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Juno Profile: The New Cities Give Thanks

With his band, The New Cities, up for a Best New Group Juno, lead singer David Brown has a lot of people he’d like to thank: family, girlfriends – every person, band and radio station that made the liner notes of the band’s debut, Lost in City Lights … and more. But on any list of thankyous – even one in no particular order – someone has to be named first. And according to Brown, Greig Nori is “at the top of the list.”

Nori produced the Montreal synth-rockers current record. He’s a guy you may remember from his days fronting Treble Charger – or maybe an episode of MuchMusic reality show DisBAND. Nori’s produced albums for many of Canada’s pop-punk exports: Sum 41, Hedley, Marianas Trench. And as Brown puts it, the producer is “the first one who saw something in our band, that’s for sure.”

A few weeks before the April 18 Juno telecast it would appear there’s no shortage of kids who see something in The New Cities’ synth-drenched pop punk; there’s an increasingly expanding crowd of teens swarming outside of MuchMusic, waiting for The New Cities’ appearance on M.O.D. as Brown gives the short version of his band’s origin story from a café across the street. A few years back, Brown, like the other five guys in the group, was splitting his time between a handful of bands in their hometown of Trois-Rivieres. Four members of the band’s current lineup – Brown, Chris Bergeron (guitar), Nick Denis (synths) and Phil Lachance (synths) – were jamming in a ska band together, The Gamblers, when they decided it was time to try going pro. (Or at least a little more pro than booking gigs exclusively in the Quebec-Windsor Corridor.) “The thing was we had so many other bands before so we were like, you know what, let’s just have one band and make it for real,” Brown explains. So they recruited two more hometown boys – Julien Martre (bass) and Francis Fugere (drums) – and focused on touring and recording a few demos.

“I think the first tour we met Greig Nori, our producer, in Toronto,” says Brown.

A mutual musician friend invited Nori to that show. “He was there, and next thing we heard our friend was like ‘Greig just texted me, he really likes your band, he wants to meet up with you guys, he’s buying dinner.’ Like whoa!” says Brown, chuckling a bit at the memory. “He likes us!”

Dinner was a success. “It was really good food,” Brown says, chuckling – going on to say that the band began working with Nori more or less after he picked up the cheque. “We had dinner, we heard what he had to say, what he wanted to do with us, and we started working from there.”

Nori personally managed the band for a few months, says Brown of The New Cities’ early days, and he put them in touch with their current manager (Nori founded the artist management company that represents the band, Bunk Rock Entertainment). But Brown says their producer really deserves a shout-out for his guidance during the writing of Lost in City Lights.

Brown says that when it came to songwriting, Nori didn’t influence the band’s sound – which on Lost in City Lights comes off as a blend of Hot Fuss-era Killers and the bratty bubblegum of pop-punk hooks. But he did give the band a new perspective “just melody-wise,” says Brown, adding that he helped them be “more sensitive to just learning how to write better songs.”

“He was listening to what we were writing and helping us think about it,” says Brown. “While we were writing songs -- just building the structure of a song, the way we were writing vocal melodies -- I learned a lot from him because he just lets you know every little part needs to be good. … I think he reminded us to be pushing ourselves always to the next level.”

That motto doesn’t just apply to crafting pop songs. “You know, for sure when we met him we didn’t know we could be signed to a major label,” says Brown (the band’s album was released by Red Ink/Sony Music Canada). “We were a bunch of French dudes just trying to start a band and just do it nonstop and he showed up and said, ‘Hey, Sony are kind of digging your stuff.’”

Three years since starting work on the album, Brown says the “next level” for the band right now is invading Britain. They did two tours there last year, and they’ll be releasing “Dead End Countdown” as a UK single April 26 (here in Canada, the song was a Top 20 hit last summer). As excited as he says he is about that development, Brown’s vision for the band’s future is wide open – in the most humble interpretation of the phrase.

“We never have one goal or any goal,” he says. “We started this band and wanted to play music and after awhile things started changing and growing as a band. ... It’s not about money, fame. When people say we like your band, that’s great. We just hope to keep playing for even five, six years really.”

The New Cities are nominated for Best New Group.

The 2010 Juno Awards airs Sunday, April 18 on CTV.


The New Cities' Canadian tour dates include:

April 9, St-Hyacinthe, QUE

April 27, Belleville, ON

April 29, Alliston, ON

April 30, Cobourg, ON

May 1, Mount Forest, ON

May 2, Chatham, ON

May 4, London, ON

May 5, Guelph, ON

May 6, Toronto

May 8, Montreal

May 10, Meaford, ON

May 12, Bracebridge, ON