Inspired by groups like Metallica, heavy metal band Burning the Day has been working their way through the Toronto underground scene for nearly a decade until they signed up for Indie Week in 2012. They proceeded to win the festival, resulting in a performance in Ireland, a close relationship with a U.K.-based record label, and one of the most memorable trips of their lives. Band members Max (guitar), Matt (bass), and Steve (drums) talked with Raz Mataz Magazine about their trip to Ireland, starting out as a band, and what Indie Week has meant to them.
Raz Mataz Magazine (RMM): How did you guys find out about Indie Week, and why did you decide to perform?
Matt: Max, he signed us up. We didn’t really know it was a competition, just thought it was a couple of shows, showcasing for Indie Week. But then the first show, “Burning the Day won.” We were like, “Oh, awesome.”
Steve: Like what do you mean we won? What did we win? Then they told us “Oh, you get to comeback on Saturday, you got a gig on Saturday, and then if you do well, you go to the finals.” We were like what is this thing? They were like, “It’s Canadian Indie Week.” They kind of had to explain it to us as we were going.
Max: We thought it was just a showcase.
RMM: So you didn’t find out until the end of the night, basically?
Steve: Not until the end of the first night, and then we eventually came to find this whole thing was actually a contest.
RMM: So it was a lot different from any shows you guys have ever played before?
Matt: Yeah, [since it was] a contest.
Max: And then when we found out it was a contest, I thought it was rigged.
Steve: There’s no way a metal band’s going to win this whole thing. I think that was our one big comment at the very end when we ended up winning: “Thank you for picking a metal band.” We didn’t think we’d have any shot at winning this kind of thing.
RMM: So who did you think would win?
Steve: Just a more popular act.
Matt: There was a bunch of good bands throughout the whole thing. . .
Max: Everyone was good.
Matt: So many good bands, but definitely not metal, anything but metal. We thought there was no way.
Max: I think like singer-songwriter kind of thing, indie. . .
Steve: Put it this way, we were the only band showing up with band shirts and camos. We really didn’t take the time to scope out the outfit, we just went up there and did our thing, and everybody liked it.
RMM: Why metal? Is that something you’ve always been interested in?
Matt: Yeah, all five of us grew up on it, coming up on Metallica. . . all that stuff. We live, eat, breathe, and sleep metal.
Max: Just carrying the torch – the metal torch.
Matt: The band has been around eight or nine years. We’ve had a couple of member changes the last two years, lost three guys. So we had to get a new singer, bass player, and guitar player.
Max: Matt’s been the longest standing; an original member.
Matt: Steve has been here for the last four years, and then the other three guys for the last two years.
Max: I was friends with Matt and the old Burning the Day, and I was always a fan. Matt called me up one day and said, “Hey, do you want to play?” I said, “F yeah!”
RMM: So how did it start out originally?
Matt: It was me and two other guys who quit, we played in different bands together until both of our bands broke up, so were just like, “Let’s form a group.” We all knew each other from high school, so we just met up one day, started the band, and that’s pretty much it.
RMM: After you found out Indie Week was a competition last year, did the presence of the judges add any pressure to your acts?
Matt: I wouldn’t say pressure, I would say more fuel to the fire. It was like, “Okay, let’s just bring it even harder this time because we know we’re being judged.”
Max: Actually the day of the final was my birthday, so it was a really pleasant birthday present, that’s for sure.
Matt: We felt good after we won, it’s like a small dose of American Idol in a way. We’re going to be bragging about this for the next 20 years.
Steve: It was just cool to be actually getting a little more recognition after all the time and all the shows we’ve been doing, especially with Matt being a musician and being in the band for the last eight years. For me, four years was long enough, I could only imagine tacking on another four on top of that. Now, finally getting a little more recognition, and being put in a position where we can actually do some more things with this and branch out of Toronto.
RMM: What have you guys done then to branch out after winning?
Matt: They sent us to Ireland to headline Indie Week there.
RMM: How was that?
Matt: It was amazing, and then we decided to book as many shows as we could since we were there. So we met up with a small record label: Self Made Records, they’re from the U.K. We teamed up with them, they booked us about 30 shows across the U.K. and we were there for two and a half months. If we never would’ve won the competition, we might never have gone to Europe. So actually going there, you realize it’s easy to go there, you just book your shows, get on a plane, and head over there. So now we’ve got the bug, we’re going every year – twice a year if we can.
RMM: Are you going back to Ireland for Indie Week 2014?
Matt: Maybe not Ireland, but we have something worked out in Germany; we might get on a few festivals there.
RMM: How are the fans out in Ireland?
Steve: Really, really amazing.
Matt: It’s just different over there, you know?
