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Arrogant Worms are still finding the funny in Canada
There’s something distinctly Canadian about the longtime comedic music trio the Arrogant Worms. OK, make that obviously Canadian.
The Worms sing about goofy ordinary stuff. It just so happens much of it is about the Great White North. Their newest album SPACE offers plenty of hat tipping to Canada with songs like “Yoga Pants,” “We Talk About the Weather” and “When Canada Rules the World.”
The music comes from the minds of Trevor Strong, Chris Patterson and Mike McCormick. The group, which headlines the Steveston Salmon Festival Main Stage on July 1, started in 1991 by entertaining a small Kingston, Ont. campus radio audience with sketch comedy. They morphed into a musical group that was soon bringing “fast, furious and family friendly” shows to crowds across Canada.
Fans of folk and patrons of parody had to wait nearly six years between albums until the March arrival of SPACE, whose digital liner notes explain where their ideas come from: outer space (aliens send lyrics), inner space (large areas of their brains filled with useless thoughts) and that space between albums.
Their 12th release comes at a time when the Worms have slowed down from early days of regular recordings and plenty of performances for peanuts. The guys now have kids and live in different cities, said Strong, the Worms’ lead singer, in a telephone interview from Kingston.
“Before if we had a really good show in Winnipeg, we’d go do that show and have our agent dig up five or six more, even if they weren’t really paying. Now we just fly out, do the good show, and fly back again,” he said. “We’re a little too old to sleep on floors and do the extra long drives for the show that may or may not pay us.”
Before last year’s greatest hits compilation Hindsight 20/20, the group’s previous effort of Torpid came in 2008 with songs everyone can relate to like “Big Box Store,” “She Talks During Movies” and “If I Were Prime Minister.”
The Worms deliberately write about the Canadian experience, in part because they never felt the need to do things differently.
“I think it’s because we never went through that phase of breaking internationally,” said Strong. “There are a lot of Canadian acts that do Canadian songs, but there’s also that temptation of why would I put all my effort into doing this song when it’s only going to appeal to people in Canada.”
In their early days, the Worms got work writing songs for CBC Radio. They’ve also seen lots of Canada—repeatedly—so they write what they know.
The group performs on Canada Day about every other year, and gigs have included the big stage on Parliament Hill. Strong said performing in front of the big Ottawa crowd isn’t as nerve-racking as it might seem.
“It’s actually much easier than you would think it is. When there’s that many people, they all look like ants. And if you’re ever in any trouble, you just yell out: ‘Canada,’” he said. “You can pretend they’re cheering for you.”
When the Worms play outside Canada, they bring some of their Canadian material. Songs with obvious themes like “Canada’s Really Big” work well, while tracks with more subtle Canadian humour like “If I Were Prime Minister”—which suggests making the doughnut our official flower—might draw confused looks south of the border.
“The ones that do work, people like it. It’s almost like we’re being celebrated for our ethnicity,” he said. “That’s part of the charm when we do them in the States: ‘Oh that’s Canadian humour.’”
Steveston Salmon Festival Main Stage
•Noon - Opening Ceremony and singing of O Canada
•1 p.m. - The Arrogant Worms
•2:25 p.m. - Maria Encarnacion, RichCity Idol 2014
•2:50 p.m. - Elsa Wu Dance Group
•3 p.m. - Steveston Seniors Drum Group
•3:35 p.m. - Richmond Youth Honour Choir
•4:05 p.m. - Sunberry Fitness
•4:20 p.m. - La Riva Dance Studio