Members: Jonny D, Pat, Alex, Swav, Billy
With over 255,000 MySpace plays, 8,000-plus self-released CDs sold, multiple performances for Torontos biggest rock station (The Edge 102.1FM), a consistent draw of over 1,000 concertgoers at each headlining hometown show and two years of Warped Tour appearances, illScarlett has amassed quite the amazing resume. What makes it even more amazing is that the Toronto-based pop-punk/reggae-dub quintet has accomplished all of the aforementioned without the assistance of a record label.
Raised on the music of artists like Sublime, No Doubt and Goldfinger, illScarlett quickly built its initial framework for an entirely new sound, cultivating, shaping and finessing its compositions into its own signature creation. Additionally, illScarlett also took the grassroots, homespun work ethic of such artists to heart, placing such a mindset within its own philosophy.
And work the band has: incredible stage performances supporting bands like Pepper, The All-American Rejects, Goldfinger, Dropkick Murphys and Finch, a string of successful recording sessions, an immense online presence and a familiar, do-it-yourself drive like none other has kept the band charging ahead since its inception.
Initially meeting in high school, drummer Swav Pior and vocalist Alex Norman assembled illScarlett from the remains of a previous project that wasnt heading in a musical direction theyd originally hoped. Named after a local street sign (Will Scarlett Drive) and armed with the opportunity to restart their musical careers, the pair began to seek members and eventually complete their vision. With an early iteration of illScarlett in place, the act hit the Toronto music scene, honing and developing its stage skills, even if it meant initially performing on less-than-ideal time slots, like the bands very first show at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern.
I have no idea how we ever got that gig, says Norman. We played at like 12:30 or 1:00AM on a Tuesday. But we had a handful of people out there and it was just more exciting to be playing a show. We really learned how to play live in front of people, in that sort of setting, at local jam nights around the city. So on Mondays wed go to one bar, Thursdays wed go to another bar and occasionally go downtown to just try and jam it out, and the response was always positive.
With its live show finally fine-tuned, illScarlett focused its attention on the studio, cutting the bands first real demo, dubbed the Five Dollar Demo. In the summer of 2004, illScarlett recorded and released a full-length CD titled iLLP that found its way into numerous hands, and in turn found the band more popular than ever. By that time, the band had already been rounded out by guitarist Billy Marr and DJ Pat Kennedy.
One of the highlights of the bands career (That was the best day of my life, notes Norman) came just after iLLPs release: it was the acts performance at the 2004 Vans Warped Tour in Toronto. The band wasnt actually scheduled to play inside the venue, rather they hastily set up shop in the parking lot outside Molson Park, and jammed a blazin hour-and-a-half set for all the concertgoers waiting in line. We just pulled up right in front of the line, in the parking lot, right where the main gates are, says Norman. We got the generator going, and we started playing. Random kids that knew of us started yelling from the crowd and within like three songs, we got word from one of our friends that Sublimes old roadie who worked as tour security radioed to [Warped Tour head honcho] Kevin [Lyman] telling him that there were these guys sounding like Sublime, playing the parking lot. [Kevin] gave us back stage passes and said, You guys can play at my barbeque tonight.
illScarlett accepted Lymans offer, and played an amazing hour-and-a-half set for all the bands on the tour. After the groups stunning performance, Lyman extended an invitation to the band to perform a few dates on 05s Warped outing and this time, illScarlett would be performing a proper set on a stage inside the venue.
However, the bands popularity doesnt end with live shows and recorded discs. Logging on to illScarletts MySpace account (www.myspace.com/illscarlett), one will notice that the fivesome has received in excess of 80,000 song plays online - a pretty impressive feat for a band that hasnt had the opportunity to travel much outside of its own borders. In addition, illScarlett has also attained radio play on both college radio and Torontos The Edge 102.1FM.
But the lack of travel is something illScarlett is aiming to rectify. The act is gearing up for its next release, a CD EP featuring fresh new studio tracks and a few live recordings, titled Clearly In Another Fine Mess. With new product in hand, plus a solid team of booking agents and management behind the cast, illScarlett hopes to take its famed stage show to locations outside of its well-traveled region.
Recently, illScarlett added longtime high school friend John Doherty to the lineup on bass, who had actually performed guitar in an early iteration of the band. The multi-talented Doherty had recently arrived from a three-year stint in New York, where he had been a drummer for an off-Broadway show. I found out through a friend of mine that they wanted a bassist, so I offered, came back from New York City and now Im doing the gig with them, says Doherty. As for his musical pedigree, Doherty notes that his father always had instruments lying around the house, though he maintains that he has no formal musical training.
So, what would one expect from a typical hometown illScarlett gig? A lot of sweaty, screaming kids who are fans of reggae, hip-hop, punk and emo, charged full of frenetic energy, jumping off the stage and engaging in circle pit contests. And what about what happens on stage? Its an energetic show that is never faked, says Norman. Lyrically, I give 110% when I sing and basically, we love to play and I think it shows when we do it.