm not sure where you can pick up the album, since the band doesn't have a link anywhere on their Myspace page, but if you can figure it out, you should most definitely grab a copy. In this neck of the woods, at least, fall doesn't last for too long, but it's nice that while it lasts, The Champion Heartache have created an ideal soundtrack for the season. - I Heart Music

"Cd Release Party"

The remains of an empty bottle of rye, shattered, lie among the clumps of broken windshield amid the debris, the dirt and gravel of the highway. Light from the emergency vehicles is refracted through the glass. Each piece provides a different view of the scene around. The story, as seen through these shards, is told on the debut recording from the Champion Heartache.

Only it isn't.

When I presented my take on the record to lyricist Matt Holtby recently, at the open mic he hosts at Johnny B's Sundays, he was surprised at my assessment. Holtby, aka Matt Diamond of 94.9s New Rock @ 9, it seems, is more literal that metaphorical. He's a straight-shooting chap who is not going to take a paragraph to say I love you. (Makes for a good radio host, not so good for a music scribe.)

There is a story to the album and it's tracked accordingly. The tale is the tale of the Champion Heartache told in song. The accident imagery referred to could be the accidental way in which the Heartache grew. The first track with its rainy intro and somber piano is the first track bedded by Holtby and collaborator Billy Blasko. As the album progresses the songs reflect the growth of the band over the time it took to record. Brendan Lawless joins and his guitar licks and lines add an extra dimension. Craig Toutant joins on drums and a band grows from an initial solo project to a group and the inherent dynamics.

Now the real work of CH the band begins. Trish Robb, Sean MacLean (who created the album artwork from a piece by Geordie Lishman) and Derek Giberson are now all players. Matt says this is a democratic entity and, in his direct style, he describes them as family. I could add I notice the gleam of a tear in his eye as he speaks fondly of his friends but I won't. The last song is an ode to his brother. His new family copes with the issues of his actual.

The band will be called out when they play Johnny Bs May 31. It's the CD release. It should be dubbed the Champion Heartache Family Picnic. Blasko's band The Stables (Poor Pelly played on the album too) will open as will Jonas Bonnetta who plays on the record. Also The Stellas who, as owners of the Music Scene, allowed Matt and his mates access to whatever resources where needed.

So the music? Alt-country is an acceptable genre within which to place the CH. Wilco and Elliott Smith are influences. On this side of the border, one can hear The Hip and Lowest Of The Low in there, Jim Cuddy's Blue Rodeo, Hayden. It's carefully crafted music with the spontaneity intact. - Will McGuirk


-Emergency EP
-The Champion Heartache S/T

We're featured on CBC's Radio 3 City Of The Week -Oshawa- alongside: Wayne Petti, The D'Urbervilles and Cuff The Duke. Check it out here:

David Marsden of 94.9 The Rock also claims to be a fan, and spins our single "Emergency" as well as "Snowdrift" on occasion.



Once a solo project from lead singer Matt Holtby, The Champion Heartache was formed in 2006, with a revolving line up. Hailing from Oshawa, the band's members not only have solo careers in full swing, but with the line up now set in stone, they are hard at work recording and producing their second full length album. Influences include Springsteen, Bright Eyes, Wilco, Elliott Smith, Starflyer 59 and so many more.