They’re fearless, they’re energetic, they’re unique: they’re the Whitby, Ontario five-piece Protest The Hero. This group of teens have been delighting crowds and critics alike with their ability to create music that is well beyond their years. The last couple of months have been a whirlwind for the band; going from tour to tour, being featured in several magazines, such as AP, having their first single, “Blindfolds Aside,” play on regular rotation at Much Music, and now signing to Vagrant Records. The band’s frontman, Rody Walker recently shared his thoughts on the signing.
The Concordian: Your record Kezia will be re-released in April by Vagrant Records. How are you feeling about the release?
Walker: I think we were a little more nervous with the Canadian release because it was something we had worked on for so long. We didn’t know how it would go over. I think we’ve been playing it for so long, and since the record’s been out in Canada for so long, that we’re pretty much indifferent. It’s coming out in Australia, which I think is cooler. There seems like there would be a lot of pressure there on whether or not it’s going to do well, or whether it’s going to flop. I think either way, we’re just happy to be out there doing music.
The Concordian: Why did you guys choose to go with Vagrant when you were approached by other labels as well?
Walker: Initially, we were skeptical because their roster doesn’t really cater to us, and to be quite honest, I don’t think there’s one band on Vagrant that I really listen to. But looking over the statistics, what they do and how they plan to promote the album, there was no better way. It’s a major indie, it’s still an independent label but it’s big enough to move the record and promote the record in the way that it deserves. At the end of the day, I think it was the most positive choice, due to the marketing and also the people there. We went down and met a bunch of people. They were all excellent human beings but at the end of the day, the guys and girls at Vagrant were just absolutely awesome: the nicest and most down to earth people. It doesn’t even seem like a company. It seems like a community of people working for the betterment of music.
The Concordian: Do you think that with Vagrant you’ll still be allowed to have that creative control? Is that important for you?
Walker: Oh absolutely! That’s one thing that we will always stick to, which is creative control and artistic integrity. If there was any contract that said that Vagrant or any other label would have say on how our records were going to sound, we would have absolutely not signed it. That’s the main premise of our band, and to take that away would be to take away a large part of what we are.
The Concordian: But is that really realistic? Sometimes with younger bands they’ll try to take control over what they do.
Walker: We’ve already had some issues. We had an idea for the video coming out. They weren’t so keen on the idea initially, but we told them, “trust us. You’ve trusted us to this point,” and obviously they let us do it. When we are in the studio next time, they may have someone saying, “I don’t know about this,” but at the end of the day, it’s our decision. I think that what anyone says on the outside won’t have any effect on how the record sounds.
The Concordian: In your American bio, they mention that you’re a “political” band. Do you think that’s an element they’re trying to play up in the U.S.?
Walker: I don’t know if that was a marketing technique, but at the end of the day, we are still a political band and the record Kezia, though it’s not blatant politics, does deal with political and social issues. If they choose to promote it in that fashion, it’s not necessarily incorrect. It’s still very much describing who we are to a brand new audience.
The Concordian: So you don’t mind being tagged as a political band?
Walker: Not really. It does have a negative connotation with it but hopefully people can look past those. I would hope that people wouldn’t read “political band” and just think we’re the next Propagandhi, out to change the world.
The Concordian: A lot of Canadian bands like Silverstein and Boys Night Out also signed to American labels and spent most of their time in the U.S. rather than in Canada. Is it really important for you guys to maintain a good presence in Canada?
Walker: Absolutely! Canada is first and foremost our home over anything else. It’s not something we intend to ignore. The first taste of any minute amount of success that we’ve ever had was in Canada, so we obviously owe Canada a lot.
The Concordian: You guys are really involved with your Myspace account and online journals. Recently though, Vagrant posted a blog on the page where you usually post blogs about a special pre-order offer and the fans responded in a really negative way. What do you think of that? Have you been getting a lot of criticism because Vagrant is more hands- on now?
Walker: The kids hated that! Some people have been saying stuff like calling us “sellouts,” but we’re selling out for signing to an independent label? If that makes us sellouts, I don’t care. For those kids, I’d just want to put out a poppy record and sign to a major label and say “f**k you, you bunch of scallywags,” because those kids don’t have any kind of integrity anyways. So who are they to judge my integrity and the decisions that I’m making to put some bread on my table, which is currently void of bread.
The Concordian: Did that affect you in any way, seeing all of those negative comments?
Walker: That was positive for me. That’s funny that they hate those representatives so much. It’s almost like a sign of respect that they would have appreciated it better if I would have said it. I didn’t even know they put it up there. I don’t really care at the end of the day cuz it’s Myspace and who takes that seriously?
The Concordian: You guys have been getting a lot of press lately, including a feature in AP. Is that something you are embracing?
Walker: It’s awesome! AP is a magazine that we’ve been reading for years, so to finally see your ugly mug in it, it’s an honour. We’re excited to be in those magazines and we’re excited when people come up to us and say they want to do a feature on us. I think at the end of the day, as long as we stick to what we are saying and what we’ve been saying this entire time, I don’t think anything’s changed. I don’t think it matters what vehicle we are putting it out there with. Even if we would be in those 17-year-old magazines, as long as we’re still saying the same thing, f**k anyone who calls us sellouts for it.
The Concordian: Your video and your music have been doing really well all over Canada, except for in Quebec. Is there something that people in Quebec don’t get about this band?
Walker: A Quebec promoter said to us once “the kids don’t like bar rock into death metal.” I don’t know if that’s an accurate description of what we are, but I guess that’s how most of Quebec perceives us. You’re absolutely right, there’s very much a division between the rest of the country and Quebec for us. It’s very strange. It’s a sobering experience to go into Quebec, and I do love it very much!
The Concordian: When I first interviewed you last spring, you said that one of your dreams with this band was to travel outside of Canada and to take the album as far as you could. That dream has come true, so what are your dreams or aspirations now?
Walker: That’s a damn good question! I’m walking around sock-less on some dirty ground in the States living my dream. I think it would definitely be to continue pursuing this. Do Warped Tour in its entirety, which I think we are doing this year, and not lose my mind entirely. These aren’t really dreams, but aspirations, and reasonable aspirations. I guess I’d hope for moderate American success, because it’s one of the big markets in the grand scheme. However, I would want more European and Japanese success because those markets are sick! [laughs] That’s where all of those tech-metal bands get big, and even though we’re not that “techy” and we’re not that metal, those are the people that I would like to appreciate me [laughs].
Protest The Hero play at El Salon tomorrow Thursday March 23. Show at 7. Tickets $15