Floor Thirteen on the right path

DAVID SCHMEICHEL - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:42 AM ET

They're named after the unluckiest number in the world, but fortune sure seems to be smiling on local rockers Floor Thirteen.

The hardworking Winnipeg quintet -- whose members release their debut Mmmm! at Park Theatre tomorrow -- has racked up a string of accolades from across Canada and the U.S., scored a contract with indie label C4 Records and a distribution deal with Koch Entertainment Canada, and is currently gearing up for a showcase and tour through London, England, this fall.

Not bad for a bunch of guys who are still balancing day-job duties with their time on stage. Or, in the case of frontman Jeremy Koz, whose day job IS the stage.

"I don't necessarily seek it out as much ... but the band understands it's what I need to do," says Koz, a familiar face on the local theatre scene thanks to roles in The Wave, Grease and The Full Monty. "Probably the best example of the two worlds colliding for me was when I was doing Smokey Joe's Cafe (at Pantages Playhouse) in 2005, and the band was opening for Our Lady Peace on the same night ... I did the MTS Centre thing, rocked out before Our Lady Peace came on, then had to rush back to Pantages to finish the show."

But despite the fact those day jobs -- Koz's included -- probably still pay better than life as a touring act, Koz says rock 'n' roll will always be Priority No. 1 for him.

"Even if you're doing a rock musical, you're not really singing rock, and you're for sure not singing originals," says Koz, who counts famed frontmen Freddie Mercury, Bon Scott, Bono and Michael Hutchence as influences. "This is my chance to be original, so this is where I want to be ... When you're playing in an arena -- where there are so many fans and they're all into it -- you just can't ask for that kind of energy."

Though the band's been around ever since high school pals Billy Kiely (drums) and Marc Jaworski (guitars) first started writing together, Koz didn't join the fold until four years ago, after moving back to Winnipeg following a theatre stint out in Toronto.

At the time, he'd only ever written one song before, but found his rock sensibilities gelled with those of Kiely, Jaworski and bassist Aaron Vandell, whose tastes run the gamut from titans AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and The Stones to the recent wave of retro-rock typified by Wolfmother, The Vines and Jet.

A short time later, Koz got a taste of TV fame while auditioning for the 2006 season of Canadian Idol (alongside fellow 'Peggers Ron James and Keith McPherson). He says the experience was worthwhile, but notes he learned even more as a contestant on Rock Star: Supernova, where he vied for a shot at fronting a hard-rock supergroup made up of ex-members of Motley Crue, Metallica and Guns 'N Roses.

"I remember I looked around and thought, 'Yeah, I brought my long-tailed coats,' " says Koz, who also dabbles in designing his own blazers and custom-made jewelry. "But damn -- there's some style going on in here."

After returning to Winnipeg Koz got back with his bandmates, putting the lessons he'd learned to good use while compiling the tunes that would eventually make up Mmmm!

The disc was produced by Grammy nominee (and multiple Juno winner) Brandon Friesen, and mastered by L.A. vet Tom Baker (Beastie Boys, Nine Inch Nails, Velvet Revolver). The hook-heavy track listing and high-energy sheen puts the album in league with recent quality releases by fellow locals The Nods, Sick City and Sons of York.

To mark its release, the band hosts a party at The Park tomorrow, complete with Guitar Hero face-offs and best roadie & groupie contests. They're also playing X-Fest this summer in Brandon, before flying to the U.K. in the fall. And while Koz says he'll be busy rounding up all the industry connections he can, he also reassures us there's no risk of him giving up the game for theatre or TV.

"Right from the start of the band, it's been like we're slowly climbing up this hill," he says. "And as long as we're climbing it together, there's no reason to leave."


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