After over 10 years apart, Thrush Hermit returns to life with a nearly sold-out nine-date tour and an eight-disc box set chronicling the life and times of the Hermit.
And questions abound: will the band's trademark "Rock" sign make an appearance? Will the box set have the Street Cents theme song? Yes, if the delivery truck does what it is supposed to. Did the band really insist that their tour openers cover Steve Miller? Will there be an appearance by their almost-as-beloved alter egos, the Tim Robbins Experience? Yes, kind of, according to Joel Plaskett, who says that anything can happen when he, Ian McGettigan and Rob Benvie are together and partying.
The reunion quickly went from a one-off show to two shows to a full nine-date tour: interest, ambition and enthusiasm could have led to more, had the members' individual projects and work not interfered. The box set went much the same way, growing from an opportunity to re-release the back catalogue of Thrush Hermit once ownership reverted back to them. Compiled by Plaskett, the band's in-house archivist, the box set includes two DVDs and a 24-page booklet with liner notes by Benvie. The first three discs are all the band's proper releases. Two discs are devoted to the band's seven-inches, compilation tracks, B-sides and outtakes---it's where you'll find covers of songs by the Descendents, the Local Rabbits, Budgie and more. A sixth disc that Plaskett refers to as "Embarrass Ourselves Awake," features early and pre-Thrush Hermit material, "stuff we'd break out on long drives or dead headers from Toronto to keep ourselves awake." The two DVDs are made up of the 1999 Learn to Party documentary and footage from 1990 to 1999.
Talking to Plaskett, Benvie and drummer Cliff Gibb, they seem flattered, enthused and a little surprised by fan reception. "I made a Google alert to see what would come about of it (I know, very nerdy)," Gibb emails. "I have been blown away by intensity of the excitement---some serious Hermit love."
Hermit has always been rabidly loved by its fans, and the band, while in no way reluctant to embrace the love, is quick with the reality check. Benvie relates a story of rabid Thrush Hermit fans who staked out Joel Plaskett's family home in the late '90s and then proceeded to follow Benvie and Plaskett around all day, "until finally we said, 'Who are you guys?' I don't know what they were expecting because we were just these doofuses who lived in the suburbs with our parents."
Tackling a project as ambitious as an eight-disc box set of everything they ever recorded, warts and all, is about what you'd expect from a band who, when given the chance to showcase their music to a wider audience at 1995's Edgefest, responded with a set made up entirely of Steve Miller covers. Originally when lining up opening bands for the Hermit reunion tour, they asked the openers to do full Miller sets. They've eased their stance and now they're asking for at least one Steve Miller tune per opener.
When asked about what sort of perspective they have on Thrush Hermit now, Benvie and Plaskett talk about learning to be free from pushing an agenda, just being able to enjoy the songs and showing people that when Thrush Hermit was good, it was good. Gibb responds slightly less philosophically, but no less accurately: "The riffage was way heavier than I thought it was."
Most memorable Thrush Hermit songs
“Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman”
An amazing and nearly eight-minute-long
Budgie cover appearing on the Syrup & Gasoline compilation.
“We Are Being Reduced”
A Cliff Gibb favourite from their last album, Clayton Park.
Arguably the song that launched Thrush Hermit. Benvie recalls hearing it the first time and thinking, “This is going to be a monster track.”
Benvie describes the video and its subsequent airplay on MuchMusic as establishing the band as a “sort of comedy troupe.”
The debut single off their debut full-length, Sweet Homewrecker. The riffs still hold up.
Steve Miller set at Edgefest:
“Jetliner,” “Jungle Love,” “Swingtown”
Take your pick!
The Paragon Theatre,
2037 Gottingen St