By Sarah Lysecki
Enter The Unit. It smells like burnt steel and fermenting grape juice. It’s frigid in the winter, sweltering in the summer, and is lit by a bare light bulb dangling from the ceiling.
A winery is not a typical practice space for a punk band, but it will have to do for the three members of Better Off Deaf.
Drummer and fourth-year mechanical engineering student Rich Pulcinni, vocalist and guitarist Pate Mete and bassist Adrian Caprara squeeze into the cellar of the winery, which is owned by Pulcinni’s father, to rehearse and hang out.
“We’re not a pampered band,” says Mete, a marketing promotions employee for High Impact Promotions in Mississauga. Although they practice in a winery, Pulcinni’s dad let’s them practice in a storage room filled with dirty car parts.
Mete, Pulcinni, and Caprara, who works in a Labatt warehouse, went to Father Henry Carr High School in Rexdale, and have been playing together on and off in numerous bands since Grade 9.
They are trying to break into the Toronto club circuit to get away from the Highway 7 strip in Woodbridge, where they started playing gigs in bars a couple of years ago after forming Better Off Deaf.
The guys hope to cut a CD in a year, but they will need more than the $15 to $20 they make each show to pay the $5,000 to $10,000 that it costs to record and produce a CD.
To get ready for their gigs, the guys rehearse about 10 hours a week, five of which are just Mete and Caprara in The Unit after 11 p.m.
With Pulcinni in school 28 hours a week, and Mete and Caprara working until 10:30 p.m., finding a time to jam is always a challenge.
As for the venue, Caprara admits they’ve got to get a better practice space, but for now The Unit, with no rental charge, is hard to beat. It’s equipped with a fridge for beer and a washroom that even your mother would use.
While they dream of selling out the Air Canada Centre, the guys will have to make do playing in the small cellar and taking turns warming their calves in front of a miniature heater in the corner.
The upside to The Unit’s dilapidated conditions are the hollow cinder block construction. The blocks do not absorb sound, which lets the band rock as loud as it likes – hence the name Better Off Deaf.
Caprara nonchalantly takes credit for naming the band. “It was spontaneous,” he says, explaining that he just spit it out when the band was driving around aimlessly a year and a half ago.
Spontaneity is what this band is all about. Highlights of their 20-minute shows include props such as a busted TV with a strobe light inside (influenced by Degrassi High’s
Zit Remedy band), covers of 1980s retro tunes like Video Killed the Radio Star and Caprara’s antics – he’s been known to jump off Pulcinni’s drum set every now and then.
Like its shows, Better Off Deaf’s music and lyrics are all about having fun.
When Mete, who does most of the writing, and Caprara get together, they write songs based on people they know and past events with a no-holds-barred approach.
The guys in Better Off Deaf enjoy their music gig, but they’re not in it for the glamour. Each night they emerge from their suburban storage unit covered in a layer of dirt and dust from the old car parts. “It’s just fun,” says Mete.