By Miranda Beninger
The five members of Rebel Emergency have been known — among other things — to go six months with unwashed hair, ride exercise bikes on stage, pee in garbage cans for fun, and strip on request. Despite these shortcomings, they could be the next band to hit it big on Toronto’s rock music scene.
The band is made up of five members from universities around Toronto — including one recent Ryerson dropout. Their regular appearances at the Horseshoe Tavern have drawn hundreds of people to their shows.
Located at 370 Queen St. W., the Horseshoe is legendary for its pick of up-and-coming rock bands. Canadian musicians Blue Rodeo, The Tragically Hip, The Watchmen, big Sugar, Amanda Marshall, Great Big Sea and The Band have all graced the same stage as Rebel Emergency.
While the band is made up of young 20-somethings, their magnetic attractiveness is not limited to college groupies. At their packed Jan. 2 show, fans of all ages stood in the audience, cheering on lead singer Rod Colmer as he worked up a swear with the band’s favorite stage toy — an exercise bike.
This stunt, the band’s musical talent and their corny sense of humour help them stand out from other bands competing for stage time. Colmer says the band’s fan base has been formed through word of mouth — and these guys definitely know how to please their fans.
“If we’re into it, the crowd gets into it,” says Colmer.
Colmer says Rebel Emergency has seen a lot of label interest and hopes the band will eventually release a CD. But making it to the top is not an easy task — especially for the band members also attending university. Amidst busy schedules, they practice about once a week. Colmer is optimistic about the band’s success and insists they are going to make it, but not everyone agrees. Rebel Emergency’s guitarist, Adam Halim, describes one night when an agent attended their show and was less than enthusiastic.
“The agent went on to say [they] don’t hear a hit. But then they’ll call you the next day anyway. A lot of people in this industry suck, but some guys are really nice,” says Halim.
Halim has his own response to agents who ask the band to change their tune.
“If they say make the chorus catchy, I say, ‘fuck you, you fucking piece of shit!’”
Halim refuses to censor his comments, insisting that the band is against censorship.
“Music is the truth,” he says. He’s truthfull about hygiene as well, admitting he has gone six month without buying shampoo and has been single for six years.
“Maybe you shouldn’t tell girls about the shampoo,” advises Colmer.
“But you save so much money! If I tell girls this, they just don’t understand. Music has been my girlfriend,” says Halim.
The band originally began with a friendship between Colmer and Halim. Their first encounter was in the sixth grade, when Colmer taught Halim about life, women, and cooking.
Members Neil DiCiantis, Geoff Willingham, and former Ryerson student Evan Ferguson joined the group later, but it has not been an easy task to find a permanent drummer.
They have seen seven drummers in the past year. Ferguson, who is their latest, left Ryerson’s marketing program to pursue a degree in music at Humber College.
“I wanted to get the idea of how to market a band,” says Ferguson of his brief semester at Ryerson. He’s changed his mind to pursue his first love of music. “Let someone else do the marketing.”
The other members of Rebel Emergency hope their seventh attempt at a drummer sticks. They credit Ferguson’s good ear and listening skills when it comes to knowing what the rest of the group is doing. On stage, he has already melded to the other four members, and isn’t shy about playing solos and showing off a little at the end of a song.
“Drummers are a strange breed,” says Colmer.
Halim says Rebel Emergency is breaking new ground with their original rock sound. They refuse to classify their music into any existing category but the sound seems to be working out so far. The band has played gigs at The Horseshoe Tavern, The Opera house, The Reverb, and The Kool Haus.
Their concerns may include exercise bikes, tight shirts, and a few cover songs, but Halim insists that drugs and alcohol are kept to a minimum when they perform.
“I don’t have too much to drink or drugs. There’s no bullshit. Drugs are good, but there’s a time and place. I think other bands do it because they can hide behind it. After the show, maybe we’ll do it,” says Halim.
To find out about upcoming shows, visit www.rebelemergency.com.