The Worst Pop Band Ever
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The Worst Pop Band Ever

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE
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The Worst Pop Band Ever is the total package - great compositions, unique covers and standup-worthy comedic banter. Deserving of better attendance, the group’s two-set night at The Winchester Kitchen was a highlight of the festival. With Tim Shia on drums, Chris Gale on tenor sax, Adrean Farrugia on keys, and Drew Birston on electric and upright bass, the band showcased the players’ unique ability to jump from jazz to hip-hop flavoured rock with minimal effort. - TD Toronto Jazz Festival


The Worst Pop Band Ever's title displays a sense of humor and frivolity, but in name only. The Toronto based group consists of a talent pool whose members have performed on the fringes (groups like The Shuffle Demons) or with traditionalists (Wynton Marsalis). And since WPBE's formation in 2005 they've taken it to the streets with music that "amicably reconciles a love of both 'Indie Pop' and improvised music." Though their mantra humorously states to "Imagine the ugly love child of Miles Davis and Radiohead," there's nothing abnormal or unappealing in their sophomore release Dost Thou Believeth in Science?.

Street wise yet substantive, these compositions would appeal to fans of Vijay Iyer, Brad Mehldau, or DJ Logic, as dealt by the poised sax/piano front line (Chris Gale and Dafydd Hughes), a robust rhythm section (bassist Drew Birston and drummer Tim Shia), and excellent colorizations by turntablist Leo37.

"House For His Heart" sets the recording's persona with a mid-tempo groove, that's never overplayed or complicated as things begin to cook and simmer nicely. The operative word here is smooth, mellifluous saxophone against as steady throbbing drum and bass, colored by exquisitely placed turntable scratches. This cool vibe continues on "If Only My Name Was Steben And I Believed In Science" with undulating keyboard and soothing improvisational touches and solos.

The oddity in this consistent program is "Man Down" with its combination of blues shuffle and swing. But things get back on track with the atmospheric "Bonita," one of the highlights, with the sound of sampled voices, an expressive sax solo, and dreamy ostinato keyboarding. Things heat up a bit on "Minor Bruise" where Tim Shia's traps drive a sweltering mid-tempo melody.

The remaining tracks are equally satisfying and also feature two sublime vocal selections. The first, a magnetic remake of one of the all time great pop songs— Burt Bacharach's and Hal David's "(They Long To Be) Close to You" where Elizabeth Shepherd's sultry voice intertwines with the band's otherworldly touches. It is magical. The second showcases Rhonda Stakich in "Yesterday's News," another delicately balanced work of fine music, vocals and mood. From start to finish Dost Thou Believeth in Science? is hip enough and deep enough for jazzers and non-jazzers alike.
- All About Jazz.com


When your name is The Worst Pop Band Ever, you don’t have to worry about letting an audience down.

That’s why drummer Tim Shia dubbed his five-piece side project, a jazz band that covers pop hits.

“We set the bar pretty low,” admits Shia, “because we want to be able to try anything. There isn’t much we won’t play once. With a name like ours, what do you expect?”

What this Toronto band does so well is play with expectations, turning familiar pop songs such as Radiohead’s High and Dry into jazz standards.

With Drew Birston (Chantal Kreviazuk, Sarah Slean) on bass, Chris Gale (Shuffle Demons, Ron Sexsmith, Blue Rodeo) on sax, Abyss’s Leo37 on turntables, and Adrean Farrugia (Matt Dusk) on keys, Shia’s band goes where few jazz outfits would dare.

“We’re like geologists,” Shia adds. “We dig into the song’s surface and exhume the good stuff.”

As comfortable as they are with their favourites, Bjork, Levon Helm, Sufjan Stevens and Sly Stone, as they’re with jazz heavy-weights Wayne Shorter and John Coltrane, the one time the band fumbled badly was the first time they tried to improvise on Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

They lived up to their name that night.

“It bombed,” Shia remembers laughing. “Without the lyric, the song just goes on and on. We haven’t played it since. But that’s the spirit of this band.

“You never know what you’re going to get.”

The concept here isn’t new. Jazzers have been covering popular songs of the day for generations.

