Everyone knows where The Hip will be tonight. But where were they last night?
“We always go to Victor’s place the night before,” The Tragically Hip’s Johnny Fay said, referring – of course – the mecca of Hali-hip, Victor Syperek’s Economy Shoe Shop.
“It’s awesome there. It’s the atmosphere: It’s always great and we are always well taken care of,” the drummer said. “We’ve spent many a night there.”
Touring steadily for the last 14 months in support of 2006’s World Container, the fivesome are back in the Maritimes tonight.
“We always have fun when we come out East,” Faye said. In the early days, he added, the band would spend a week playing The Misty Moon in Halifax for 1,500 people, and then move across the harbour for a few bar gigs in Dartmouth.
“We’d be like, ‘Oh my god, people must be sick of us.'”
It’s a pattern the band still follows today, hitting larger stadiums one night, and then mixing up the tour with smaller club dates.
“It makes you tighter,” Fay said. “You never know what the venue is going to be like. But, I think that is what has kept us alive, being able to hop from different types of venues – back and forth.”
In many ways, it reflects the band’s double identity.
North of the 49th, the band is Captain Canuck – a symbol of pride with Canadian lyrics and a treasure in red and white. South of the border, The Tragically Hip have only achieved cult status.
“I think that people know and like the music, and come out to see us,” Fay said about those American cousins. “They might have been turned on by a Canadian who gave them a CD or something like that.
“It is so funny, because, we can track where our records are selling. When the CDs are at the airport, people grab a bunch of them and give them to people all over the world. It’s been the delivery system for a while.”
With so many musicians touring and playing gigs, Fay said it doesn’t matter where they play, it’s just nice to be working.
“As musicians, we are very fortunate that way,” he said. Back in 1984, the band turned to music post-high school as an opportunity to make a little cash and hang out with friends.
Fay said it took four or five years to get noticed. It wasn’t until the first album, Up to Here, came out and got them recognized across the country. DJs started playing their early hits, like Blow at High Dough and New Orleans is Sinking – which took on a new meaning after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Fay noted the band had a history with the crescent city, having recorded there is the past. They’ve been back since the hurricane, but not to perform. Their first post Hurricane gig will take place this fall.
“Unfortunately, I feel asleep the last time we drove into the city, but Gord (Downie) said it looked like it had just happened. It was pretty devastating,” he said. “Apparently, the city is so crazy dangerous right now, with people getting murdered left, right and centre. So, I don’t know what to think of New Orleans. It’s sad.”
After the hurricane and flooding of the city, a number of radio stations stopped playing the song, which is now more than two decades old.
“We did take it out for a little while,” Fay said.
“But then, we put it back in because it was a good song and we enjoy playing it.”