About halfway through a recent chat with Econoline Crush frontman Trevor Hurst - during which he's airing grievances about a particularly "interesting" summer - I have to stop him.
"So I phoned up Bob Rock ..." he says - wait a minute, you just phoned up Bob Rock?! Hey, Bob, how's the wife and kids, how about those Canucks, can you do me a favour? Not everyone can phone up Bob Rock, the uber-producer who lives up to his name in his work with Metallica, the Cult, the Moffatts and on and on. For all of Econoline's hard luck in the year 2001, they still have the ability to phone up Bob Rock.
That says a lot about how far this band has come. Econoline Crush wasn't phoning up no Bob Rock when they were playing People's Pub back in '93, that's for sure. I think being reminded of that cheered Hurst up a little bit. He seemed a bit glum.
Playing tomorrow at Red's as part of the U of A's "Bear Country" event, Econoline Crush was this close to being a big buzz band in America. Picture two fingers pinched together in the universal sign of something being this close. Following a deal with America's Restless Records, the song Make It Right - recorded with members of the Cult, the result of that call to Bob Rock - landed at No. 10 on the active rock charts. In other words, a hit in the making. As Hurst tells it, the band then released You Don't Know What It's Like (already a Canadian hit) to similar success - a "spinburner" at modern rock radio and other impressive sounding radio terms. The band prepared to tour America to back it up.
And then ... "Restless Records folded its field staff, folded its rock division, the head office pulled out the funding and we high-tailed it home," Hurst says. "End of story."
Another big chance blown to hell through no fault of their own. Then there was that ambitious but misguided MuchLoud tour where the rock fans were so mean to rapper Kardinal Offishall. And the insult to injury: Kicked off the Cult tour in the U.S. Singer Ian Astbury apparently threw a snit because his bandmates worked on Make It Right and he wasn't invited. Hard cheese and back to Canada with you, Econoline Crush.
Hurst is of two minds on his recent fortunes. "I'm happy and frustrated," he says. "You can see the situation and say, 'Well, we've come a long way, we're surviving as a Canadian band, which isn't an easy thing to do, as we all know.' But at the same time, we were right on the verge of breaking in America."
Maybe it wasn't their time. Hurst isn't ready to pack it in yet.
"I have a lot of musical ground yet to cover," he says. "There's a lot of things I'd like to try and do and who knows what's going to happen in the near future? But I think anybody who goes to see Econoline Crush knows the band loves playing together, we put on a great show and we put out quality music time and time again - it's just a matter of sticking to it and getting a break. I guess we're just the band that's looking for that break."
Join the club. Opening for Econoline Crush tomorrow night are Bif Naked, Static in Stereo and the teen girl rock band LiveonRelease. They stick around for an all-ages show at Red's on Sunday.