When, as Speed Control frontman Graeme Peters describes it, “you’re an independent rock ‘n’ roll band from the Yukon that nobody knows,” you have to do a little something extra to stand out from the crowd.
The Whitehorse-based trio, made up of brothers Graeme and bass player Jody, along with newcomer Ian March on drums, have always been cognizant of today’s ever-changing music industry, and have worked hard to present themselves in unique ways on a variety of platforms.
Besides being known for their dynamic live shows, Speed Control has forged a reputation in schools across the country with their interactive RAWK Camps, which give kids hands-on instruction with real instruments before hitting a stage to play with a full band in front of a live audience. Think of a Canuck version of School of Rock, and you start to get the picture — just like Yamaha Canada did before deciding to sponsor the program and provide all of the instruments.
“I definitely stole the idea from Jack Black,” said Graeme, who spoke to the band’s desire to give back to school-age children who may not have regular opportunities to express themselves musically. “A lot of times we do this stuff in communities that don’t have music stores or anything like that, or in high schools where the (music program) gets cut first. Playing music is my favourite thing to do; playing your own songs in front of people is amazing, so if I can get some kids together playing, I think I’m doing my job.”
Known as the hardest working band in the Yukon, Speed Control are rarely without a gig, with club and bar shows on the weekend and a busy school performance schedule the rest of the week.
Besides their infamous RAWK Camps, the boys in Speed Control also perform a frolicking romp through musical history for kids throughout the school year, which, in keeping with their love of phonetic spelling and all caps, is called “From Rags to RAWK.” The show, which features songs from 1898 to present day, first caught the attention of promoters several years ago at the BC Touring Council’s annual booking conference, Pacific Contact.
“I was kind of BS-ing my way through it. You have 10 minutes to play a few songs and talk to the audience, and if they like you, you get gigs,” Graeme said.
Out of that brief performance, Speed Control landed shows at dozens of schools in and around Kelowna, Graeme said, more than quadrupling their fans on Facebook and seeing their reputation blossom throughout B.C. and beyond.
Presenting themselves to new audiences is nothing new to the band — they also had their own limited-run beer through Yukon Brewing Company. Graeme said it’s essential for emerging artists to market themselves in distinct ways in today’s shifting musical landscape.
“It all started because we needed to work a little bit harder and get a little bit more money to be able to afford to tour, but it’s turned into something we’re really passionate about,” Graeme said of the band’s music education efforts.
“When we started our tour in October, we were doing the national release of F.A.B. and we were going to press to try and get radio stations and papers to promote it but they didn’t pay attention to us until they realized all the other stuff we do.”
The aforementioned F.A.B., Speed Control’s follow-up to their 2010 debut, was the result of a more collaborative approach between the group. It’s the perfect reflection of one of the band’s live shows, Graeme said.
“F.A.B. is our first album with Ian on drums, and when you put it in the CD player it’s like what you see live. It’s pretty aggressive in some areas, kind of poppy in other areas, and we wrote it more as a band,” he added. “It shows the different passions of our life.”
Speed Control plays Merlin’s Friday (Feb. 7) at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5.
Visit the boys’ YouTube channel, SpeedControlYukon, where the band is posting 100 covers in 100 days. A gem from last week that’s worth checking out is a cover of ‘N Sync’s 2000 chart topper, Bye Bye Bye.