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Members include Dave Bidini (born c. 1963), guitar; Dave Clark (left group, c. 1995), drums; Don Kerr (joined group, c. 1995), drums; Martin Tielli (born c. 1960), guitar, vocals; Tim Vesely (born c. 1957), bass. Addresses: Record distribution--Universal Music, 2450 Victoria Park, Toronto, ON M2J 4A2, Canada, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The "Rheos," as they are known affectionately to their fans and the media, are the acknowledged pride of Etobicoke, Ontario, a small town just west of Toronto, where the band was founded in 1978. The group was originally comprised of a group of friends, including then 15-year-old Bidini, 18-year-old Tielli, 21-year-old Vesely, and a drummer named Dave Clark. This quartet represents the best of the Canadian rock bands and embodies the spirit of the independent musicians that rose to prominence during the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. The individuality of the group's members is believed to be their greatest asset. Guitarists Dave Bidini and Martin Tielli have each pursued solo careers, in both music and the arts. Drummer Don Kerr is recognized for his affiliation with the Gas Station recording studio, and bassist Tim Vesely focuses on soundtrack work when not performing or recording with the Rheostatics.
Guitarist and founding band member Dave Bidini was born in the early 1960s. He was raised in the suburbs of Toronto and still lives in the area with his wife, Janet Morassutti, who contributed voice narration to the Rheostatics' 1999 children's album, Story of Harmelodia. A dedicated musician, Bidini is also an author with multiple book titles to his credit. In 1998 he published One Cold Road: Tales of Adventure in Canadian Rock, which fuses rock 'n' roll with hockey--a favorite pastime. The story is based on interviews Bidini conducted in Toronto's subway system with musicians returning from performances at Maple Leafs hockey games. He used this same approach in researching his 2000 book, Tropic of Hockey: My Search for the Game in Unlikely Places. Traveling to locations as remote as Romania, China, and the Middle East, Bidini interviewed professional hockey players all over the world. He also published a short story about the late Charles Gardiner, goalie for the Chicago Blackhawks, in Paul Quarrington's 1996 compilation, Original Six: True Stories from Hockey's Classic Era. Interestingly, Quarrington is the author of Whale Music, a source of inspiration for the Rheostatics music.
Lead guitarist and lyricist Martin Tielli divides his time between the musical and visual arts. He earned a Juno Award nomination in January of 2001 for his design of the Rheos' Harmelodia album cover, and also contributed artwork for a 32-page illustrated booklet (with a storyline by Bidini) that accompanied the album.
Drummer Don Kerr, a member of Toronto Islands-based Gas Station Records studio management, had worked as a courier during the earliest days of his career. He joined the Rheostatics in 1995 as a replacement for Dave Clark, after meeting Bidini during a recording session. Kerr and Rheos bassist Tim Vesely, who are longtime colleagues, also toured with Ron Sexsmith for several months, working intermittently on new recordings for the Rheostatics during the tour.
On the Rheostatics' earliest tapes, two of which still exist, the quartet called itself the Rheostatics and the Trans Canada Soul Patrol. Those early tapes, recorded around 1980, have since become cult classics, although the latter-day Rheostatics now bemoan the poor quality of their trailblazing sessions. In 1987 the group released an independent full-length debut album called Greatest Hits, which earned them some limited play on late-night radio, mostly in collegiate venues. Although the Rheostatics characteristically exceed the boundaries of traditional style by employing unpredictable tempo and lyrics, this early collection also included covers of popular Canadian songs such as Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."
The four musicians are known for recording tracks about contemporary Canada, inspiring Maclean's author Nicholas Jennings to call them a "passionately nationalistic pop group." They dote especially on the country's sports heroes, such as "The Ballad of Wendel Clark Parts I and II," which memorializes a former Maple Leafs captain. On their Introducing Happiness album in 1994, they sang lyrics excerpted from the poem "Wilderness Gothic" by Canadian poet Al Purdy. That same year, in collaboration with above-mentioned author Paul Quarrington, the Rheostatics wrote and recorded a soundtrack for the movie Whale Music, based on Quarrington's award-winning novel of 1990, which had already inspired and served as the title for the band's 1992 album. In the Quarrington novel, a songwriter named Desmond Howell writes an unlikely hit song, called "Claire"; the Rheostatics created an original composition by the same name for the Whale Music soundtrack that became the quartet's first hit single. Brian Johnson in Maclean's hailed the work, calling it "wonderfully apt."
In 1996 the Rheostatics wrote and recorded an album called Music Inspired by the Group of Seven in collaboration with Barenaked Ladies member Kevin Hearn. This work, a tribute to seven early-twentieth-century Canadian artists, was commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada as part of an ongoing series correlating music and the visual arts. The honor associated with the commissioned work was marred, however, by a mishap that occurred that same year, after the Rheos released Blue Hysteria. The album was recorded on financially troubled Cargo Records, and the label's sudden and unanticipated failure cost the band their investment and profits. In a further setback, drummer Dave Clark left the group to pursue independent interests soon after the Cargo Records fiasco.
The unfortunate experience with Cargo led the group to adopt a policy of self-management, which proved more lucrative in the long run. The band meanwhile found a replacement for Clark in Don Kerr, who was already known to the group through several different contacts. By 2002 the resurrected Rheostatics had released two more albums, through a distribution arrangement with Universal Music Canada. In 1999 they published Story of Harmelodia, the juvenile storybook album based on Bidini's story. Vesely's daughter, Ruedi, who was a toddler at that time, also performed on the recording. A second independent album was released in 2001, called Night of the Shooting Stars, an eclectic recording praised by Maclean's entertainment editors.
by Gloria Cooksey
Group formed in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada, 1978; recorded for Sire Records, 1994-95; signed with Cargo Records, 1996; recorded on the DROG label, 1996-98; established independent label, late 1990s.
- Selected discography
- Greatest Hits , Green Sprouts (independent), 1987.
- Melville , DROG/Intrepid, 1991.
- Whale Music , Capitol, 1992.
- Introducing Happiness , Sire/EEG, 1994.
- Whale Music (soundtrack), Sire, 1994.
- Music Inspired by the Group of Seven , DROG, 1996.
- Blue Hysteria , Cargo, 1996.
- Double Live , DROG, 1997.
- The Nightlines Sessions , DROG, 1998.
- (With the Harmelodian Civic Chamber Ensemble) Story of Harmelodia Universal, 1999.
- Night of the Shooting Stars , Perimeter, 2001.
- London Free Press, December 9, 1999, p. C1.
- Maclean's, October 3, 1994, p. 52; March 27, 1995, p. 40; November 7, 1994, p. 74; December 16, 1996, p. 71; November 2, 1998, p. 91; November 27, 2000, p. 90.
- Toronto Star, February 8, 2001.
- "Dave Bidini's Romanian Holiday," Chart Attack, http://www.chartattack.com/features/99/rheostatics/3.html (February 22, 2002).
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