Friday, November 16

Billy Talent brings its ’90s edge from Toronto


Canadian pop-punk group Billy Talent, which has reached platinum status in Canada, will be performing at the Henry Fonda Theater on Saturday as part of their first U.S. headlining tour.

Canadian pop-punk group Billy Talent, which has reached platinum status in Canada, will be performing at the Henry Fonda Theater on Saturday as part of their first U.S. headlining tour. CANVAS MEDIA


Our red-and-white-clad neighbors to the north have provided us with many a musical anomaly over the years, all having become subject to varying levels of fame (and infamy) in the U.S. We’ve seen the likes of Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Morissette and Avril Lavigne cross the border to make their American debuts ““ quite the varied musical bunch. It seems impossible to predict what Canada has in store for us next.

The impossible might very well become probable thanks to Billy Talent, a pop-punk, self-proclaimed grunge-infused collection of four high school friends hailing from suburban Toronto, now embarking on their first U.S. tour with the goal of captivating the American audience directly. The band will play the Henry Fonda Theater on Saturday.

“We’ve never headlined our own tour in another country before. The shows have been incredible so far. People seem really excited to see us,” said Ben Kowalewicz, lead singer and front man of Billy Talent.

Already having established themselves in Canada with their first two records, “Billy Talent III,” the group’s third effort, may be viewed as a marked appeal to the American audience.

Billy Talent came abruptly face-to-face with huge success in 2003 when their first album went triple-platinum in Canada, only to have their sophomore effort, “Billy Talent II,” receive three more platinum sales awards in 2006. The cherry on top of this onslaught of fame came in the form of a No. 1 debut in Germany and a sold-out show at Toronto’s 20,000-seat Air Canada Centre. Next on the to-do list: a seventeen-date coast-to-coast U.S. tour that will hopefully win the boys some degree of the recognition received in their home country.

“Billy Talent III” is quite the accomplishment for the group. Band members Ben Kowalewicz, Jon Gallant, Ian D’Sa and Aaron Solowoniuk have been working together on musical projects for over fifteen years. On their latest album the four comrades had the pleasure of working with A-list producer Brendan O’Brien.

“They took a huge step forward growth-wise with this album. Their instrumentation was more varied, and I think I helped push them a little,” said O’Brien, who was one of the key figures behind the albums of Bruce Springstein, AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Stone Temple Pilots.

Due to his impressive career, O’Brien’s interest in Billy Talent was a godsend in the eyes of the band. Working with O’Brien seemed like a far-off dream, and when it became a reality, they were incredulous.

“You’re always evolving as a band, and this is an album where that is very apparent,” Kowalewicz said, “We got to work with one of the biggest producers in the world ““ we’re just four kids from Canada, this was a dream come true for us.”

The Toronto foursome grew up in the ’90s in an age of grunge and progressive rock, listening to a smattering of bands that embody the era, not to mention more or less all of the musicians that O’Brien has worked with over the years. O’Brien was also a dominant force in the engineering one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ most influential records, “Blood Sugar Sex Magik,” an album that Kowalewicz cites as having played a key role in shaping Billy Talent’s musical mindset.

“We’re huge fans of Eddie Vedder, who I actually had the pleasure of meeting recently. Our influences range from Rage Against the Machine and Jane’s Addiction to Pearl Jam and Soundgarden,” said Kowalewicz, “We grew up in the early ’90s when the whole grunge thing was happening.”

Talent see themselves as punk-pop-grunge-rock concoction with a little bit of ’70s-inspired guitar peppered in to the rock cocktail. The group saw their fame skyrocket as a result of their visceral and hard-hitting live performance, an aspect that long-time fans rave about. “Billy Talent III” is an attempt at translating the same gut-busting intensity the group has captured in their live show to the realm of the album.

“Diamond on a Landmine” off of “Billy Talent III” has a few guitar licks vaguely reminiscent of The Police, but when the neurotic chord progression comes in during the chorus accompanied by Kowalewicz’s angsty cries, the listener is brought back to a somewhat grim reality, evocative of Good Charlotte and Sugarcult.

“There isn’t one defining theme (for “Billy Talent III”), we write about the daily journey that we all go through. There are songs on this album that were lyrically some of the best pieces I’ve ever been a part of,” Kowalewicz said.

This trend of more pop-based musical themes may be attributed to Billy Talent’s attempted appeal to American mainstream tastes, but the turnout during their current tour will be the true test. Will Talent bring home the Canadian bacon? That’s for us to decide.

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