By B. Simm
CALGARY — Someone who knew I was a big Ramones fan was frantic about this tribute band called The Remones and urged me to check them out. My response was not positive; nothing is so insulting to your senses than watching a bunch of hacks murder some of your favourite music. I declined to go see this act even though they were making waves around town. When I finally stumbled across them playing on some tiny stage I was dumbfounded. Not only did the band spin on a dime like the Ramones, but the singer, dubbed Stevie Remone, looked a helluva lot like Joey early in the game — skinny, dorky, flailing and wailing away like Leslie Gore with a nasally Queens’ accent. Perfect! These guys would be huge in Japan, Berlin too.
Stevie Remone, a.k.a. Steve Mars, was the Remones’ superb centerpiece and now fronts Venetian Blinds, an ‘80s tribute band channeling the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen, Bowie, Gary Numan, Billy Idol, Tears for Fears, Depeche Mode and The Romantics, just to list a few of their not so guilty pleasures.
BeatRoute: That’s a lot of infectious stuff from the ‘80s. Are you drawn to this era because you grew up with that music?
Mars: Well, there’s that. But it’s also what will get girls dancing, specifically. When women dance, men will dance. And it appeals to the gay scene as well. Which is awesome, because it includes everybody.
BR: Is it fun being in a concept cover band?
Mars: Yes it is, in fact (laughs). It’s interesting for me because I’m still trying to sort out my shtick at this time. We’ve only done two shows, and I’m trying to figure out who I am, how am I going to do this. If we’re doing, say a Billy Idol song, I’ll do those moves trying to get into character. I don’t know if other cover bands go to that extent. But if you’re fully committed, I think it translates.
BR: When you were in the Remones, there was shtick, but it was very tongue and cheek as well. You didn’t take it too seriously, and that made it work.
Mars: That’s true but at the basis of all that, the band has to be really tight. That’s what sells it. What we’re up against is that a lot of the stuff from the ‘80s was highly produced, like three guitars tracks going on any song. We have one guitar player, so we have to interpret it differently and find ways to make it sound full and do the songs really fucking well.
BR: Is there art in covering other people’s material?
Mars: Sure. It’s musical theatre, really. You have to create a persona for each song, and find a way to deliver it. It’s also for people who aren’t in bands, those who are just out for a night. But you need to up the ante. You have to get the hook, the groove and timing down, or it’s just not right. You’ll end up murdering the song. And that’s risky. Say you’re playing this girl’s favourite song, and she’s dancing right in front of you. You better nail it, or she’ll hate you!
Venetian Blinds play the Nite Gallery’s launch party for the Illuminate the City Project at the Blind Monk on Friday, Nov. 27 at 8 p.m.AB, Alberta, Blind Monk, cover band, Illuminate the City Project, Nite Gallery, Steve Mars, The Remones, Venetian Blinds