April 18, 2005
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T.O. punk label signs touring machines
By -- For JAM! Music


Toronto-based punk label Underground Operations' two latest signings, Winnipeg's female-fronted The Brat Attack and Toronto's more eclectic Dead Letter Dept., will release albums simultaneously tomorrow (April 19), which they are supporting with an exhaustive 55-date (and counting) Canadian tour that began over the weekend and ends June 19.

Instead of staggering the two releases, Underground Operations owner Mark "London" Spicoluk believes that teaming up the bands will only help one another.

"It's about cross-genre mixing and trying to market them both from a very grassroots ground-up approach," Spicoluk explains. "People will be exposed to both kinds of music when they come to see one band and they'll share each other's audience and it may also broaden people's minds to the kind of music they listen to."

Underground Operations, which is distributed via Universal Music Canada, funded both albums. The Brat Attack's "From This Beauty Comes Chaos And Mayhem" is its first full-length featuring 17-year-old singer Chanelle Birks, and was co-produced by Steve Rizun and Spicoluk. Dead Letter Dept.'s "Rock N' Roll Hates You" was produced by ex Weakerthans bassist John P. Sutton.

Spicoluk hopes to get videos out for DLD's "Is Everyone Alright?" and The Brat Attack's "Enemy" at some point, but is concentrating more on keeping the bands out on the road.

Neither The Brat Attack nor Dead Letter Dept. has a booking agent yet, but do a tremendous job of setting up their tours internally. In fact, The Brat Attack's Dave Zegareac, ("the network king," says Spicoluk) booked the majority of the upcoming tour that includes shows in legion halls, bars, clubs, and "anarchist collectives" in basements and squats.

The first part of the tour (April 15 to May 5), essentially the record release celebrations, is called The Million Dead Bratz Tour. The next day, Closet Monster (for which Spicoluk plays bass and sings) jumps on the bill until May 18 for the second leg, dubbed the This Tour Kills East Coast Fascists Tour, which was set up by Closet Monster's booking agent, Omar Al-Joulani of Toronto-based The Agency Group.

DLD and TBA then continue on The Broken Van, Dirty Floor, Empty Stomach Tour until June 19 in Winnipeg, so Birks can be back on home territory to attend her high school prom on the 17th. DLD's Rob Moir, meanwhile, has lined up 10 dates in the U.S. for his band, wrapping up June 29 in Michigan.

Underground Operations is such a hands-on, tight-knit group of D.I.Yers that it goes beyond the typical role of a record label by helping out with bookings, and has scored some significant gigs for DLD and TBA for July. Both acts will perform on Edgefest's Underground Operations Stage in Toronto, Canada Day (July 1) at the Molson Amphitheatre, and The Brat Attack is on at least two Vans Warped Tour dates.

"They walk in with nothing and now we're trying to build them a team," says Spicoluk, who, in addition to running the label and playing in Closet Monster, co-manages U.O. teens Protest The Hero. "I try to line them (DLD and TBA) up with an infrastructure that they can utilize to advance their career. I want to find them managers actually."

The two acts are U.O. first new signings since early last summer, when the label struck the Universal distro deal and launched with EP releases for Closet Monster, Protest The Hero, Hostage Life, and Bombs Over Province. All four acts are currently working on full-lengths.

Spicoluk and Dead Letter Dept.'s Moir go back more than a decade, when Moir was in The Stiffs and Spicoluk was in The Special Ed. "I played my first Toronto show with him at some Jamaican roti place behind The Generator at Ossington and Queen," recalls Spicoluk, laughing. "Then he moved into Marilyn's Vitamins (on guitar) and then he changed the name of The Stiffs when Marilyn's Vitamins broke up to Dead Letter Dept."

DLD's line-up remained the same as The Stiffs -- Moir (guitars/vocals), Mike Leblanc (drums) and Andrew Sparks (bass) -- with the addition of Steven De Silva (guitars, keyboards), who Spicoluk says took the band's original So-Cal-style punk pop to a more diverse level with acoustic and piano elements. "I think Steven helped Rob break down some mental boundaries, in terms of songwriting," says Spicoluk.

That's when Spicoluk stepped in with an offer. He had been listening to DLD's 3-song demo, featuring "All My Friends Love Freedom," "Is Everyone Alright?" and "Nip-Tuck-Face-Magic," and says he didn't remove it from his car stereo for a month straight. "There were some hooks in these songs that I couldn't get out of my head," says Spicoluk.

DLD didn't even look at other labels. "It's more of a trust thing," Moir explains. "I've known Closet Monster for almost 10 years now and seeing how the label's grown the past two years, when it was time for us to do a full-length, it just seemed really right and natural (to go with U.O.), especially for Canada. We were really excited they were interested in our band because it's not typically the style of band that they go for, but it's great to be able to work with your friends."

Similarly, Spicoluk has known TBA's Zegareac for about seven years. The co-vocalist, guitarist and main songwriter in The Brat Attack also has his own indie label, 3rd Generation, which among other releases put out the band's first two CDs, 2002's "One Revolution Per Minute" and 2004's "Destruction Sound System" (distributed by Scratch).