My Funny Valentine was cool in the 1950s, before pop took over the world, and jazz became stuck in the past.

Ready audience

Together since 2005, The Worst Pop Band Ever is finding a ready audience for their kind of music.

They’ve opened for the Bad Plus and their third album Sometimes Things Go Wrong (And Other Songs We Shouldn’t Play) dropped this week on iTunes atwpbe.bandcamp.com.

They also appeared on the soundtrack for the award-winning animated National Film Board short Flutter and recently did the music for a NFB tribute to dancer Peggy Baker.

“There’s a definite energy in new jazz. Unfortunately, a lot of popular jazz is a throwback to more traditional jazz. That’s too bad there isn’t more attention paid to the new progressive stuff. We’ve been fortunate as crossover band because we’ve gotten good attention from both jazz and popular music critics.”

denis.armstrong@sunmedia.ca - Ottawa Sun


Who is The Worst Pop Band Ever? Turns out the answer is easy: they're a Canadian quintet dedicated toward combining pop voicings with improvised performances. They revel in their distortion of pop so much, they adopted the name as a badge of honor: "Imagine the ugly love child of Radiohead and Miles Davis," they are proud to say. This concept put into action falls squarely within the acid jazz realm. This five-piece band is made up of electric piano, saxophone, bass, drums and turntables (which gives the band a little edge to their sound). A truly democratic group where everyone pitches in on the songwriting, the WPBE are very listenable, even when they aren't grooving ("Bonita" qualifies as a pleasantly presented ballad). The real curve ball is thrown on the seventh track, a spacey, drawn-out rendition of The Carpenter's hit "(They Long To Be) Close To You," sung with delayed phrasing by Elizabeth Shephard. These Juno Award (Canadian Grammy's) winners might be a little weird but they strike a good balance between accessible and creative, and is one that should be checked out by anyone looking for bands like MMW or The Bad Plus. - Something Else Reviews.com


"if anyone can make the genre break through to a pop-loving mainstream crowd, it could just be The Worst Pop Band Ever. Ironic, no?" - Canadian Musician


Publié le samedi 10 mars 2012 par Marie-Eve Boulanger
C'est l'histoire d'un band ontarien qui vient faire son tour à l'Upstairs. Des musiciens professionnels qui ont joué tout plein de styles pour gagner leurs vies se retrouvent dans le même groupe, composent... et ça donne ça.

The Worst Pop Band Ever ne se prends pas vraiment au sérieux. En fait, il essaie des choses, et si ça fonctionne, tant mieux! [à lire : le titre du EP «Sometime things go wrong»]. Entre les pièces, le batteur Tim Shia nous conte les anecdotes qui ont mené aux différentes compositions, comme celle qui explique qu'un de ses amis a eu des jumeaux: «This is the story of a friend that just had twins and how his life is over», ou celle où il explique comme ses enfants sont tout simplement incapables de ne pas se faire mal, inspirant le titre Minor Bruises. Malgré un public restreint ce soir-là à l'Upstairs, le band a fait preuve d'un grand professionnalisme et d'une belle camaraderie (nous rendant parfois hilares entre les pièces).

Musicalement, le WPBE, c'est un setlist de jazz recherché, tant au niveau des ambiances sonores que des compositions originales. +1 pour la présence d'un DJ et pour les lignes de basse solides et puchées; les refrains, eux, sont marqués d'une tournure pop indéfectible, mais tellement réconfortante. Andrew Dyrda au piano m'a souvent donné l'impression d'être en présence de John Escreet et de son band The Story tant sa recherche harmonique était importante, tout comme sa technique irréprochable. En bref, un band de jazz solide, ludique (pour une fois!!) et rafraichissant à découvrir avec légèreté.



Le Worst Pop Band Ever - 8 mars 2012 - Upstairs

- Camuz.ca


"...smart if curious music... It’s all easy on the ear, expertly and effortlessly delivered with elaborate solos and surprising heat. " - Wholenote Magazine


Recorded live at Cory Weed's Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, The Worst Pop Band Ever's Sometime Things Go Wrong (and other songs we shouldn't play) is music for people, whether they dig jazz or not. The group delivers a set that cares less about genres, as heard in its breezy cover of Sly and the Family Stone's 1973 hit single, "If You Want Me to Stay." There's no crossover message here; just a tight band playing with substance and feeling for an appreciative audience.


