The New Deal describes their formation as a “beautiful accident,” and perhaps that is what they are – an accident. But, like my grade school art teacher would say, a happy accident.
Who would have thought that a trio of clean-cut boys from Toronto with some musical talent and a passion for dance music would discover an untapped reservoir, with their fusion of urban beats and rhythms with spacey effects and futuristic sounding grooves?
The New Deal is certainly more than the sum of its parts – drummer Darren Shearer, bassist Dan Kurtz, and keyboardist Jamie Shields. They have come up with something new – performing electronica sans the electronics.
The New Deal plays what could be described as house, or dance, or electronica, but have taken a full 180 degree turn from the genre by playing the music live on instruments rather than relying on computers or synthesizers.
Along with other groups such as The Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector 9, The New Deal leads a movement that is quickly bridging the rave world with the touring jam band scene.
It would be hard to say what songs The New Deal performed – most of the songs were only given names for the sake of convenience. Instead The New Deal toys around with several musical themes in each set, circling basic motifs with improvisation. The show was punctuated with songs performed with vocalist Martina Sorbrara, including “Don’t Blame Yourself,” which is the subject of the group’s first music video. During the second set the Shearer informed the audience that it was Martina’s birthday and the show was briefly interrupted by a chorus of “Happy Birthday” from the audience.
The Campus Times was able to talk to drummer Darren Shearer before taking the stage at Water Street Music Hall on Nov. 13 and ask some questions about the group and their music.
CT: So where did the name “The New Deal” come from?
Darren Shearer: I’m not really sure where that came from. I think because maybe I was managing a skate shop up in Toronto and I saw New Deal skateboards and I always thought it would be cool to have a band named The New Deal.
CT: Do you skate?
DS: I used to back in the day, now I just snowboard.
CT: What were some of your favorite groups or musicians growing up?
DS: Favorite groups or musicians, probably like – hey those are like the old-school Airwalks [pointing to my shoes].
CT: Yeah, they’re the Allen Iverson by Reebok.
DS: They’re totally modeled off the old Airwalks. Actually you know what? They’re like the old, old Air Jordan’s.
CT: They are cool – so what was your favorite group?
DS: Led Zeppelin definitely, and the Police.
CT: Did you like Rush?
DS: I was never really into Rush, but I respected Peart’s drumming.
CT: So what are your biggest musical influences?
DS: Stewart Copeland, from the Police, John Bonham from Led Zeppelin, drum programming like Tribe Called Quest, anything that comes out of Mark Farina, like a mushroom jazz, like a deep soulful kind of thing.
CT: As a pretty versatile group, you have played a lot of different types of gigs from dance halls to festivals. What do you like playing the most?
DS: Summer is great, we get to play festivals. We played at Bonnaroo and Voodoo Fest down in New Orleans – we have a chance to play a lot of different festivals.
CT: Well, what sort of tradition do you guys come from as far as what sort of venue and audience you gear towards?
DS: We started just playing in front of two people in Toronto and then two people in New York and built it up, it keeps building and building.
CT: Do you guys plan to continue expanding into the U.S. market or remain centered in Canada? Do you plan on being a band with a Canadian identity?
DS: We have been. Eighty percent of our fans know we are from Canada. There’s no other band – we’re probably the first band of our sort that has cracked the scene in the U.S. – I can’t think of any other band of our sort.
CT: Is this something you consciously thought about or something that just sort of happened?
DS: Being Canadian?
CT: No, being a band with a distinctively Canadian identity?
DS: We’re pretty flag-waving. I always tell the crowds that we’re from Canada.
CT: How did you come into contact with Martina, the vocalist on your new album “Gone Gone Gone?”
DS: We started writing songs with songwriters, just trying things out [with a Canadian accent] – trying things out [correcting himself] – and it worked well with her so we put her on the record.
CT: How long have you known the other members of the band?
DS: I’ve known Dan and Jamie for about 12 years. I’ve known all of them for about 12 years, they are a little bit older, went to different schools. I’ve actually known them for about six or seven years. They’ve know each other since they were in grade eight or something or other.
CT: What direction is The New Deal headed, musically?
DS: I have no idea – we’ve never tried to plan that, always just try to be uncontrived about that.
CT: So what’s the one thing that you couldn’t live without backstage?
DS: If there is one thing there always have to be a bottle of vodka – always. Always absolute, for sure.
CT: Ok, last question, what is your favorite Tupac song?
DS: “California Love” is pretty fucking great, just because he seemed so ecstatic to be out of jail. And the whole Mad Max thing in the video is pretty cool.
Schloss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.