As they’ve stated in the stylishly swagger of The World We Used To Know off their first full length CD Highway 21, things are quite different these days for Left of Centre. Since forming while still in high school, this group of friends became a band back in 2005. They quickly set their course down the road of rock n’ roll, then managed to hit a good pace as they quickly found their sound. This winning combination has earned them a steady string of milestones. Some of the highlights include; playing bigger stages and better gigs including their 100th show, releasing their debut EP and a subsequent full length CD, basing themselves in Winnipeg, signing up with a major agency and most recently delivering a blistering high intensity action packed set of their prairie riff rock during their set at Houstons for the Locals Only Band Battle. Happenings recently caught up with L.O.C. lead singer and bassist Cory Badger to get some insight on the road that brought them here as well as look down the road ahead….
You’ve come a long way since those first few practices, jams and subsequent gigs in the Hamiota area. First off, congrats on being picked up by Morris Entertainment agency!! Tell us how that transpired.
We had been in contact with Comrie, the president of Morris Entertainment, since the release of our EP back in '09. At that point we weren't expecting a lot... they liked our tracks, but the big win then was that they were at least aware of the band and the 'Left of Centre' name. It also gave them a good reference point to see the things that we have accomplished since then. Once we released 'Hwy 21' and committed to managing ourselves, there was a lot more interest on their part. They invited us to a showcase at the Marion in Winnipeg where we shared the stage with bunch of their signed cover acts. It was very much an open band-jam type of evening. We were the only act to play original music that night, and I have to say that the reaction from the other bands was most-inspiring. When a room full of musicians responds to your music so positively, it really builds confidence. The rest is kind of history. They will be launching their new website shortly with 'Left of Centre' as a featured artist.
How long since you made the decision to be based out of Winnipeg?
We started playing Winnipeg gigs at the U of M campus bar around the time Alex joined the group. It was called 'Wise Guys' back in those days. We played there a number of times while Ben and Alex were students at the university, and eventually we started spreading out to other venues. It was kind of a natural evolution once those guys took up permanent residence in the city.
Do you play many gigs in Winnipeg?
We have played a large portion of our gigs in Winnipeg since then. We have played venues such as the Pyramid, the Park Theatre, Dylan O' Connors, Rock Bar, the Zoo, Joe's Garage, among others. We also have plans to play Shannon's Irish Pub and the Cavern later this spring.
Are there any major differences to playing shows in Winnipeg as compared to gigs in Westman?
There are quite a few differences between the two, especially when you are still getting established. The majority of Winnipeg venues are pay-to-play, at least until you demonstrate the development of a decently sized local following. When we first started out in Winnipeg, we played a handful of shows where we barely broke even, or even lost money. Eventually you learn the venues and develop a positive reputation, and the doors will continue to open. The biggest difference is the 'attraction' factor. In smaller Westman towns, people will only see a live band maybe a few times per year. So before you even show up, you are already pegged as a large event. In Winnipeg there are dozens and dozens of bands playing every night. It's so saturated. If you want to be successful in the city you have to promote yourself VERY well, show people that you are a good time, and they will come back.
Even though spring took its time getting here, summer is fast approaching. Do you guys have a busy schedule through the summer months?
Well, this summer is a little different for the band than those of years past. When we were university students, the summer was our only time to shine, and we made good use of it. This year there are a few life events happening for the guys, and given the age-bracket we are entering, wedding season is taking its toll on our available time. What we really hope to accomplish is a very progressive and successful spring, so that we can hit the ground running come late summer. This will be by far our busiest "complete year" as a performing act.
It’s been roughly 7 months since your first full-length disc "Highway 21" was released to the masses. Tell us how much of a learning experience that was and what did the band take away from the recording process as you move forward.
Well isn't it true that you never stop learning. We were fortunate enough to have gone through the recording process with the EP prior to the album. Over those three years we learned a lot; what worked in the studio, what didn't work, why it needs to be different, etc. You go into the studio each time thinking that you have all of the answers, only to critique your final work and realize that, at this point, it's still far from a polished process. I'm very much of the mindset that "it is what it is," and if you keep reminding yourself of that fact, you can never be upset with your own hard work.
Have you be writing much lately?
We are always writing. We are one of the few bands that you will see playing new material years before it finds its way into the studio. It really lets you develop the song on live subjects, and it gives you a sense of what is possible live, so that you don't over-reach yourself in the studio. We really pride ourselves on our live sound and prefer to keep the recordings as pure as possible. Digital manipulation is neat; it has spawned an entire generation of music, but it' just not what LOC is about. If it's good, then it's good, but it is what it is.
Based on that answer it wouldn’t be too premature to ask if L.O.C. have any early stage plans for the next cd.
We really want to see how far we can take 'Hwy 21.' Being only part time musicians at this point, we realize the huge amount of time a full length studio project can take. I can almost guarantee that we will find ourselves in the studio for a second full length album at some point in the future, but our focus now is on promoting the work that we have, and promoting ourselves as a professional rock act.
Since playing your first gigs back in 2005, the band is closing in on yet another milestone. Your 100th gig!! Do you just play gigs one at a time as they come or is it your M.O. to improve with each performance?
Coming from the humblest of beginnings, to a level that would probably astound many people, I can say that it has always been about improvement. As long as you are taking one step forward every day, you will eventually get to where you are going. There is no saying when, but you will get there. We have been taking it one step at a time since '05, and I can honestly say that we are very proud of what we have accomplished as four individuals. When you start to see success snowball, as it has for us in the past year, you really start to get that "what if?" feeling... and then you just go and write a song about it.
Check out Left of Centre at myspace.com/leftofcentreonline@03 Body Copy:
Simon Walls "No More Walking Tour" makes a stop in Brandon — Saturday, April 20th at the Decker
For the launch of his second album, Simon decided that he would walk across the 2nd largest country in the world. He began his 9000 km trek across Canada from Victoria, BC to St. John’s, NF on foot with his guitar on his back. He has recently completed the first stage of his adventure and has stopped in Toronto to wait until the winter passes and finish the recording of his second album.
Next week in Happenings:
Award winning band "The Sugar Devils" invade Brandon!!
Frank McGwire is a radio personality and booster of the music scene in Brandon and Westman.