"Those guys tour like maniacs. They're troopers. They're soldiers. They love their music. They love each other," says Spicoluk. "I see it as like me when I was their age, or some of their ages because they span from 25 to 17. I see myself in their band, when I used to go out and I knew every kid that put on a show in every church basement and high school gym from Victoria to Halifax .

"Dave's been around as long as I have, doing the same thing as what I've been doing essentially in Winnipeg, so it's more of, 'Let's unify what we do. Let's work together,'" Spicoluk adds, clarifying that they are not merging or licensing the two labels and that The Brat Attack is now strictly a U.O. entity.

"This is the kind of band that we have to develop slowly and carefully and really put a lot of elbow grease into. I think with the right kind of infrastructure to nurture them, the sky's the limit for that group -- a cool, chick-fronted punk rock/pop band."

Consisting of Zegareac, Birks, Jonny Perrin (drums), Billy Bigford (guitar, vocals), and Matt Mayor (bass, vocals), The Brat Attack is also super excited to join the U.O. family, citing friendship as a key factor, but also recognizing the hard work and dedication of the staff.

"They're amazing people and do wonderful things to support us, more than we ever could ever imagine," says Zegareac.

While touring is key to selling both these acts, Spicoluk is hoping Universal Music Canada will step up after the groundwork has be laid to help with radio promotion and marketing. Right now, everything is done in-house by U.O.'s recently solidified staff. Dan Shaw deals with DLD matters; Spicoluk and Stacey McCool take care of The Brat Attack, and Katie Clark handles the release shows and marketing.

Tour schedule below (subject to change):

The Million Dead Bratz 2005 tour w/ Dead Letter Dept. and The Brat Attack

April 17th/MB - Stonewall @ Oddfellows Hall 18th/MB - Steinbach @ Friendship Center 19th/MB - Winnipeg @ West End Community Center 22nd/ ON - North Bay @ Legion Hall 23rd/ ON - Toronto (early show ) @ Comfort Zone, (late show) @ Bovine Sex Club 24th/ ON - Barrie (matinee) @ The Foundation 28th/ON - St Catharines @ The Red Square 29th/ON - Kitchener @ Schwaben Club May 3rd in Lavaltrie @ Bar (18+) 4th in Sainte.Marie @ Seb's Chalet 5th in Trois-Rivieres @ Le Manchester Bar (18+)

The 'This Tour Kills East Coast Fascists' tour 05 w/ Closet Monster, Dead Letter Dept., and The Brat Attack

6th/ NS - Kentville @ Kentville Rec Room 7th/NS - Halifax @ The Pavillion 8th/NS - Halifax (bar show TBA) 9th/PEI - Charlotetown @ Brennan's 10th/NB - Sussex @ Jubilee Hall 11th/NB - Moncton @ The Paramount 12th/NB - Fredericton @ The Capitol Winter Club 13th/NS - Sydney @ The Steel Workers Hall 18th/ON - Ottawa @ Club Saw More dates will be added (including some in Newfoundland)

The Broken Van, Dirty Floor, Empty Stomach tour 2005 w/ Dead Letter Dept. and The Brat Attack

19th/ON - Sault Ste Marie @ The Town Legion 20th/ ON - Thunder Bay @ The Appolo 21st/ MB - Winnipeg @ The Hemp Rock 22nd/MB - Clear Lake @ Wasagaming Community Center 23rd/SK - Swift Current @ Raw Hide Packing Plant 24th/AB - Calgary @ The Underground 25th/BC - Salmo @ Salmo Community Center 26th/BC - Nelson @ Scout's Hall 27th/BC - Langley @ New World On Fire 28th/BC - Abotsford TBA (early show), Vancouver @ Pub 340 (late show) 29th/BC - Vancouver @ Alf House (early show), Whistler @ The Boot Pub (late show) 30th/BC - Comox/Courtney @ Connections Youth Center 31st/BC - Victoria @ Drop In Center June 1st/BC - Ucuelet @ Legion Hall 2nd/BC - Tofino @ Surf Pub 3rd/BC - Chemanous @ Firehall Community Center (early show), Nanaimo @ The Cambie Pub (late show) 4th/BC - Chilliwack @ Lions Hall 5th/BC - Quesnel @ Quesnel Community Center 6th/BC - Prince George @ The Art Space 7th/BC - Kamloops (TBA) 8th/BC - Kelowna @ The Warehouse 9th/BC - Salmo @ Salmo Community Center 10th/AB - Lethbridge (TBA) 11th/AB - Calgary (TBA) 12th/AB - Rockymountain House @ The R.M.H.C.C 13th/AB - Jasper @ Pete's Bar 14th/AB - Hinton @ The Olympia 15th/AB - Edmonton @ The Shark Tank 16th/SK - Saskatoon @ Lereliaf 18th/MB - Winnipeg @ West End Community Center 19th/MB - Stonewall @ Oddfellows Hall


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