You probably know Canadian rock icons the Odds. And if you don’t think you do, you probably do anyway. Songs like “It Falls Apart,” “Eat My Brain” and “Love is the Subject,” among others, have burrowed their way into the Canadian consciousness, even though many people can’t place the band that created them.
“That’s kind of been the joke of our re-emergence since 2007 or so, that whole cliché of ‘Man, I just forgot that you guys did those songs. I didn’t know!’” says Odds vocalist and guitarist Craig Northey, speaking to me from his home in Vancouver. “Drawing a parallel between who we are and what our music is seems to be difficult for people. So [we’re] always having to remind people, ‘You know, we wrote this song. It was us!’”
One of those songs, the tender ballad “I Would Be Your Man,” had a profound impact on me during my adolescence. The song became a touchstone for me, something I could return to any time my young, teenage heartsickness came flooding back to me. It was like a friend who was there to teach me it was okay to pine and wouldn’t ever judge me as I let my lonely-boy tears run. There was no way to resist bringing up what this landmark song meant to me during my conversation with Northey.
“It’s a great compliment and the biggest compliment anybody can receive — any kind of artist — is that whatever they did becomes part of someone’s life and is a go-to thing for them. My favourite compliments are, ‘When I needed this, I went to my shelf and I took your album off it and I listened to it.’ So that’s great. Thank you. I’m sorry that it made you cry, though.”
Despite my clear memories of one of the biggest downers in the Odds’ catalogue, most of the band’s music is laced with humour and wit. Songs like “Heterosexual Man” and “Someone Who’s Cool” utilize playful satire to embed themselves into the listener’s memories.
“I think most things that Canadians do, from our exporting of comedians and things we do in the arts, involves understanding humour as a complex way of communicating,” says Northey.
When asked how he and his bandmates write such consistently catchy hooks to accompany that trademark humour, Northey is quick to reveal the secret. “I use a magic wand tool in Photoshop. I drop a song in there and I just put the magic wand tool on it, and then it just changes a few chords,” says Northey with a laugh.
“I’ve learned a lot from writing a lot of music over the years. Some people don’t like it, other people like it, but my instincts are tuned toward catchy things. For all of us as a band, because we write together, a lot of things just fall by the wayside — that we don’t explore. Now, the challenge is always to push each other to try something different and see if we can put a new spin on what we’re doing,” says Northey of the Odds’ predilection for catchy power-pop.
Releasing music that can cross generational lines and appeal to a large scope of people is not just coincidence. Northey understands where and why those lines are drawn and continues striving to make music that can cross those imaginary borders.
“There’s something good in everything. People divide themselves along musical lines and cultural lines; they’re always dividing. ‘This is good. This is isn’t good. This is what my group of people likes and we think that what you like is not good,’” says Northey. “That’s something you learn as you get out of high school and keep going, is that that’s not the way to go. If somebody likes something, there’s something good about it. What is that thing? Go looking for it and find out why — don’t judge it all the time, and it will make your make your life better.”
Upstairs Cabaret (1127 Wharf St.)
March 22 @ 7 p.m.