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- Posted on Mar 16th 2010 10:00AM by Lonny Knapp
Along with Sloan and Super Friendz, Thrush Hermit was part of the so-called Halifax Pop Explosion of the mid-'90s which had rock media labeling the Nova Scotia capital "the Seattle of the north," and saw pony-tail sporting A&R reps scouring the city's streets in search of the next Nirvana.
As it turns out, Montreal was the next Seattle, but the hype helped Thrush Hermit sign a deal with Elektra Entertainment. The band enjoyed modest success, but though its second full-length, 1999's 'Clayton Park,' is now-considered one of the greatest CanRock records of all time, it met with minimal sales at the time and the band subsequently broke up.
To mark the tenth anniversary of the group's demise, Joel Plaskett, Rob Benvie, Ian McGettigan and Cliff Gibb, have regrouped for a string of Thrush Hermit dates. Before the reunion, Spinner caught up with Joel Plaskett and asked how life as a solo artist weighs against working with his old band.
"The thing about a band is that everything takes a lot longer to happen, as a solo artist I can make decisions faster," he said.
The difference is political. As a solo artist, Plaskett calls the shots, but Thrush Hermit was a true democracy with each member contributing to the songwriting and weighing in on every decision.
"Amazing things come of that compromise, but you can't move as swiftly and efficiently," he said.
Nevertheless, he is quick to credit the members of Thrush Hermit for informing his musical sensibility. He cites bandmate Rob Benvie, a published novelist, for inspiring him to write better lyrics.
"He is a really strong lyricist and he always had a real knack for language. He offered me a lot of inspiration," he said.
Since striking out on his own, Plaskett has enjoyed greater success. He was hand-picked to open for Paul McCartney when the former Beatle performed in Halifax in last year, and his latest record 'Three,' a sprawling triple album, garnered a Polaris Prize nomination.
He credits some of this success to a willingness to adapt each performance to suit the audience; sometimes he takes the stage armed only with an acoustic guitar, other times, supported by his excellent backing band and billed as the Joel Plaskett Emergency, he stages full-on rock shows.
"You can put me in front of any audience and I'll see what I can do. Being a solo artist allows me to walk in a few different worlds," he said.
However Thrush Hermit, a band that once decorated the stage with a giant neon Rock-and-Roll sign, would never make that concession.
"The Hermit can't go acoustic," he said. "We are two electric guitars, bass, and drums, and we play loud."