In the midst of Queen St West, you’ll stumble upon the historic Horseshoe Tavern. Established in 1947, this venue continues to uphold its reputation as one of the most influential music venues in the entire city. As you coast down the narrow entrance, you’ll discover a small stage in the back surrounded by checkered flooring, worn-in by the hundreds that gather there all year around to witness both new and established talent.
With its walls plastered with legendary set lists and ticket stubs of artists, Horseshoe Tavern has been responsible for hosting Canadian acts including The Tragically Hip, Barenaked Ladies, and Blue Rodeo. The notable venue has also been graced by the presence of many larger artists seeking to deliver a more intimate concert experience, such as The Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams, and The Pixies.
On this piercing cold winter night, the frigid winds were whistling through the city’s corridors, yet inside Horseshoe Tavern things were heating up as rock fans gathered for the night’s entertainment. A lineup consisting of three local bands, Growers, Cigar Club, and Black Paint, were all gearing up to hit the stage. Before Cigar Club was due to perform, we had the opportunity to ask them a few questions about their emergence in the music industry.
Tell me a bit about yourselves! How did you meet?
Dan: “Right out of high school, I worked for Jeff’s uncle and he set us up because we all needed a good friend and a band. I contacted Tyler, who I knew through mutual friends, to see if he’d join a band, but he was occupied with school and another band. He set us up with Simon, our original drummer.”
“Jeff and I went out to an open mic and saw Trevor singing Gravity by John Mayer. It was a fateful happening, and we decided to join up as a band that night. A year later, Tyler was available to join the band. We were hanging on by a thread at that point. Tyler joined the band and that was it – that was like the best thing that ever happened to us.”
Where do you guys get your inspiration for your sound?
Dan: “It’s hard to put into words because as a musician, it’s good to draw influence from wherever you can, not just music; life and visual art. Pointing it all back to one source is so hard to do. We’re all into so many genres and artists.”
Jeff: “When we first started out, I feel like we were trying to use our own inspirations to influence our music. But as we’ve become more of a band, we know what our sound is, now we
subliminally click into it. It just happens. But I mean we all like John Mayer.”
What is your most enjoyable song to perform live?
Tyler: “I like the new stuff. Specifically GFC (working title) it’s a challenge, but it’s natural and goes through all these phases. It’s heavy and it’s soft, it’s rocking and it’s groovy.”Dan: “I like White Flats in Winter, and a new one called Rain.”
Trevor: “My favourite is also Rain but I like Homesick too.”
Jeff: “Swimming In Gold, Rain, Heavy G, Camel, I like our newer stuff.”
What purpose do tracks like Vessel and Conversation play in creating a theme in your debut album?
Tyler: “We approached it like we wanted it to be like the Dark Side of the Moon. In that album they have this sequence of songs with transitional songs, which gets you into this mindset before you get into this song, giving you more information than the actual song can give you. Recording bathroom fans and weird electronic songs, singing bowls, to make it sound like aliens. Conversation was a transition from the heavy to the softer side of the album, giving it that contrast, acting as an interlude, which puts you into that mindset.”
Which venue in the city is your favorite to perform at?
Tyler: “I like Lee’s Palace because the stage is elevated, and it’s a large room. It makes you feel big. Green rooms are cool. The way that it’s laid out embodies what live rock music should be.”
Jeff: “I have two. Historically, I like the Elmo (El Mocambo) with all the names on the staircase. The second place was called Cherry Cola’s, unfortunately it isn’t open anymore. I played there so often and I was so comfortable. I’m not from Toronto so when I drove to that venue, I found it comforting.”
Trev: “The Citadel, it’s a dance studio, but they put on shows there a few years ago. Beautiful brick walls and not an actual venue, so you don’t deal with some of the things you usually deal with. Felt like we were doing our own thing.”
By the time the interview ended, it was time for Cigar Club to set up for their show at 10PM. Trevor, the lead singer of the band, led the set with Miss Jane, from their debut self-titled EP.
Fans also got to enjoy tracks from their most recent album, Aliens and Cold, and as the night progressed, it was evident their influence did not come from just one source. Cigar Club produces a very unique sound, one that is simply unparalleled to anything we’ve seen in the past.
The Horseshoe Tavern truly has character like no other venue within the city. Each band proved their talent where legends once stood and without a doubt, we can see Cigar Club, Black Paint and Growers becoming very successful in the industry. Perhaps one day being named next to the legendary acts that once shared the same stage.