The Odds are on again

The Odds are still good.

Not many bands whose glory days were back in the mid 90s still get to regularly play to 20,000 people in a jam-packed arena. The odds are good the Odds are also the only one who get to do it night after night in the very same venue.

The Vancouver-based power pop band, best known for hits such as It Falls Apart, Eat My Brain, Heterosexual Man, and Someone Who’s Cool (not to mention the theme from Corner Gas), have also found a nice little sideline for themselves as the “house band” for the Canucks‘ playoff run at Rogers Arena.

“We’ve heard from quite a few other rock ‘n rollers who are quite envious of the position,” admitted Odds frontman Craig Northey over the phone from his North Vancouver home.

As anyone who’s been watching the post-season will know, the Odds (Northey, fellow guitarist Murray Atkinson, bassist Doug Elliott and drummer Pat Steward) help keep the crowd amped up between action on the ice, and so far a number of high profile guests have been known to join them with more “top secret” ones expected for the series against the Bruins. Elvis Costello, Colin James, Rob Baker and even colourful colour commentator Don Cherry have all stopped by to jam, although Northey was able to put the Internet rumour to rest that Grapes actually joined in on Little Bones before for Game 1 against the Sharks.

“He was not plugged in, but I wouldn’t put it past Don to be able to figure out how to play,” Northey said with a laugh. “He was enthusiastic about participating, but I’m not so sure he was able to play the riffs. How about let’s just say instead that we didn’t have enough inputs for him?”

The band also rocked the same joint back when it was known as Canada Hockey House for the Olympics. This time it wasn’t the suits that got them the gig, but rather the recommendation of longtime friend and tour mate Tyler Stewart, a writer for Hockey News better known for his day job as the drummer for the Barenaked Ladies. The upper eschelon of the Canadian rock scene is a fairly tight community, and after nearly a quarter century in the biz (including a 10-year hiatus), the band has had a chance to meet and often play with the best of them.

“We’ve made so many great friends who are peers that we started collaborating with people, like Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip,” said Northey. “We’ve made two albums with him as the Strippers Union, which is some of the best music we’ve made. There’s the collaborations with Colin (James), Jesse Valenzuela from the Gin Blossoms. We have almost like a giant collective here in Canada of musician friends that every now and then go ‘hey, we should do something together.'”

The band’s most recent album, 2009’s Cheerleader, also paid tribute to legendary Vancouverites Art Bergmann and Pointed Sticks with some covers, and the new Strippers Union album The Deuce has just come out. Northey added the Odds are also working on some new material of their own.

“We’re starting to work on another record. Do they still call them records?” he asked rhetorically. “I think they still call them albums if you put a bunch of MP3s in a row.”

The Odds will be playing to a considerably smaller crowd than Rogers Arena later this month when they take to the stage at Burnaby’s Shadbolt Centre, a bit of a warm-up before heading out a tour of that will see them playing a variety of far-flung locations in Western Canada, including Haida Gwaii in August as part of the Edge of the World Festival.

“We have an exciting summer in that respect,” said Northey. “We’re also going to Bella Coola and other places we haven’t been to yet and we figured we’d been pretty much everywhere.”

There is a certain irony to this given that the band first got its name back in 1987 when, after playing a dive bar in some unspecified one-horse town, they asked themselves: “What are the odds of us ever escaping bullshit gigs like this?”

However, Northey said he always had a feeling the band would end up going the distance.

“You know what? Yeah, we just kind of knew. We took 10 years off, so that gave us a bit more horsepower.”

They may not be packing many hockey arenas outside of downtown Vancouver, but they are still a band that has earned a solid place in Canadian music history and devoted fans from coast to coast.

“We tend to move out from the cloud of obscurity from time to time,” said Northey. “I don’t think we ever made music for anything but ourselves, but every once in a while, our music pops through the little window of opportunity and people go: ‘Oh yeah, those guys!'”

(This story was first published June 1, 2011 © Copyright (c) Burnaby Now)

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