Europe has long been a happy hunting ground for Canadian artists in all genres, and Flix Canada aims to increase our export of punk-inflected rockers considerably. This is a brand new Toronto-based booking agency whose primary focus is on Europe.
The company is headed by Eamon McGrath, a prolific singer/songwriter and author of some renown. To get the Flix facts, FYI recently interviewed McGrath.
He explained that Flix Canada will partner closely with the Berlin-based Flix Agency, one that has already been working with such Canadian acts as Dearly Beloved and Sunparlour Players in Europe. “I've worked with Flix, and more directly its founder Felix Willikonsky, countless times on trips overseas and on some tours I was booking independently,” says McGrath.
“It started out as more or less us just helping each other out on various projects, and knowing that we really shared a philosophy and ideology when it came to a DIY approach and punk rock spirit, and then it sort of just naturally evolved to more of a formal, official partnership.
I'd also bring Flix bands and projects that I was not only playing in but sometimes also booking, and I was always really impressed with the tenacity they attack every project with. Over the years I've steadily been trying to find more work offstage that didn't involve me swinging a hammer or using a skillsaw and so I got more and more into booking tours to not put my guitar-playing appendages at risk, and so here we are.”
The catalyst for a formal link came when McGrath was working on some tours for two Toronto bands, RYDER and Catl. “Felix and I kind of started collaborating a bit on ideas, routes, and possible support slots, and then we had this lightbulb eureka! moment and put the idea of doing this full-time on the table. Within a month or so we had blocked out our whole next year and taken on five or six new bands.”
McGrath brings a wealth of personal experience to the table, noting that “I've toured in Europe more times than I can count at this point to be honest. I think my upcoming tour in June with John Allen, another Flix artist, and The Hills Mover, a great Brussels-based "post-folk" project, will be my fifteenth or sixteenth time over there within five or so years.”
He’s a firm believer in the potential of Euro-touring for Canadian bands. “They might initially have this kind of daunting, almost frightened feeling of taking their art across the pond, because it's so new and unfamiliar at first. But the truth is, it's a way less daunting and overwhelming thing the more times you do it, less so than even trying to plan a tour out to western Canada or the Maritimes.
“It costs about the same, sometimes even less, and there are so many more options for shows and so many different kinds of audiences in every little cultural pocket of the European continent. After the eighteenth time driving through the Canadian Shield in a snowstorm, bands from here kind of think ‘There has got to be a better way.’ And there is: you can play in five or six different countries in the distance between Toronto and Winnipeg, like twenty or thirty shows. Touring Europe is kind of what touring was always supposed to be.”
“It's just easier to tour over there: the cultural infrastructure is in place to make it a positive experience. Lots of bands might tour and play in Canada once every two or three years but go over to Europe every eight months. This is a really common thing."
He also stresses that “Art is appreciated on a different level in Europe. Cities and communities participate in the creation of venues and public houses as a place for musicians and artists to have a stage and a voice. Drinking goes long into the morning and rarely gets out of hand. People buy your records and see it as a sign of enormous gratitude that you made the trip to come to where they live and share what it is you do. It's very different from the commonplace ‘played Wing Night in Kenora, Ontario to three bikers and the bartender's dog’ stories that so many bands have about touring Canada.
Initial response to Flix Canada has been positive, reports McGrath.“I think people are very happy with the results we've been getting. All artists really want is somebody to believe in what they're doing and be devoted and committed to championing their music, to know their emails are going to be replied to, and to feel like someone cares about them and is working hard. If you do those things, then you'll get results. It really is that simple.”
To McGrath, punk rock is more an ethos than a strict definition, and the bands on the Flix roster have a wide stylistic range. “You have to be cut from that [punk] cloth to be willing to head out on the road for twenty-five shows straight: to be willing to put yourself in positions of potential frustration or discomfort in the name of art. Regardless of the style of music you play, if you're digging in deep and barreling through a slew of dates right until the end then you have the same zeal and urgency of any punk rock or hardcore band. The sound and package has never really mattered to me.”
Other Canadian bands now being booked through Flix Canada include New Brunswick’s Little You, Little Me and Edmonton’s Fire Next Time.
The agency celebrates its launch with a Toronto show at The Cave this Thursday, featuring McGrath, Nancy Pants, and Julie Doiron. For more info, go to www.flixagency.com