A Juno, a hit album and a three-year tour have put the band on top
They've spent the last three years touring the world on behalf of their independently-made first album, Silver, which was literally thrown together in Vancouver for under $5,000 in a couple of days
"There was a definite mental breakdown by the end," says lead singer-lyricist David Usher in town to promote the band's second album, Creature, which hit record stores this week. "It gets very strange. You definitely lose a sense of who you are," says keyboardist Kevin Young before adding with a chuckle: "It's a trip. It's all part of the gig. The catchphrases are starting to come."
Explains Usher: "That's the catchphrase from yesterday. It's all part of the gig. Today, it's a trip." Whatever. Some 300 shows later, including gigs backing up the likes of Collective Soul, Green Day, Live, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hole and Metallica, Silver sold almost 400,000 copies in Canada alone, won Moist a Juno for best new band and racked up a Top 20 single in the U.K. for Push
In addition, Moist developed a well-deserved reputation as a dynamite live act with a sly sense of humor that shone through at Monday night's invite-only show at the Rivoli, particularly when the five members segued into Michael Jackson's Billie Jean.
"There's a lot of freedom up there to create your own space but you're also trying to take the audience to that place as well," says Usher of their live show. "And most of the time they come," adds Young.
"Sometimes they don't!" the two chime in unison.
Like that time in Albequrque, N.M., when Moist played to six people after driving 1,500 miles to get to the show. "But you have to take the good with the bad," says Young. The good so far has been Moist's reception in Thailand, of all places, where Silver went gold. "There were crowds of people at the airport, in the hotel lobby 24 hours a day waiting for us," says Usher, who is part Thai.
Moist has also been chosen to open for Neil Young across Canada for 10 dates, including an Oct. 31 show at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton before they begin their own Canadian tour in January. "We've been thinking that maybe Neil Young is actually listening to our album," says Young. "That's a very cool trip. We're not particularly star struck, but it's a real thrill to play with Neil Young because we've all grown up listening and learning to play his music, sitting around campfires and parties."
"We've never had the hotel, like all day, all night, anytime you came down, there were people waiting for you in the lobby. It's twisted."
The other major news in Moist's evolution has been their relocation to Montreal. The group was formed in Vancouver in 1993, but drummer Paul Wilcox is the only true WestCoaster. The four other members -- rounded out by guitarist Mark Makowy and bassist Jeff Pearce -- are from eastern Canada.
"We wrote in Vancouver for four months and then we started to get slightly psychotic and stale. Staleness brings on the psychosis," says Usher.<
In the end, Creature was recorded over three and a half months at Morin Heights and Silent Sound, with new instruments, like the cello and trumpet, making their way onto some songs.
"Montreal is a great city," says Young. "We've always had a great time when we've been there. It's a really alive place right now. It's vibrant politically. The clash of national cultures is exciting, it's a great place to be part of."
Adds Usher: "People think we're insane when we tell them but that's where the action is."