The WPBE maintains that sentiment, with a rendition that shows appreciation for both pop and jazz. From the onset of Drew Birston's ethereal improvised intro leading to the song's famous bass riff, the melody dances with jazzed improvisation via expressive solos by saxophonist Chris Gale, pianist Adrean Farrugia, and colorful embellishments via scratches and mixes from turntablist LEO37 as drummer Tim Shia holds down the funky rhythm. LEO37 ends the piece with some turntable magic that gels perfectly. The lesson here: when old and new schools combine, it can be a very cool thing. - allaboutjazz.com


"When it comes to the Worst Pop Band Ever, don’t assume it’s about pop. Don’t even assume it’s about jazz. But know that it’s about some of the most clever, talented and wide-ranging musicians in the nation.” - Fast Forward Weekly


"The musicians' firm grounding in hard bop and modern jazz is clear, and it's a pleasant surprise to hear the twists they take to engender faith in Worst Pop Band Ever's science." - All About Jazz (John Patten)


"This may be one of the worst band names ever, right up there with JMOG, but the jazz on its seven tunes (bookended by a pair of curiosities with street stuff) is intriguing, well-calibrated and focused in a very contemporary, accessible fashion. Leader Tim Shia's drums and booming bassist Drew Birston propel their colleagues tenor saxman Chris Gale and versatile Dafydd Hughes on keyboards through compositions like Michael Blake's "Lemmy caution," one of four cuts recorded live at Revival. The music's fresh, may appeal to pop lovers but assuredly to jazzers keen on a kind of driven fluency as genre stylings are examined, discarded and reworked. When turntablist LEO37 intervenes with Fender doodling, as on "Those Crazy Hens," the bang-up-to-date attitude is reinforced but the best here is Hughes' slo-mo "Giant Things By The Side Of The Highway" and the rambunctious take on Björk's "Army Of Me." - Geoff Chapman, Toronto Star


Nas famously declared that "Hip Hop is Dead" in 2006. I can imagine something similar being said about jazz 50 years earlier. In the 1950s and '60s, there was an explosion of sub-genres within Jazz: Cool Jazz, Modal Jazz, Fusion Jazz, Free Jazz, Third Stream, and more. The jazz that everyone knew at the time, covers of the songs in popular musicals and other pop music, seemed dead.

Unless you have followed the scene closely, jazz appears to be an unclassifiable world of complex rhythm, harmony and melody that is impossible to penetrate for the uninitiated. With the TD Toronto Jazz festival including non-jazz headliners like Chaka Khan and Earth, Wind and Fire it's understandable that casual music fans have no idea what is going on in jazz. What's good for creativity is really bad for marketing.

Of course Jazz isn't dead. The core idea of using pop music as source material for creative exploration is still very much alive. When I'm asked how to break into Jazz I always respond with a question: What music do you listen to now? It's best to start with music you already have a feel for and find a group that uses that music as a starting point for their creative exploration. It is easier to appreciate (and follow) where these artists take the music when you already understand where they started. With that idea in mind, here is a list of acts in this year's TD Toronto Jazz Fest and the popular music they use as their inspiration. Click on the artist's name to get the info on their shows at this year's festival.

Worst Pop Band Ever
Source Material: Pop
This Toronto-based group have over exaggerated with their band name. They would probably make a pretty decent pop band. In fact, I know the members of the band have backed some of the biggest Canadian pop artist such as Chantal Kreviazuk. The band describes themsleves as the love child of Miles Davis and Radiohead. They have covered songs by J Dilla, Sly and the Family Stone, and of course Radiohead. - Huffington Post


A unique band very much of its time with lots of subtlety and musicianship, exploring and playing what they find interesting." - Joyce Humbert, livemusicreport.com


The CD is really cool...Lots of surprises and turns and fascinating layers, both in the arrangements and the 'atmospherics' . - Andy Shepard, CBC Radio After hours


This is great music - and I'm not just saying that because they play one of my songs - Michael Blake - Ben Allison Group


“…it becomes apparent that PPF (home of the WPBE) has one of the most original sounds in Canada.” - Omar Mouallem , Exclaim Magazine


“I got the record and I really dig it!

