Canadian rock supergroup Anyway Gang plays Toronto on Friday. Don’t ask them what to expect

Canadian rock supergroup Anyway Gang plays Toronto on Friday. Don’t ask them what to expect
If you’re wondering what Friday night’s show at the Horseshoe with Anyway Gang is going to be like, you’re not alone.

Chris Murphy is also wondering … and he’s in the band.

“I think we’re just going to play the record as we’ve never played before,” says Murphy, the Sloan co-founder whose latest supergroup involvement — a.k.a. Anyway Gang — involves Sam Roberts, the just-departed Hollerado’s Menno Versteeg and Tokyo Police Club’s Dave Monks, conversing over Skype on Monday.

“We haven’t been in a room with Sam since October 2018. I would call the communication via email kind of abysmal,” he chuckles.

That October 2018 date is when the band was ensconced in the studio recording their nine-song, 26-minute self-titled indie-rock effort, which includes their successful animated-video-game-styled single “Big Night,” which has received some decent radio airplay.

Although Murphy points to Versteeg, the singer who recently ended Hollerado, as “the guy who has really been pushing the rock up the hill.”

Murphy, whose Sloan will celebrate year No. 30 in 2021, confesses a certain amount of ignorance surrounding the whole Anyway Gang trip up to this point … even from the day when Veersteg called him up with the invitation to join.

“I went in not knowing if we were supposed to have fully formed songs, or if we were going to be working on songs,” says Murphy. “And to my basic embarrassment, everybody had their act together and I was like, ‘Jeez, we don’t have very long and is nobody going to help me build these things up?’

“I also didn’t know what kind of music we were going to make. Is it supposed to be like strummy-strum campfire Wilburys music? Or is it to show how punk I still am at 50?

“So, I felt like I was a little bit behind the 8-ball — I didn’t have my songs together. Sam doesn’t live here so we prioritized Sam’s stuff when we recorded and then he wrapped on Day Four.”

If Murphy sounded like a natural choice for Versteeg to include in this latest “supergroup,” it’s because the Charlottetown-born, Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist has a habit of forming them.

The first was TUNS in 2015 with ex-SuperFriendz singer and guitarist Matt Murphy (no relation) and former Inbreds bassist and singer Mike O’Neill, which Chris Murphy says he hopes to continue now that Matt, who moved to the U.K., is coming back to Canada. The second is Trans-Canada Highwaymen, which finds Murphy sharing the stage with The Pursuit Of Happiness’ Moe Berg, ex-Barenaked Ladies frontman Steven Page and the Odds’ Craig Northey … and they offer more of a showcase of greatest hits from their current and former individual bands.

Asked to imagine his dream supergroup, Murphy’s “cheeky” reply assembles Jellyfish’s Jason Falkner on guitar, Rooney’s Taylor Locke on bass, Redd Kross’ Steven McDonald on bass and some guy named Paul McCartney on drums. “I always love the band context,” he explains. With the Beatles, for example, “I was less interested in their solo work, even though some of it is as good or better. I just always like a band dynamic.

“When Sloan was coming up, there was a group called Eric’s Trip and they used to do all these side projects. I was always mad at them for doing them. One side project, Elevator To Hell, put out a record and I was like, ‘this is better than your band. Why would you do that to yourself?’

“Eric’s Trip went by the wayside and Elevator To Hell (later just Elevator) became Rick (White) and Mark (Gaudet)’s band, but if that was all one band (discography) it’s more romantic to me.”

Murphy has avoided solo projects for the same reason.

“I could have made a solo record — and maybe I will — but I’ve always resisted it because I like music as a social hang with people.”

Other people are handy for sharing the load; though a side foursome might seem like a busman’s holiday for Murphy, who has spent his entire adult life in one, “my responsibilities are zero,” he admits. “This thing keeps chugging along. I’m 51 years old and it’s cool to be part of something that’s on the radio.”

And those responsibilities don’t even include playing the drums, which Murphy did on the album. Versteeg has assigned that duty elsewhere.

“I was asking to play drums at the show, but Menno wanted to get someone else to play drums so I could just sing and be upfront so I wouldn’t be in the back,” Murphy explains. “I was kind of nervous about that because we have a drummer, we have a keyboard player and we have another guy, Nixon Boyd from Hollerado, who was involved in the recording and production of the record and is there to play all the hard guitar parts. He’s kind of the musical director.

“I’m just playing superfluous fourth guitar, but I have a lot of vocal responsibilities. So, I’m glad that I’m not playing drums.”

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Concerning Anyway Gang’s future, Murphy is hopeful that some answers will be provided via the Horseshoe gig.

“I would feel stupid to say that there will be more shows, because there’s nothing on the books,” Murphy concedes. “I just think it’s going to come down to who has the time for it or who has the patience for it. I’m game. I’m sort of living the à-la-carte life of doing a couple of things at once.”

But at least he’s gotten to know his bandmates a little.

“They’re all pretty funny but I’m still the funniest,” Murphy claims. “Just let that be known.”
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