Matt: There’s just more of a scene of people going out, checking out live music.
Max: A girl in Ireland, after we got off stage, ran up to me and said, with an Irish accent, “You guys are the definition of music.”
Steve: We got some really funny comments, too. There was one person that said to me, “You guys are tighter than a camel’s asshole in a sand-storm.” Just really funny quotes like that.
Max: Just the vibe too, you know, the vibe there was completely different, they loved it.
RMM: Would you say they’re more into [the music]?
Matt: I think so. The fact that we’re from Canada, too, they really loved that.
Steve: That’s really what it was about. All you had to do was say you’re a band from Canada and they’d go, “Oh really, how do you like it here?” Just stuff like that.
RMM: Why did you decide to do Indie Week this year?
Matt: It’s just part of [the festival]. You win Indie Week, and then you headline Ireland, and then you showcase the next year for Toronto. They just put you on for a couple of shows throughout the week.
RMM: It’s a really good experience overall?
Matt: Oh yeah. The whole week you’re just hanging out, walking down the streets, you run into bands, you’re like: “Where are you guys playing?” “Oh we’re playing here.” “Oh, we’re playing over here!” It’s just a community of bands, meeting people. It’s awesome.
RMM: So you form a lot of camaraderie with different bands?
Matt: Oh yeah, you make friends; friends you know before are playing. It’s just a big party you know?
Steve: There’s just a bunch of different venues and things going on [both at Indie Week in Toronto and in Ireland]. Like at Sweeney’s Mongrel, a place in Ireland, there was three floors worth of bands. So it was a place where you would get to walk around; you walk upstairs, you would see a band, you go down into the middle floor and into the basement and you’d see bands playing. There was just tons and tons of music, and every floor was completely ramped, too. . . If you were inside, you were hanging out with people and if you were outside, you were hanging out with people.
Max: It was just one of those things where we’re really good friends with the actual promoters of this festival, so next year we’ll play just because. It’s fun, it’s a fun little festival. It’s not about us winning again, or something like that, it’s about being part of it. It’s so fun.
RMM: So you think they do a really good job of promoting the spirit of the festival?
Matt: Oh yeah, they do a really good job. They get the word out there, there’s about 40 venues with bands playing every night, every venue’s packed. . .
Max: There’s Jack Daniels everywhere.
Steve: They’re doing tons of seminars, too: getting bands involved with finding out how to actually be independent, really getting a better understanding of what you’ve got to do and what’s the next step. Like Darryl Hurs, the guy who takes care of all of this, the co-ordinator of all of this, he and Vanessa Roche are in charge of putting on these things and really teaching these bands how to do it.
Matt: In Ireland we did, there was a bunch of stuff going on. We got to meet with all kinds of record producers. . .
Steve: It was kind of like speed dating, only it was speed meetings. You’ve got to meet with all different types of people from the industry and actually get a chance to sit down and pick their brain.
RMM: And were you able to make connections out of that?
Matt: The biggest connection was the label in the U.K. The guy actually let us stay at his house for, like, two months while we were travelling around.
RMM: How was that?
Steve: Oh, it was wicked. We were trying to find another place to stay, but he was like, “Nah man, you ain’t gonna find anywhere around here. You can’t, just stay here.”
RMM: So you guys got to stay there for two whole months?
Matt: Yeah, not many people would do that, just take a metal band, five guys, into a tiny little house.
Max: Only a man called John Huddy. He’ll do that for you, solid dude.
Steve: Even just our trip to England was just ridiculous. Matt had been talking to John for the better part of five months before, and we didn’t know very much about it. We were just going on simply, “I’ve been talking to this guy named John Huddy, he told us to meet him here at this place and this time, and he’s going to drive us from Liverpool to Nottingham, trust me.” It was literally all off that, just get on a ferry and hope for the best. And it all worked out, every bit of it ended up working out.
Matt: You never know, you meet some guy on the Internet and you just hope he’s telling us the truth. Finally met up with him, and he [turned out to be] a good dude.
RMM: Are you signed to the label now in the U.K.?
Matt: We’re kind of unofficially signed. They’re an independent label and they need to get their name out there, so we’re kind of helping each other out.
RMM: Would you say you owe a lot of your success to Indie Week?
Matt: I would say so. Ever since we went, it’s been kind of like a snowball effect where just tons of things are happening. After we won, our e-mail was just off the hook. All kinds of managers, or whoever it was, contacting us. . . so many people getting in touch with us just because of the fact that we won.
Max: It adds to your credentials as well. It’s one thing to say, “We’re this and we’re that,” but it’s another thing to be able to say to other people that [people from Indie Week] thought that your band was really good. It’s nice.
For more information on Burning the Day, visit www.burningtheday.com.