- Dave King (Bad Plus, Happy Apple)


“…it becomes apparent that PPF (home of the WPBE) has one of the most original sounds in Canada.” - Omar Mouallem , Exclaim Magazine


The group put on an amazing concert at Hart House last Friday, impressing even the most critical jazz fans...

...preserving the feel-good soul of that genre (jazz) while throwing sprinkles of synthetic pop sounds on top. It's a funky combination that seems puzzling at first, but it's a unique style that just works.

It's a concert must for the die hard jazz fan and anyone craving some cool music. - Tia Kim, the Newspaper


"The Worst Pop Band Ever is a rare vintage that delivers some of the most unique and delightful flavours in the Toronto music scene. Theirs is a creative, refreshing sound, (seemingly) effortlessly performed with a truly gentle touch." - Andy Frank, CIUT 89.5 FM, Toronto


"The Worst Pop Band Ever is a rare vintage that delivers some of the most unique and delightful flavours in the Toronto music scene. Theirs is a creative, refreshing sound, (seemingly) effortlessly performed with a truly gentle touch." - Andy Frank, CIUT 89.5 FM, Toronto


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

With influences ranging from Wayne Shorter to Levon Helm to J Dilla, The Worst Pop Band Ever is a Toronto based group that tries to combine a love of improvisational jazz and indie pop. Individually, the members of the WPBE have worked with a who's who of Canadian and international musicians, from Feist to the Shuffle Demons, but together, whether it be blending acoustic bass with turntables or analog synths with the saxophone, the WPBE sets out to twist and bend both originals and covers, straddling genres and butting heads with expectation. Often compared to Medeski Martin Wood or the Bad Plus, the boys like to think of themselves as the ugly love child of Radiohead and Miles Davis.

Since forming in 2005, they have shared stages/ toured with the likes of the Bad Plus, Happy Apple, Jeff Parker, Rich Brown, Rich Underhill, Kelly Jefferson and Elizabeth Shepherd.
They have played festivals and clubs throughout North America including the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival, NXNE, the Wreckhouse Jazz Festival (St. Johns, NL), the Ottawa Jazz Festival on Canada Day, IAJE, as well as filling notable venues/clubs like the Rex (Toronto), Schuba's (Chicago), Le Garage (Winnipeg), Yardbird Suite (Edmonton), Bassment (Saskatoon) and the Beat Niq (Calgary), the NAC (Ottawa), and The Cellar (Vancouver). They were recently referred to as a "highlight" of the 2012 TD Canada Trust Jazz festival in Toronto.

The band's latest EP, "Sometimes Things Go Wrong (and other songs we shouldn't play)" was recorded live in Vancouver while on tour and described by allaboutjazz.com "as music for people, whether they dig jazz or nota tight band playing with substance and feeling for an appreciative audience". (Mark Turner, 2012) Their last album,"Dost Thou Believeth in Science" (2009), received critical acclaim from traditional and online media such as the Toronto Star, Wholenote Magazine, Something Else! (jazz.com), FFWD, and All About Jazz.Com (including being the featured download of the day). It also received national and international radio rotation and even reached # 1 on the CIUT Charts in Toronto and #28 on the overall Canadian College Radio Charts (Earshot).

Their music has also been used for film and videos for the United Nations, Teletoon, CBC and the National Film Board. They were shortlisted as part of Toronto's NOW Magazine and the Harbourfront Centre's "Soundclash" competition and were showcased in the June 2012 issue of Canadian Musician.

Videos:

The 2nd Worst Tour Ever
Promo:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WVSZ9b48T0&feature=plcp

Rehearsal:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWs4PIWP2-s&feature=plcp

The 3rd Worst Tour Ever
Live webcast in Duncan (with the weirdest first 5 minute band intro ever)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08jNYc_YK_k

Interview video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3BE9hOaSTs

THE WORST TOUR EVER (Video)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dHninj934s&feature=plcp